A Year of Riding Mountains

Hawaiian big-waver Ian Walsh's big-wave road map for 2015…
Local surfer Ian Walsh surfs Jaws break on Maui, Hawaii, during a winter swell in December 2014
Meet Round 1's guest judge, Ian Walsh © Ryan Miller
By Derek Rielly

First of all, all those big-wave sessions don't just happen. If you make a career out of chasing big waves, like Maui's Ian Walsh, every detail of your life is mapped out in a perfect synchronicity with the prevailing elements of wind and swell.

For instance, 31-year-old Ian is on standby in Hawaii for at least the next month. Who know what late Hawaiian swell might swing through and light up his home break of Peahi aka Jaws?

But as the north swells wind down, and summer approaches, Ian begins to look at the southern hemisphere.

"When the northern hemi winter finishes in March, I'll start paying a lot of attention to Chile and then South Africa and, obviously, Tahiti and Fiji."

From April until October, Fiji looms large on Ian's radar. "I'd love to get another really big day at Cloudbreak," he says. "That's so close to my mind, what's happening, weather-wise in that part of the Pacific."

Even if it's not 20-foot, he won't complain. "I really enjoy chasing waves just for good barrels. It doesn't have to be a million feet. And I definitely pay close attention to Indonesia. I like strike missions. To Fiji, Indo, north-west Australia."

A slight tweak in Ian's road-map this year is a desire to base himself out of the Spanish city of Barcelona, a world hub in the middle of the year.

"I went there two summers ago and then went again last year. There's a rad super old city aspect to it. It has amazing food and it's on the water so you can go to the beach and, even though there's not much surf, you can have a city life and still swim in the ocean and train. You can also take off and ping it up to Scandinavia for the weekend or go partying in Italy."

Ian is single, as if that needs to be said, and he says his life in 2015 will be "flying off the cuff."

"As you get a big older you come to appreciate the places you travel to more and more. I want to step out and experience more than just what's happening in the ocean. There are so many cultural experiences to embrace."

Still, there is a schedule, a "backbone to my year" as Ian puts it. Last year he was filming a campaign for Hewlett-Packard and was in Oregon, then southern Calfiornia and then South Africa.

This year, if something similar happens, "I'll piggy back trips onto everything. And I'll still drop everything and move where the waves are the biggest and best."


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