It was November, and the water was cold. I was in my neoprene wetsuit, waiting out on the open ocean off Nazaré on the Portuguese coast for that one opportunity. And it came. A monstrous wave was building behind me, more than 24 meters tall. My whole body filled with joy at this moment. I knew if I could conquer that wave, I’d be that much closer to my goal.
I always wanted to be the best surfer in the world. I’m fascinated by monster waves. I started surfing when I was eight years old and learned how to maneuver on the board. I quickly understood that control is the be-all and end-all to keep from being engulfed by the masses of water. There’s also no place for any fear in surfing. If a person is scared, they make mistakes and in the worst case will pay with their life. Then at the age of fifteen I decided to become a professional extreme athlete. After that, I couldn’t afford to make any more mistakes.
I love nature and the magical connection to it that I feel when surfing. The huge monster waves don’t scare me any more, but that wasn’t always the case. In 2014, the second year in a row that I went to Portugal, I barely escaped with my life from the surf. That’s when I learned how important it is to stay in control and to escape a breaking wave in time. After I had conquered my wave, my team was still unable to rescue me from the icy floods and I had to wait between some rocks until the waters calmed. If the currents had carried me off or hurled me against the jagged rocks, I wouldn’t be here today.
Fortunately that didn’t happen. But I had to struggle with the memories of this traumatic experience for a long time. I was too afraid I’d lose control again. But I got back up on my board, regained my confidence in my abilities and exposed myself to the danger once again. Last year, my dream finally came true. I set a new world record.
Keeping my eye on the wave, I surfed as closely as possible along its line of energy and it was only my controlled movements on the surfboard that enabled me to emerge from its power unscathed.
I’ll be travelling back to Nazaré again this year in November. As they always do, my team will bring me out onto the open ocean with the jet ski and leave me alone in the wildness of nature. I’ll wait mindfully once again, then carefully get up on my board, keeping control to conquer the biggest waves of the world.
Rodrigo Koxa, 39,
is a professional extreme athlete from Brazil and holds the Guinness World Record for the largest wave surfed. He is also a motivational speaker and teaches people how to surf monster waves.