The first time I surfed Mavericks was with my childhood friend Derek Dunfee in 2007.  The surf was going off!

I paddled out without any expectations. I wasn’t even planning on catching more than a wave or two. Just wanted to check the place out from the lineup.

I ended up catching a handful of incredible waves and had an amazing seven-hour session. Derek was charging and pushing me to get a good one. After that session I was so stoked on the place that I tried to score it every time it broke in the following months. I ended up having a couple bad wipeouts, and got caught inside, but I ended up riding one of the best waves of my life during the following seasons.

I am by no means a gnarly Mavericks surfer. I do not go out there and try to get the biggest wave or sit deeper than the pack. I am not comfortable in the Mavericks environment, but I surf it to push my own personal limits.

After my first three years out there, I decided that I might not even like surfing Mavericks. The crowd, cold water, and early-morning sessions is not my favorite big-wave combination.

Mavericks is a place where things go either incredibly well or incredibly wrong.

I don’t care about proving anything to anyone else but myself, and I know my limitations. I want to have fun and positive experiences. I don’t want to die yet.

I flew into San Diego from a three-month trip to Fiji, loaded up my van, and drove 10 hours up north to surf Mavericks the next day.

I felt like crap paddling out to the lineup. A big wave came right to me and Evan Slater was yelling at me to go. I looked at the wave, took two strokes, and pulled back.

Evan said something to me about how I should have gone, and it made me feel pretty bad about myself. I look up to Evan’s hard-charging abilities and felt like he lost respect for me after that wave.

I ended up catching one small wave and went in. I knew that I shouldn’t have been out there. I was sick and had been traveling nonstop for 24 hours. When you don’t feel it, you don’t feel it—simple as that.

A week or so after that session, I thought about that wave. I was kind of hard on myself at first, but then realized that if I went on it I could have fallen and drowned. Who knows what could have happened? I just wasn’t feeling it, so I didn’t go. I had a big-wave epiphany: I am out there to have fun, not to show off—so what?

Photos: Marko Wolfinger and Derek Dunfee the night before my first Mavs session. Russo shot me freezing in the lineup. Todd Glaser and I drove up a couple of times.

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