Real adventurers earn their photos. From running the cliffs of the Grand Canyon, to kayaking the whitewater of the remote Nachvak River, and taking selfies atop the Seven Summits, we found the folks pushing the limits of photography and adventure.
Greg Long has won pretty much everything there is to win in the world of competitive big wave surfing. He was crowned world champion of the 2013 Big Wave World Tour, beat Kelly Slater to win the prestigious In Memory of Eddie Aikau event at Waimea Bay in Hawaii, and has brought home more Billabong XXL awards than any other surfer in the world. He’s also pioneered (been the first to ride) big wave breaks like the now famous Cortez Bank and numerous others around the world. His accomplishments in the big wave arena are only equalled by his humble, gregarious nature, like when a big wave contest lost its sponsor, Long ponied-up his own money to hold the event anyway and make sure his friends could surf together. We talked with Long about his favorite waves, how he stays mentally and physically prepared, and how an image can inspire adventurers across the globe.
What’s your absolute favorite wave, big or small, to surf?
I can find just as much fun and satisfaction out of riding a perfect head high point break as I can a giant wave. For me, diversity in the experience is what makes surfing, and life, so much fun. Narrowing it down to just one wave would be impossible so I will break it into two categories: Big wave and small wave. Mavericks in Half Moon Bay, C.A. is probably my favorite big wave. No other big wave in the world breaks as perfectly in the same place every time. A lot of places you paddle out to, and there is a huge element of luck involved in whether or not you will be in the right position to catch the wave. Not at Mavericks. If you want to ride a big wave, the opportunity is there and its only up to you to turn around put your head down and commit to it. Then of course, you factor in the cold water, rocks, sharks, and picturesque Norcal scenery and you have the recipe for a pretty wild experience. As for small waves, Jefferies Bay in South Africa. Best right point break in the world. Nowhere that I know of offers up the variety of doing both turns and getting barreled on the same wave.
How do you train for riding big waves on both a mental and physical level?
I have been practicing yoga regularly for over 10 years, and regard that as the main staple of both my physical and mental training. The asanas provide the platform to greatly enhance one’s strength, flexibility, and balance, all of which are imperative to have when riding big waves. But the physical practice is but a fraction of what yoga truly is. Beyond the asanas lies a world in which one can find a deeper understanding of the human mind and spirit. When you learn to harmonize, the mind, spirit, and body, it’s there that you find your greatest potential both in and out of the water. I also supplement my yoga practice with a variety of cardio activities. Pool swimming doing different apnea breath hold training exercises, riding my bike, or running in the back hills of my home town San Clemente, or anywhere that’s got a nice trail and some trees to enjoy.
How fast can you get ready to go catch a plane and chase a big swell? Do you have something like a “go bag” ready at all times?
I pay very detailed attention to my equipment and have everything I may need for a trip ready to go at all times. There can be a significant difference in the equipment I will take from trip to trip. It is all dictated by how big the swell is, the type of waves I am surfing, the weather conditions etc. What I actually need and choose to bring can change drastically so I never have anything pre-packed. But with everything well organized I can be ready to leave to just about anywhere in the world in just a matter of hours.
Any intense travel stories from a recent trip?
A little while back we did a two month exploration trip to the east coast of Madagascar. Along the way there was a boating accident and one of our local crew members broke his femur, tibia, and fibia. We had to carry him on our shoulders overnight through the jungle and across a shark riddled river until we were able to reach the nearest road and transport him to get proper medical attention. That was undoubtedly one of the heaviest incidents I have experienced in all of my travels.
Do you have any advice for guys wanting to try and surf bigger waves?
Big wave surfing is all about managing the risks your take. The ocean is obviously a very unpredictable environment, but there are those elements that you can control. Take your time to thoroughly understand your line-ups, how the waves change or are effected on different swell directions, tides, etc. Make sure your equipment is in proper working order before you paddle out, train hard to ensure that you’re physically and mentally prepared. Have patience, work your way into it. Big wave surfing is a life-long pursuit and study.
Are there any “must bring” items for you when you’re traveling?
Aside from the obvious surfing equipment, it is very rare that I leave home without my yoga mat, detailed first aid kit from North American Rescue, and a good book.
What are some of you’re thoughts about Instagram? Any favorite type of posts?
I’ll be honest and admit that social media is not really a forte of mine. But I really do appreciate people who are out there living it up, doing adventurous things, sharing their passions with the world (whatever they may be) and writing inspiring, thought-provoking captions to accompany their photos. In a nutshell, my thoughts on it can be summed up like this: You see all those followers you have? That means that you are a leader. So go out and do and share something great … something that is going to inspire others do the same. That’s what the world needs.
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