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The Weekly Wednesday Wavelength Q & A: Ian Walsh

Ian Walsh at home at Jaws. Photo Fred Pompermayer / Red Bull Content Pool

Short questions and big answers from the key players in the surf world.

Maui’s Ian Walsh Walsh first surfed the legendary Jaws when he was just 16. At age 19, he was runner-up at the Billabong XXL Awards after towing a 68-foot beast at Jaws and numerous other nominations followed. He was the pioneer of the Jaws paddle movement around 2010, and along with his brothers, Shaun and DK revolutionised the role of safety and rescue operations at the wave.

In 2017 he won the Pea’hi Challenge and has been a standout at Jaws, Mavericks, and Nazare each winter whenever those big waves turn on. His latest HBO series titled Edge of The Earth documents him and Twiggy Baker searching for new big waves in remote Africa. Wavelength caught up with Walsh from a luxury yacht in Menorca, where the 40-year-old was enjoying some downtime, and partytime, before getting ready for the winter big-wave season.

Ian Walsh owning it at Mavericks. Photo Fred Pompermayer / Red Bull Content Pool

What’s the most scared I’ve been in the ocean?

In those stressful big wave situations, there is so much happening that you don’t have time to be scared. Most of the scary times come beforehand when you’re anticipating what might happen. I guess the most intense moment I’ve had in the water was a fall I had at Mavericks, not this past winter but the one before. That was maybe the most violent impact I’ve ever had on a wave in my entire life. And then I wore three waves on the head and when I eventually came up I couldn’t see for like 45 seconds or so. A whole lot was going on. That stands out because I hadn’t felt that amount of violence or force in the ocean before. 

Who’s the funniest person you know?

Probably my brother DK. He is a character of epic proportions.

And who’s the tightest?

I don’t really have any friends that are too tight. Everyone’s pretty good at shouting it out for dinners or beers. Everyone knows whose round it is.

Aside from property what’s the most expensive thing you’ve bought?

The most expensive thing I’ve bought aside from my house is experiences with my family. Some of the bigger trips overseas that I have brought my parents and brothers on. Money well spent. 

What’s your most treasured possession?

That’s an easy one; my most treasured possession is my family’s health.

What is your guiltiest pleasure?

Chips. Salt and vinegar crisps, or any kind of potato chips. I have a problem. Once that bag opens, it’s going away empty. There’s no stopping me. 

Ian Walsh working off those crisps. Photo Maui Marc / Red Bull Content Pool

When did you last cry and why?

Hard to pinpoint, but it’s usually when on a plane. You’re often emotional and exhausted, the altitude gets you and a movie will tip me over the edge. 

What’s your closest brush to the law?

I was traveling to Australia and at airport security, some superglue had spilled in my bag. It triggered the plastic explosives test and I can tell you the Aussie customs dudes did not like that one bit. It was a guilty-until-proven innocent type of deal, but long story short, it was quite an experience.

What keeps you awake at night?

The waves I didn’t make. I still go through what I could have done differently, or what could have happened if I had made it.

What song would you choose to play at your funeral?

That’s maybe too deep a one to put on record. I’d want something pretty funny and upbeat because I’d imagine it’d be a pretty good party. 

What was your most embarrassing moment?

Oh man, where do you want to start? Now I just embrace the embarrassment, so you don’t feel it. That’s how you erase the fail. Own that thing.