A quest for the fabled hundred foot wave that is at the core of theBillabong Odyssey has begun on the Washington coast in typical north westPacific weather.
Under gray rainy skies, a collection of some of the top giant wave surfersin the world assembled at the Billabong Odyssey command head quarters,together with an assortment of film crews, journalists, photographers,technicians and state of the art equipment designed around towing surfersinto the equivalent of liquid ten story buildings.
Home to more than 2,000 shipwrecks, this area is considered the mosttreacherous coastal zone in the US, and is where the highest level ofoffshore training is undertaken by the Coast Guard service.
“Cape Disappointment is the ultimate place on the planet for dealing withsome of the heaviest conditions that the ocean generates,” says Odysseyproject Director Bill Sharp.
Fitting then that it be chosen by Sharp as the training ground for thesurfers and support unit members to acquaint themselves with the wildnatures of the surf and each other.
But before a single wave was ridden, the surfers found themselves in school.The US Coast Guard station at the Cape Disappointment, Washingtonfacilitated a training and orientation session designed to familiarize allwith conditions likely to be encountered in the historic quest.
Personal watercraft partners Mike Parsons/Brad Gerlach, Shane Dorian/KenBradshaw, Flea Virostko/Shawn Barron and Ken Collins/Josh Loya were takenout into surf zone at the mouth of the Columbia River on brand new 47 footUSCG rescue vessels for a first hand look at the waves they might contendwith.
For the next three months, these are the teams that will be on 24 hourassembly notice at the Odyssey command HQ, should a storm rogue enough togenerate giant waves the expedition desires develop.
“I think the greatest thing about the Odyssey is that we’re dealing withextreme waves, and we’re practicing extreme safety too,” stated Hawai’ianBrian Keaulana of Makaha on the West Side of Oahu.
Undeniably the greatest waterman ever, Keaulana has been seconded byBillabong to impart his wealth of knowledge as a teacher of ocean survivalto everyone involved in this milestone mission.
Together with USCG staff and Pacific County Technical Rescue members,Keaulana will hold a three day Risk Technician Training course for allparticipants in the Odyssey at the Cape Disappointment station.
“Hopefully the participants are going to come out of this with vastly honedsurvival skills,” said Sharp, “well prepared to go forward and take onwhatever the ocean has to throw at us.”
For more daily coverage of the first expedition of the Billabong Odyssey,check out Evan Slater’s daily dispatches on swell.com.