Stab Magazine | What. The. FUCK. Koa Smith Does It Again At Skeleton Bay (And Teaches Us How To Survive A Vicious Foamball)

What. The. FUCK. Koa Smith Does It Again At Skeleton Bay (And Teaches Us How To Survive A Vicious Foamball)

Droplets aside, have you seen a better tube capture?

Words by stab

Last year, Koa Smith rocked our cocks off with a two-minute, eight-barrel, sand-bottomed screamer at Skeleton Bay. 

This year, on an even bigger swell of the same direction, Koa returned to Namibia’s fickle sandspit and discovered the biggest, thickest Skeleton tubes he’s witnessed in five-plus years as a visitor. One set was so massive that it closed out the bay.

Despite the swell’s size, it failed to attract many big-name surfers from around the world. Maybe that’s because the QS and CT had just left South Africa and couldn’t be fucked to fly all the way back. Rumor has it Kelly Slater was still in J-Bay (which was flat) during the Skeleton swell, which raises the question: why has the best surfer of all time never surfed the world’s best wave? Jordy Smith, too, was hanging around South Africa while this storm battered the continent’s west coast.

As far as those who were in attendance, Taj Burrow made his Skeleton debut; Brett Barley visited from North Carolina; William Alliotti flew down from Europe; Jonathan Gubbins left Peru’s sand points to sample the African jewel; Benji Brand and Gearoid McDaid could only catch the back-end of the swell after an airline snafu (at one point they were an hour from the wave but unable to deboard their plane, which then re-routed back to Jo-burg).

With few pros in attendance, the lineup was open to all comers. As it turned out, the sheer size and power of this swell meant that few wanted a piece. From what we’ve seen, Brett Brley got one of the biggest waves of the day, if not ever, at the Namibian point.  

However, with more than five years of experience under his belt, Koa Smith was always going to be a standout. Surely you’ve watched the wave he caught above. Here’s his breakdown of the ride:

Wearing a back-mounted GoPro, Koa took off deep and instantly started pumping.

“When you take off,” Koa said, “you’ve gotta match the speed of the wave, or else you’ll get left behind. That’s what I was doing there.”

Koa was then enveloped by an impossibly-long curtain, one that looked destined to consume his board with its inward explosion. 

“I was riding a 5’4 Lost RAD Ripper,” Koa explained. “Before this trip, I went to Catalyst to buy wax, and I saw that board and just thought, that thing is perrrrfect.'”

Once in its throes, Koa gave a final pump before locking in his stance to survive the avalanche beneath his feet. 

“The trick to riding over the foamball is to keep your nose up,” Koa revealed. “I always think about giving one huge pump then getting on my back foot. If you’re leaning forward, the foam is just gonna gobble up your nose and send you under with it. You gotta keep the tip up!”

Koa proceeded to exit the funnel and claim proudly to the drone of Chris Rogers, who like last year, tracked Koa’s entire multi-minute, countless-tube rides (see Chris’s version below).

Koa proceeded to surf the remaining 80 seconds of the wave, which depending on how generous you are, comprised anywhere between three and six more tubes. 

“After making the first section, I was kind of just giggling the rest of the ride. I didn’t really care at that point, but looking back at the clip now, I wish I would have pushed a little deeper on some of those other sections,” Koa explained.

The walk back up the point is over 2km. Koa guesses he did it about 12-15 times this day, but he can’t be sure.

“My first walk-around was in the dark and my last walk-around was also in the dark. I think I only took a 30-second break the entire day. It’s definitely the most exhausting day of surfing I can imagine. But, you know, some people train for contests or big waves. I train for Namibia. Even if it’s only one day a year. But after this day, I think I need to change my routine slightly. I’m still so sore.”

It’s impossible to ignore the comparisons between Koa’s waves of this year and last. While the 2018 version (seen below) was smaller and didn’t offer the same depth of tube, it did offer more barrel opportunities and a longer ride.

“For me, the first section on this year’s wave made it crazier than all of last year’s ride. Last year’s was more beautiful and probably a better wave from start to finish, but I had to work so hard to make the first section on this year’s ride, that it was really special to me” Koa decided. 

It’s clear that last year, Chris Roger’s drone vision offered a more remarkable viewing experience than Koa’s mouth-bound GoPro. This year, thanks to a switch to the back-mount (which makes the surfer appear deeper than he truly is), the roles have reversed.

“That was my first wave using the back-mount,” Koa explained. “I’ll make sure to put some Rain-X on it next time [laughs].”


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