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Where was Eric Akiskalian this winter?

Eric Akiskalian ©  Bryn Forbes/

Big Wave Updates

2013 Starts off with a Monster Swell - The Eric Akiskalian Interview

Surfersvillage Global Surf News, 29 January, 2013 : - - It doesn't take a lot of convincing. Only the tiniest fraction of a percent of human beings ride gigantic waves. Even then, of those who do, only a small determined handful travels the world chasing these monsters.

But that is what my friend and fellow writer Eric Akiskalian does, and he's pretty stoked after riding the gigantic wave featured in this interview. The knowledge a surfer must possess in order to safely surf waves like this is no small thing. Wave runners, which are used to launch the rider onto the wave, can be temperamental. They always come washing onto the beach and rocks on big days when several are out at once. It isn't just raw knowledge and experience, it is etiquette and grace and a whole lot of other talents screaming together in succession.

It is a fortunate thing to be able to peer into the mind of an athlete like Eric, it helps one understand the desire that makes a family man enter ice cold water in order to ride the biggest waves possible. Two of the scariest things I have encountered in my life are combat patrols in Iraq and Afghanistan, and getting caught inside while surfing on a really out of control big day.

You really have to give both Eric and his tow partner, Keith Galbraith, a lot of credit. Eric is a seasoned veteran and that is putting it mildly. I have no hesitation comparing a big wave rider of Eric's caliber to the toughest soldiers and Marines in the war theatre. Any job or sport that places you potentially close to death's door constantly requires an extremely rare and über precise type of person. And it always has. Eric is a warrior.

OK Eric, first set it up for me, where was it, tell me a little about the photographer, tow partner, and what time of day it was...
We had been watching this storm develop under Japan for about two weeks and it was really geared up to send us some monster surf. We were thinking this was going to be the swell where we could ride waves in the 60'-65' range but as it turned out it was a lot smaller.

I had arranged for 4 photographers on the cliff, two film guys and two photographers in the water on jet skies. My tow partner, Keith Galbraith along with our support crew (Tyler, Casey, Ross and Ryan) were ready for the biggest swell to come our way since our 2010 swell that delivered 60'-70' wave heights. Basically we were in the water, launched and ready to go by 8:30 a.m. and surfed till 3:30. The swell was very inconsistent due to the long period behind it and there were long waits in-between sets. At about 2:00 the swell started to build and everyone had gone in except Keith and I and this is when we snagged the biggest waves of the swell for sure. We were fortunate to have Bryn Forbes as one of our shooters on the cliff. He was able to capture one of my rides during the late afternoon session and it's truly his images that makes this ride look so awesome!

Eric, it looks like you had a real monster on your hands, Was this the wave of the day overall?
Yes it was the best and biggest wave of the day for sure and as my luck would have it once again, I was the chosen one to get the bomb! Seriously, I don't know what it is, but every big swell, I manage to get the biggest waves. I guess you might say I have a special relationship with little miss outer reef! Actually, thanks to my tow partner Keith and his excellent driving skills and selection of waves, he gets me on the biggest waves always. I always tell him when I'm on the rope, to be patient and let's wait out the back for the biggest. I don't need a hundred waves on the inside, I just want the biggest and baddest waves that usually comes once every 30-60 minutes. If I get a few medium ones in-between then I usually end up with a solid 15-20 waves during my session and that's a good day!

I'm glad the photos capture it so well, what do you think this was in terms of size?
Well it's for sure the biggest wave I have ridden since my monster 65' wave on South Reef in 2010 but not big enough. This one's tougher to measure because of the wave breaking in front, you really loose the full perspective of where the bottom is. As the wave breaks over the reef, it actually grows in size by 10'-15' and turns downward like a horse shoe effect this is the part that you can not see. So I'd say somewhere between 40'-50' in size.

It's an awesome wave Eric, knowing that you made this, were there a few seconds when you wondered if you would?
I never had a doubt that I would not make it. Once I let go of the rope and i started driving down the face of that beast, I knew it was going to be the biggest wave of the day and the best was yet to come as I looked down this wall of water and had about 800 yards ahead of me. It was just an amazing feeling and the best wave I've ridden in the past couple of years.

You've been driven to ride big waves for a long time, always a hard charger, can you talk about the challenges of this particular wave?
I have been surfing this wave for almost 10 years now and I know it better then anyone. The only challenges for me and this wave, is me! Mind set, staying in the best shape mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually are challenges. I know in order to ride a 70' wave out here I have to be the best I can be at all times! It's not easy working full-time, raising a family and chasing big waves. I do the best I can and make it happen.

The second challenge is mother nature, weather and conditions which are the main elements for great swell and don't often cooperate. The third is the freezing cold water temps in the mid 40's and air temps in the hi 20's to low 30's during those early morning sessions. Weather is always an issue but every now and then we do get those magical moments.

What inspires you to keep charging gynormous waves that are some of the biggest ever ridden?
I just love the journey and the rewards that come from being with friends and sharing the great moments of chasing big waves. My goal is to ride the biggest wave of the year and hopefully this will be sooner then later! After all, I am going to be 53 years young in April.

What else stands out about this day that you keep thinking about?
How I wish it was much bigger because the conditions were perfect and we were so ready to ride bigger waves.

Any closing thoughts?
Just stoked on life! I would like to give Jesus Christ all the credit for watching over us and keeping us safe during our big-wave adventures.

Special thanks to my production/photo/film/ crew Tyler Cunningham, Skye Anderson, Ross Rehberg, Ryan Hawkins, Mark Winnie, Bryn Forbes, Cody Cha, Tyler Roemer, Fred Pompermayer, Stefan Czarnecki, and my tow partner Keith Galbraith, for always putting me on the biggest waves of every swell! Special thanks to my sponsors; GoPro, Xcel Wetsuits, Titus Will Ford, Oregon Surf Shop, Stay Covered, Spare Air, Jet Pilot Life Vests, Future Fins, Progressive surfboards, Dakie Foot Straps, Wahoo Life Sled and High Surf Accessories  "Keep The Dream Alive!"-Eric Akiskalian

Source: Salem News

Author: Tim King

Tags: Eric Akiskalian, Oregon, Team

Big Wave: Surfersvillage


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