Defying death with Niccolo Porcella
Words by Morgan Williamson You know Niccolo Porcella. He’s a 28-year-old, Maui born professional kitesurfer. But that’s not how you know him. You know him because he won wipeout of the year with what could’ve been the wipeout of the century. I recall fluttering through our Instagram feed, half awake that morning in the Stab […]
Words by Morgan Williamson
You know Niccolo Porcella. He’s a 28-year-old, Maui born professional kitesurfer. But that’s not how you know him. You know him because he won wipeout of the year with what could’ve been the wipeout of the century. I recall fluttering through our Instagram feed, half awake that morning in the Stab offices. I first saw the explosion on Jake Patterson’s IG. Teahupoo was code, umm… Orange that day and Ms Keala Kennelly whipped into one of the heaviest waves ever ridden.
That morning I tried to get into contact with Niccolo. Firstly, I just wanted to make sure he was alive. My immediate instinct after watching his arm flail out of that thick lip was, fuck… I think I just watched somebody die; like the feeling I got in third grade when one of my dickhead friends showed me Faces of Death III. “That was my fifth wave,” Mr Porcella told me on that fateful Chopes day. “The swell was all wrong, everybody was eating it. Most were just un-makable, everybody goes down at Teahupoo when it’s big. I was stoked though, after that wipeout I whipped into another bomb.”
Anyhow, the man who won wipeout of 2015 most certainly just won wipeout of 2016, if they took kitesurfing nominations. When I shot him an email this morning looking for an interview all he responded was, “yeah, for sure. You liked that judo kick huh?”
“Wipeouts nowadays are more exciting than making the wave, you know?” he says jokingly when we dial in. “Yesterday was an awesome day all around.” It surely was a day to remember: Waimea showed its teeth and Bethany Hamilton whipped into a bomb out at Pe’ahi. “I paddled it all morning,” Mr Porcella says. “And, got a bunch of sick waves. Then I kited and got a few really good ones before that wipeout. In a way it’s like a gift, because my Instagram and Facebook blow up and I get more media attention. Which is good for my career and helps me continue to support my family and keep doing what I love. But at the same time it seems like it’s more exciting for people to see somebody wipeout,” he laughs. “It’s not like I want to wipeout, I want to make the biggest waves and pull into the biggest barrels. But making it through a heavy wipeout is almost as good as making a wave. If you want to do something new, it happens; you fall. Falling is part of succeeding and the bigger you want to go, the bigger you’re going to fall. When it happens I’m just happy I’m not injured and return to the lineup with a smile on my face, ready for the next one. Moments like that are confidence boosters.”
“On that wave I was super deep, hunting for the barrel. Kitesurfing’s completely different than surfing, there are a lot more factors involved,” Niccolo says. “I was completely committed, then the line started to catch in the lip and instinct kicked in. Instead of having the lip land on me and blow me up I decided I was gonna send it and hopefully make it over the wave.” To his credit he got close. “I didn’t quite get the power to boost me all the way, the wave was a lot bigger than I thought it was while riding. So I put my feet up to break the hit. It was super violent. I got lit up and was pushed really deep underwater. I was still hooked to the kite, when it all settled down I was able to release it. When that happens you just have to relax and let the wave take you. When I came up for air the set of the day landed on my head.”
Niccolo’s no stranger to the deep take off. Photo: Shannon Reporting
Mr Porcella’s is living Point Break. Have a scroll through his Instagram – it’s big pits, squirrel suits, base jumping and kitesurfing. There’s an innate radicality to it mirrored by the divine notion of extreme sports. “I train really hard for this stuff,” he says. “Five days a week with a personal trainer. In order to make it through situations like these you have to be fit and flexible. It takes a lot of cardio, strength and free diving. I grew up a gymnast and acrobat but really most of it’s mental. When you’re going down on a wave like that you have to relax, go limp, feel the way the water’s moving and let it take you. At Teahupoo you know you might hit the reef hard and you have to be ready but you can’t go stiff, then you’ll waste all your energy. It comes down to having faith and knowing everything is going to be okay. When wipeouts like this happen it goes far beyond any training, mother nature decides what she’s going to do with you.”
“Whenever I’m out there I’m the most grateful human alive,” Niccolo says. “If I’m not running at 110 percent I’m not going out. Throughout the years I’ve learned to really feel the gratitude and the goodness because we truly do live in a world of infinite possibility.”
He’s known for his misses, but he has his fair share of makes. Photo: Shannon Reporting
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