On the Shoulders of Giants. Honoring Sean Collins, Larry “Flame” Moore and the Greatest Big Wave Discovery of the 21st Century; Cortes Bank
by Chris Dixon
A couple of months ago, Surfline’s editorial director Dave Gilovich reached out and asked if I’d be interested in helping put together a big feature that honored our friends Sean Collins, the late, great founder of Surfline.com, and Larry “Flame” Moore, the late, great photo editor of Surfing Magazine. The idea was to create a narrative web and film-based feature on Sean and Flame’s proudest moment – the first successful big wave expedition to surf of the titanic waves of the Cortes Bank. The mission dropped the collective jaws of the surfing world, led to the first of Mike Parsons’ two world records, and left surfers wondering what the hell else is out there over the horizon?
Photo of a Photo: Chris Dixon
We hoped to draw from the incredible well of photo, video and film imagery captured that day by Rob Brown, Aaron Chang, Fran Battaglia and Dana Brown – who captured the session for his film Step Into Liquid. We also wanted to give a little more credit to unsung hellmen Evan Slater and John Walla. While this was a tow-surfing expedition for Parsons, Peter Mel, Ken “Skindog” Collins and Brad Gerlach, in true pioneer fashion, Slater and Walla decided to see if they could paddle for the waves barehanded. They paid dearly for their transgressions in frightful fashion.
In some ways, this mission would pave the way for big waves discoveries that have since included Monterey, California’s Ghost Tree, South Africa’s Dungeons, Australia’s Cow Bombie, Tasmania’s Shipstern Bluff and Portugal’s mighty Nazaré. Each of these spots is utterly unique – and terrifying – in its own way. But now, even 14 years later, nowhere on earth quite compares to the bizarre open ocean miracle that is the Cortes Bank.
The 2001 Mission would lead to paddle surfing only expeditions to Cortes Bank. In 2010, Greg Long dared to strong arm into a wave once the sole domain of the jet ski. Photo: Chris Dixon