10 April, 2015 10 April, 2015

The Big Leagues – with James Taylor

Earlier this week the World Surf League announced its schedule for the 2015/16 Big Wave Tour (BWT), as well as six new invitees – chosen from the dozens of chargers who’d entered their #ProveIt Challenge – who’ll be joining last season’s Top 10 in a quest for the BWT world title.

James Taylor has been invited to challenge for the 2015/16 BWT title.

Cape Town’s James Taylor was among these six, joining Twiggy on tour and doubling SA’s presence on big wave surfing’s ultimate stage. We caught up with James to hear his thoughts on the achievement and what lies ahead.


ZIGZAG: Well firstly, how does it feel finally making it onto the BWT? Only six new names were added to the roster, did you think yours would be one of them?
JAMES: Not at all, it came as a massive surprise!

What do you think of the two new spots (Lincoln City, Oregon and Puerto Escondido) which have been added into the mix for the 2015/16 BWT?
Puerto has been on my list for a couple of years now, but I’ve just never made it happen. It looks super heavy and tricky to catch the right ones, but you could definitely get the barrel of your life there, so I’m super amped to give it a go! I haven’t surfed at Lincoln City either, but from what I’ve seen and heard it’s a very challenging open ocean wave that on its day can deliver some massively perfect long walls.

Twiggy and James (on the inside) will be charging on the Big Wave Tour together. Dungeons 2008.

Out of all the locations, which are you looking forward to surfing the most and why?
Jaws. I surfed it for the first time this year and I just can’t get it out of my mind! As for why; It’s mesmerising, terrifying perfection is as close to a reason as I can come up with.

Who do you think is going to be some of the toughest guys to beat on tour?
I think the guys that have the most experience at the different spots will be the toughest to beat. It takes time to figure out a spot’s moods and no matter how much advice you get or research you do, you can’t beat time in the water when it comes to riding big waves.

We’ve all seen the videos and images of you taking on spots like Jaws, Mavericks and Dungeons to name a few. Are you feeling at the top of your game right now?
I damaged my hamstring quite badly at Jaws in January and was out of the water for two months. It’s nearly completely better now though, and I have been doing a lot of cross training to keep in shape. So overall I am feeling good, but will definitely be putting in a few extra hours a day now that this has come along.

Not 20-foot Jaws, but bombs like this at Nias aren’t for the faint-hearted.

Give us a quick run through of your training and preparation leading up to an event.
I like simulation training. If you want to catch big waves you have to be paddle fit, so I take my big boards on a long paddle every day and vary the speed and intensity throughout the session. If you wipe out you’ve got to be comfortable being underwater, so during the paddle session I get my heart rate up with a paddle burst, then dive off and stay under water until the contractions start. During normal surf sessions, I also sometimes stay under water after a wipeout and wait for the next wave to come over me. It usually only takes 15 seconds or so, so its not too hard to do. But you learn a lot about what your body feels like and what the water sounds like in a two wave hold down scenario. Give it a try, you’ll see what I mean, and the next time you are in heavy surf you’ll be a lot less scared of a two wave hold down. Other than that, I kite surf, standup paddle and spear fish. It just depends on what the ocean is best suited for on any given day. There is no substitute for time in the water.

We know that the subject matter concerning the Cape Big Wave Trust’s (CBWT) decision to exclude Dungeons as a location on the BWT is a sensitive one for some, but what are your thoughts on this?
I consider myself privileged and honoured to be a part of the Cape Town big wave community. The friendships in this community were formed riding big waves, but I know I can call on any one of them for anything, inside the water or out, and they know the same of me. The term ‘brotherhood’ gets thrown around quite often now days, but what we have here is truly something special. The CBWT was put together by this community so that we have a formal place to discuss and vote on controversial issues that effect it. A contest in the current format is a controversial issue in the fact that almost every single big wave surfer in the community will not be allowed to surf on the best day of the year.

James’ #ProveIt video helped convince the BWT panel to award him a wildcard.

Last year, the CBWT arranged a meeting for the community to discuss the pros and cons of running the event, and around 60 percent of the community voted for it. The event was therefore given the green light and the 40 percent that voted against it, although they did not agree with it, accepted the outcome as what the community at large felt was best. This year the vote was against having the contest. A massive list of pros and cons and endless arguments for and against can be made, but at the end of the day that is not what matters. What matters is that the CBWT has empowered the community to be able to discuss and make decisions as a community, for what they feel is best for the community. In my opinion, as long as we have something like this in place, the fate of big wave surfing in South Africa will always be in good hands.

Lastly, would you like to add anything else, thank anyone right now?
It has been overwhelming seeing all the support and positive comments coming in on social media. So, thank you everyone for the good vibes! Thank you also to my big wave partner and long time friend, Jacques Theron, for being there since the beginning. I’d also like to thank my sponsors, Gul wetsuits, for keeping me warm, and Signature Surf and Skate for the incredible 10’4″ Sean Ordonez Pro model gun that got me into some of the best waves of my life these last few months! Looking forward to the missions that lie ahead…

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