Stab Magazine | Is It Possible To Paddle The Right?

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Is It Possible To Paddle The Right?

Kerby Brown, Russell Bierke, and Chris White weigh in on ‘The Last Frontier’ in big wave paddle surfing. 

style // Jan 20, 2019
Words by Stab
Reading Time: 5 minutes

For the past decade, The Right has been the world’s premiere tow spot. Of course, ‘code red’ Teahupo’o is in a warm water realm of its own, the Shipstern steps strikes fear into any sane surfer, and Jaws is still the most applauded big wave arena on earth. 

Aside from size and shape though, there’s one key difference between these waves and The Right. You see, all of these waves have been successfully paddled. In fact, every renowned big wave spot on the globe has been paddled, well, all of those other than The Right. At this stage, no one* has even attempted it.  

https://player.vimeo.com/video/138159674

Excluding a couple of boogs, Ryan Hardy being the first to do so in 2009 (above).

The Right was first surfed – as most of these waves are – by a bunch of crowd and evidently life-averse bodyboarders. In 2007, Chad Jackson, Sean Virtue, Brad Hughes, and Dean Harrington were the first people to surf there. As Russell Ord, a renowned West Oz photographer recalled to Red Bull a couple of years ago, “they gave up a good surf day to drive along the coast and were rewarded with the crown jewels.”

“We saw the lads [Brad, Chad, Sean, and Dean] drive past with their ski’s loaded up. We thought we would have crossed paths the next day, however there was no sign of them at the wave we were surfing.”

Since then, The Right’s popularity has exploded. From its humble booger beginnings the West Aus spot grew to worldwide acclaim. We even picked it as our location to fit two men, Taj Burrow and Mark Mathews (with room to spare) inside one heaving tube. 

Today, tow surfing there has arguably being mastered. There’s always hopes of a bigger swell, or a heavier barrel, but when you’re being whipped into a lump at 50 clicks it would take something absurd to render a ski useless. In addition, towing no longer has the same allure it once held. Other than the high-performance antics of Kai Lenny of late, the tow-in ceiling has been reached.

Now, rather than relying on new tech, big wave surfers are reverting to their roots, and embracing the skillset required to get in and out of an oversized lump of your own accord. 

To divulge the prospect of applying paddle power to The Right, we spoke to some of those who know the wave best. 

The Right Kerby Brown

Kerby Brown is quite content with the rope for the time being.

Photography

Ari Wolfe

“I have thought about the prospect of paddling The Right and have mind surfed many a wave out there.” Kerby Brown, a staple at any solid session at The Right told Stab.   

“I don’t think you can paddle into a proper legit wave at The Right.” Kerby continued. “I’m sure it can be paddled to some degree though. There are certain smaller ones that peak up a bit further inside that you could possibly paddle, but that’s not utilising the wave to its full potential, so I don’t really see the point in that.”

Kerby has a point. Waves like Teahupo’o and Cloudbreak are still a very worthwhile endeavour when theres no need to be towed in. Conversely, deep ocean waves like The Right don’t even break.

“The Right doesn’t come into its own until about 15 ft and when it gets to that size I think you can forget paddling. I mean you could try, but you’d be jumping out of the lip at best. You really need to backdoor the peak, it’s a really short intense wave. It doesn’t suit paddling”. Kerby continued.

“There’s no back to the wave and no real entry point. It can be hard enough getting into position with a ski, let alone paddling the place.

“Big wave surfing is progressing so quickly and I know there’s some wild shit being paddled at the moment and hats off to the guys doing that but the Right is a different animal. Board design might be a game changer going forward too.”

But according to Chris White, a filmer who has documented The Right’s most monumental sessions, including its discovery, it is possible, and it’s only a matter of time before it’s paddled. 

“Yeah it’s possible for sure on the right day. I think it will be done soon.” Chris told Stab. “All it takes is one person to show it’s possible then Pandora’s Box is open.

“Guys are pushing so hard in big, wild, windy conditions out Jaws, so I reckon it’s just a matter of time for a hellman to take [The Right] on.”

A sentiment which Russel Bierke, one of Australia’s younger big wave blokes agrees with. “I think it is possible. Ten years ago, people would’ve said paddling jaws on a big windy day was impossible. Now people are doing it every swell.”

But this optimism is still plagued with warranted fear and an unwillingness to throw himself over the ledge, just yet. “There’s definitely a few factors which make it really hard.” Russ continued. “The reef has a lot of current on it and it’s generally pretty slow out there, so it would be hard to line up a wave. Plus there’s a tonne of waves out there you definitely couldn’t paddle with the equipment we’re on and the approach we currently have to paddle surfing.

“If I was backhand I’d be a lot more confident in paddling into one too. Personally, I feel like grabbing your rail is much easier than bottom turning on your toes and trying not to catch a rail. You just have more stability. Like that wave Nathan Florence caught at Chopes a few years ago, you couldn’t make that on your forehand. 

“I’ve studied a lot of footage out there to see whether it’s possible, and it seems like about one in 20 are doable. Maybe you could get into it and get your bottom turn out with speed. But the approach would need to be completely different to the boogs that have already paddled it.

“You would have to come from behind the peak [and backdoor it].” Russ continued in regards to the approach. “The boogs take off in a completely different spot. I’m yet to really see a boog backdoor one paddling, but it would be impossible for them to generate enough speed from that position. The difficulty with paddle surfing out there isn’t just getting to your feet.”

While the three surfers disagreed as to how feasible paddling the wave was, they all agreed that once someone attempts it – successfully I might add – the gate will be opened.

“I can picture someone back dooring a 12 footer if they put in the time and waited for the right one.” Whitey told Stab. “I reckon someone like Jack [Robinson] or Rohan [Annesley] that has experience surfing big Box would fare well out there.”

And when asked whether The Right truly was ‘the last frontier’ in big wave paddle surfing none of the three could think of an equally unaccomplished wave. My prone history led me to float the idea of Cyclops as an unpadded front, but Russell Bierke (nor Sam McIntosh) agreed. “I don’t know if I’d include Cyclops, that isn’t really a wave [laughs]. 

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