A couple years ago I had the opportunity to chat with Kohl Christensen – just as some of his big wave feats were surfacing. He is known as a Hawaiian but has roots in Seattle and the Northwest. Kohl was fresh off a win at the 2010 Nelscott Reef Big Wave Classic in Oregon. Looking at the shots, it was clear he was comfortable and adept at riding massive waves – and he was only going to grow in parallel with the sport.
Interview with Kohl Christensen, 2010 Nelscott Reef Big Wave Classic Champion:
The 2010 contest claims the biggest conditions ever surfed at Nelscott Reef (Buoy readings peaked at 24.6’ @ 16 seconds). What was it like out there?
Kohl: The waves were amazing out there. It was a beautiful sunny day with light off shore winds. I didn’t expect it to be as big as I was. I thought it was going to be different then it was. It was a legitimate 20ft Hawaiian scale and had some power! It was a bit shifty which made it challenging but exciting.
I know you’ve paddled into some world class big waves. How did the 2010 Nelscott Reef competition compare?
Kohl: So far this has been my favorite BWWT event that I have surfed in – having won probably affects that decision but the waves were insane. Mavericks last year was bigger, this was the second biggest. I also like how there was both lefts and rights!
So you’re living in on the North Shore of Oahu now. I hear you split time between Washington State and Hawaii when you were growing up?
Kohl: Yeah my family is from Seattle. They were all fisherman from Norway and lived in Ballard. My dad bought a place up in the San Juan and we spent some time up there. Amazing place but no surf! I heard about the west coast having epic waves but haven’t had a chance to get up there yet. That was my first surf in Oregon.
I’m guessing that riding big waves was more of a progression of your surfing than a real decision. How did you get to be into this niche of surfing?
(Delay of a couple weeks)
Kohl: Sorry been a while. Pipeline has been pumping!
I just always liked surfing bigger waves. As long as I can remember. I loved the excitement of getting myself into heavier situations and that rush it gives you.
You really found your calling in Hawaii. Big wave riders follow the global surf conditions more actively than most surfers – are you always on the hunt?
Kohl: Yeah it seems like my life right now pretty much revolves around the global storms. I am stoked it is winter time though because all that southern hemi swell chasing is a lot of work. It is nice to be home in Hawaii and do the quick trip to the west coast occassionally.
Thanks for talking with us Kohl – your success is well deserved!
Follow the new series produced by Patagonia; Deep Water, Ocean Adventures with Kohl Christensen.
And of course this ride at Cloudbreak that will go down in history.