You’ve likely seen the wave featured above by now. If you haven’t, here’s the Cliffs Notes version of what happened: last week a swell of epic proportions made its way to Fiji, summoning Cloudbreak caverns the size of apartment buildings. Eager to get a piece of the historic swell, the hardest-charging, big-wave madmen packed their rhino chasers and tow boards and set off for the South Pacific. One of those chargers was Chile’s own Ramon Navarro (he’s that tiny speck of a human you see on the monstrous-looking wave above). The above ride took place Sunday afternoon at the peak of the swell, and is claimed by some as the biggest wave ever surfed in Fiji. We caught up with Ramon to talk about the Titanic left shortly thereafter.
You always seem to be on the pulse of monster swells in Chile and abroad. Did you see this one coming a ways out?
Yeah, for sure. As a goofyfoot, you don’t have many options for big lefts. Most of those waves are rights. Especially for me, living in Punta Lobos and Pichilemu, my whole life has been surfing lefts so it’s not easy for me going right in big waves. So anytime I see big swells head towards Chile or Fiji, I keep an eye on them. And ever since 2012, the first time I went there and I got an amazing wave that day I always knew I was going to come back on another big swell.
So how did that day unfold during this last swell?
We showed up really early on Sunday. The night before was raining really hard and was windy. We showed up and it was big and really windy and stormy. The big ones were just perfect. The wind was so strong so there was no way to paddle, so Kohl [Christensen] and I decided to tow a couple. At that point, Kohl put me into two waves. I didn’t get that deep but it was more just about checking my board. At that point, I was just happy with those. There were a lot of guys in my boat so we started taking turns because we only had one tow board and one ski to tow. So we took two waves each. We were pretty patient. On days like that, catching one or two waves is to going to make my trip. During the 2012 swell, we saw the potential to tow the wave, so we thought if it ever got that big again we should try it.
At what point did you catch your now-infamous bomb?
Around 3 in the afternoon I was just sitting in the boat waiting because the paddle situation at that point wasn’t that good. It was my turn again and Kohl was like, ‘You want to go again?’ He had it really clear in his mind that we were going to go for the really big one or nothing at all. So we sat out the back and waited for the rogue wave to show up.
We went out the back and waited for like an hour and nothing was showing up. So I said, ‘Kohl, maybe we should just go paddle it.’ At that point, the wind was starting to get better. But Kohl was like, ‘No let’s just wait for a big one that people can’t paddle. Relax.’ He told me to meditate [laughs.] Finally, after like two hours the bomb showed up. At that point, I was shaking cold because it was really windy. As soon as the ski turned around I just saw the whole ocean open up and a long, clean wall. I got into it, bottomed turned and as soon as I turned up into the pocket that thing sucked up so much. It spit so hard over my head. I’ve never seen the spit like that before. I came out of the barrel and was ready to go for a second section, but all the skis and the boats, because the wave was so big, had to run away so down the line there were a bunch of lines and boats so I decided to just kick out. As soon as I kicked out of the wave Kelly Slater was there and he paddled straight to me and gave me a hug and everyone was screaming. The funny part was I had no idea how big the wave was. Later that night when we got back to the hotel and we saw the pictures and video of myself on the wave, I realized just how big it was.
Leading up to the swell, did you guys even think you’d be towing?
We went there with paddling in mind, but with the swell looking so big and, remembering 2012, we brought the tow boards just in case. I’m actually not really into tow surfing. The last time I towed was like 5 or 6 years ago. That board was actually sitting my house for a long time without being used.
So did it take a couple waves to get the hang of it again?
Well, funny story. When Kohl towed me into my first wave that day, before the big one, I bottom turned and got a little pocket ride, but the board felt really weird. When we got back to the lineup, I checked the board out and saw that Kohl forgot to screw in the two front fins. One fin was gone and the other was really loose. I was like, “Kohl, are you trying to kill me or what?” So we had to go back to the boat and screw new fins in and make sure they were really tight. I was lucky I didn’t get that big one without front fins.
A lot of people are saying your wave was the biggest ever surfed in Fiji.
Oh, I don’t know. People can say what they want but I’m just happy to get the biggest wave of my life. I was so lucky to have the opportunity to get the wave. It was Kohl, who’s one of my best friends, who made that wave happen. He did all the work, I just had to let go of the rope and surf the wave. It was one of the best days of my life. I’m so happy no one got hurt during the whole session and that everyone is back home safe with their families. I don’t care if it’s the biggest or not. It was a good wave and I’m happy I didn’t fall.