Gary Linden, the Vice President of the Big Wave Tour, became perhaps the oldest surfer ever to take on the big-wave spot when he dropped into the above wave at Pe’ahi on the 22nd January.
The 65 year-old American, also a well-respected shaper, is a veteran of the big-wave scene, but until last week he had never surfed Jaws. “I talked to Greg Long before,” Linden told the WSL after the session, “and he said, ‘No, you can’t do it, I don’t think you can do it Gary. It takes all my athletic ability, every drop I make.’ So I had this in the back of my mind. But I’ve surfed all the other big waves, every spot we have on Tour, everywhere. It was on my bucket list to get one at Jaws.
“I had some health issues this year — I had an arthritic hip and some heart problems and I’m going, ‘it’s probably not going to happen’. I’m bringing all that baggage on the day. But I’ve still got my suit, I’ve still got my vest, just on the odd chance that I thought I could do it I would. I was sitting there watching all the waves and thinking. Finding out where I thought I could fit, what part of the peak. I’ve become really good at reading the waves so I don’t put myself in the wrong position.
“I sat there and my friend Ben Wilkinson (AUS), one of the guys on the tour who’s really just a genuine human being, paddled over and goes, ‘Gary you want to catch a wave?’ And I told him I didn’t have a board. And he says, ‘Well I’ll loan you this one.’ He’s like 260 (lbs.). He’s got a big old, thick board. I knew I was at least going to be able to get into it, I didn’t know if I’d be able to turn it, but I’d get into it. I told him to go out there and surf and catch one and come back. So he comes back again says, ‘You wanna go Gary?’ And I thought, ‘This is my chance, if I’m ever gonna do it, it’s right now.’
“I suited up, paddled out, I knew where I was going to sit and I knew I had to do it quick because I didn’t want to get caught out there for a while and I picked off a good one. I made it the bottom and got clipped by the wall just at the end. That’s the hard part about Jaws, every wave pretty much barrels and you got to be able to set up. This board was just too big for me to really maneuver all that well, but it got me in which is what I wanted. It got me a notch. It was an amazing feeling.”
Head to the WSL website for the full interview with Linden.