A wave can be both a dream and a nightmare. In January 2019, at Pipeline, on Oahu’s North Shore, 42-year-old surfer Kohl Christensen caught an ideal swell (seen here)—the sort of wave that “sums up why we surf,” as the legendary Kelly Slater later put it.
A surfer can spend years in the water and never get a ride like that, recalls Christensen, who lives down the road from the break. “Then, all of a sudden, it’s almost like the wave comes to you.”
The thing is, a wave can turn deadly just as quickly.
In December, less than a year after this photo was taken, Christensen was out at Pipeline again. He pulled into a tube but wiped out, flying headfirst into the water and cracking his head on a reef. Lifeguards rushed the unconscious surfer to a hospital, where he underwent brain surgery. He expects to make a full recovery and hasn’t lost the desire to go after monster surf.
That said, “Now I feel totally at peace just hanging out with my daughters and watching the waves. I never felt that way before. I never felt that calm.”
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