Greg Long will be crowned the Big Wave World Champion in about a week. We're very happy for him. He deserves it. But shit…guy almost didn't have a chance to finish the season after his near-drowning at Cortes Bank late last year. And, as you would imagine when death gives you a kiss on the cheek and reminds you of how fragile you are, it changes your perspective on life and surfing. Greg talks about that change in our Loud and Clear issue (May 2013), on sale now, and offers some incredible insight into what he calls his "new-life experience." The man is deep. So deep, in fact, that we couldn't squeeze all of his words into the magazine. But here are the rest. —Taylor Paul
What do you hope others take away from your experience at Cortes?
GREG: The most important lesson that I hope people can learn from my experience is one of safety and preparedness. I have always approached big-wave surfing from a perspective of risk management. The ocean is an unpredictable environment with so many variables out of our control. But at the same time, there are so many variables in our control that we can use to our advantage to decrease the risks that we take. Many of which happen well before we ever enter the water: physical conditioning, equipment preparation, proper water safety training, etc. There were a lot of things that went wrong during my wipeout that I had no control over. But more importantly were the things that I prepared for before I ever entered the water that went right, and ultimately led to my life being saved.
Are there a lot of big-wave surfers who are unprepared?
Well, what some people may view as being "prepared" may be totally inadequate to another. It is every person's prerogative to live their life and enjoy the ocean the way they want, as long as they are not endangering others in the process. I will say, from personal experience, that if you continually push yourself in the ocean, there will come a time when the ocean will push back and truly test your physical and mental preparedness. When that time comes, if you aren't ready, you could very well be paying for it with your life. The main points which I focus on in my own preparation are my physical conditioning, my equipment and having a back-up safety plan in case something goes wrong.
What about crowds? Seems like those are getting a bit out of hand at some places.
I do feel that some big wave spots are getting crowded to the point where they're becoming dangerous. When you have too many people in a small lineup, it's easy to let the way you position yourself, paddle for and ride a wave be determined by the crowd rather than your personal desire. Having multiple people on a wave together has also become commonplace, and it shouldn't be. With things like this happening regularly the risks taken become inherently greater. I feel there are many people in the water these days that need to elevate their consciousness, and become more aware of their surroundings and the other surfers around them. Every session for is an invaluable learning experience that we can all use to further improve ourselves both in the water and on land.
[For the rest of this interview and a whole lot more, mosey on over to the newsstand or click here for a digital copy on your favorite device. We're just gonna go ahead and say it: it's the best issue we've made in a while.]