It was a moment on Chuck Patterson’s bucket list: to charge a massive wave at the Mavericks surf spot in Northern California, but not on a regular surfboard like the other wave riders who brave the building-size waves.
Patterson charged down a 40-foot, massive wave wearing skis, clutching poles in his hands, carving on a water mountain like he was in the snowy powder, rather than the Pacific Ocean.
The jaw-dropping moment caught on video on Sunday, Jan. 10, is buzzing on social media, but it’s not Patterson’s first time “wave skiing,” as he calls it.
Patterson, a longtime San Clemente resident who recently moved to Dana Point, recounted the day when the biggest, best swell in more than a decade hit the famed surf spot not far from Santa Cruz.
“It was a pretty hectic day, there were a lot of big sets,” he said.
The world’s best big-wave surfers had showed up to tackle the monster waves created by the swell. Peter Mel, a Santa Cruz native and legend in the big-wave world, got a perfect wave some are calling the wave of the decade.
Patterson, who grew up not far away in Tahoe where he gained his prowess in big mountain snow skiing, is no stranger at Mavericks and other big-wave spots. He’s among the big-wave elite, among a handful of people who can charge 50-foot-plus wave at places such as Jaws in Maui, where he lived for years, and other massive surf spots around the world.
Patterson is also known as an innovator, one of the early adapters of foil surfing, a waterman who kite surfs, stand-up paddles and basically does anything ocean related.
The idea – or obsession – to take on big waves while wearing skis started years ago, he said.
He tried a pair of jumper water skis, “but that didn’t turn out that great.”
Friends designed him a pair of skis that turned better on the wave’s face.
“It turned into a mini obsession,” he said. “You sit there and wonder if it’s possible. You give it a try and it works insanely well.”
The custom water skis are made out of epoxy, fiberglass and wood. He puts his feet into regular ski bindings and wears boots.
“You’re fully locked in,” he said. “If you eat it, which I’ve had happen a couple of times, you can’t really pop your skis off.”
That’s why it’s key to find just the right wave.
“Your jet ski driver looks for the best corner to take off on,” he said. “It’s all the time I’ve spent big-wave surfing and big mountain skiing, you put those together and you just have to choose wisely. It doesn’t always work, but for the most part on big waves, I’ve gotten a lot of good rides.”
The waves on Sunday were mostly in the 40-foot to 50-foot range, but there were some bigger 60-foot to 70-foot waves, too big for paddle surfers to take on without being pulled in by a watercraft.
So he and his driver, San Clemente surfer Justin Eibe, made a plan to tow in to “wave ski.”
“We were kind of all waiting, there were long waits,” he said. “Once we figured out the swell started really showing, that was the time where I decided this was my window to give it a try.”
They went out the back, past where the paddle surfers were sitting, and waited for just the right wave.
“That was the main thing, was to try and be respectful of the paddlers,” he said. “It was so big, they weren’t in the line up, they didn’t want to get steamrolled when the big waves came. We could take the big waves way outside.
“We just wanted to make sure everyone was safe and keep the positive vibe,” Patterson said. “There were so many big waves being un-ridden, either the surfers have to paddle in and give it a shot or allow the jet skis to pull in surfers.”
The wave he took was about 40 feet tall, he said. It’s about the 10th big wave he’s skied and a first at Mavericks, where the people on jet skis and boats nearby were hooting as he rode down the wave.
“It was just a different thing to see, there’s a lot of laughter and cheers,” he said.
He said he’s seen photos of a few people trying wave skiing in Europe, but he’s the only one charging big waves on the small skis strapped to his feet.
For him, being able to wave ski Mavericks was one for the books – but don’t try it at home.
“It’s kind of a novelty thing, it’s not something you’re going to see every day,” he said. “It’s a thing that people are curious about. It’s not a sport, that’s for sure.”
Source: Orange County Register