Stab Caddy 2.0: Koa Smith's Namibia Stretch
Words by Lucas Townsend | Photos by Alan Van Gysen
Koa Smith earned $1,296 per second on his ride in Namibia last year. His GoPro footage cut the internet at its fibre-optic knees and netted Mr. Smith over $35k in total (and that isn’t including incentives from Hurley). “Regardless of the length,” begins Koa, “I’ve never had a barrel that beautiful before. Some of those moments were so glassy that my fins and board had no drag, it was like I was floating it was so pristine.” But what exactly was under his rubber soles (I know, a Hawaiian in booties!) which allowed for such a fast and historic line?
It was a 5’7” mut. Part cork, part bamboo, part epoxy, but entirely splendid. Others broke upwards of three crafts each but Koa’s board, shaped by William “Stretch” Riedel, made the 27 seconds of sheet-glass shade possible. “I definitely couldn’t have made that wave without that board,” says our pilot. “It’s epoxy foam and Stretch shapes it a little bit thinner, puts cork on the top and rails, and lays bamboo on the bottom. It goes into a vacuum bag to seal it to the foam and then he glasses over it. They’ll rarely break and are really, really fast.
“I first rode my 6’0” step-up because there was some 10-foot Hawaiian sets coming in. But the waves were so round and you’d get so deep that you’d nose-dive because it was bottoming out so hard.”
But how hard can it be, right? I mean, making the drop is the whole nine yards. Once you’ve done that it’s a skip into the end zone and free pass to global recognition for riding the longest barrel of all time. “Nah bra, the drop is only the start,” explains Koa. “I was literally going so fast I was almost falling backwards the board was going that quick. You can’t stop pumping. Imagine standing on the ground and trying to jump forward as far as you can jump while standing in a surf stance. That’s how I was pumping through the barrel for the entire wave. But I was doing it as fast as I could, using my arms to get momentum and extra push. The whole time I didn’t think I was coming out.
“You get really flogged out there. It’s only a foot deep, some would even drain to dry sand. It can get a Shipsterns-like step in the wave. You’ll do five over-the-falls real quick and your board will smack you. You get buried by the sand, slammed on the bottom and it pins you there. I’d almost compare it to some of the wipeouts you’d get at Chopes on an eight-footer.”
Quad set-ups are the avant garde in barrels. Enough years have gone by and enough elite surfers now rely on their qualities. Like the board, Koa says the ride wouldn’t be possible without the stiff, super sharp Gerry Lopez tow fins he used. Admittedly unexperienced in rubber, Koa used booties for the first time and loved their traction and added protection. His deck was scrubbed with Sex Wax, the yellow blend.
Stretch specialises in barrel boards. And Koa’s first move after his ride was to sprint to the 4WD, export his pay cheque onto his laptop and send a .mov file to his shaper with the message, “Thank you.” If you’re making rides like this possible, and Bruce Irons is also choosing your 5’7” board for double-overhead Pipe then you’re not doing too many things wrong.
The board now sits in two pieces in the must-hang-on-the-wall pile in Koa’s house on Maui. “I ended up breaking it towing in on Oahu. I was at this random spot and the lip landed on my head and the board broke. I shouldn’t have been riding it. But, I had so many good sessions on it, like Hurricane Marie in California. I’ll never, ever forget that board.”
Is it the most important wave of Koa Smith’s career?
“…so far,” he adds, with the most perfect amount of arrogance.
The run-round at Namibia; more marathon than sprint. Just think, had Koa not had his gob wrapped around a $300 GoPro, that’s a half a Tundra truck or a long weekend in Vegas he wouldn’t have later owned.