Dave Wassel On Lifeguarding Pipeline & Big Wave Surfing

9 Jun 2017 0 Share

VOLCOM | SPONSORED INTERVIEW SERIES

DAVE WASSEL. The Volcom big wave surfer famously known was Wasselhoff. He’s the Pipeline lifeguard who has gone beyond his duty many times, including saving the life of our own General Manager Doug Lees, after a two-wave hold-down in no less than 20 foot Cloudbreak.

Wassel is part of the furniture at the infamous Volcom Pipe house, and for good reason. He has a huge, cheeky personality with more one-liners than a ‘90s sitcom, and a fearless ability to paddle or swim out in any surf or shorebreak the powerful North Shore swells deliver.

Hawaiian born and raised, he has seen a lot of carnage and some really, really big waves over 12 years on the golden sands of the Banzai Pipeline and abroad, where it’s not easy to earn your stripes. Aside from the social and hierarchical acceptance of the Kama'aina, all lifeguards must meet these minimum physical requirements annually. How would you go?

- 1000 x 1000 yards run/swim in under 25 minutes
- 500 yard swim in under 10 minutes
- 400 yard rescue board paddle with 4 turns in under 4 minutes
- 100 x 100 x 100 run/swim/run in under 3 minutes

When asked about the most challenging situation he’s been faced with at Pipe he immediately turned it around commenting on how fortunate he is to work with the people he does especially when it counts. “Everyone wants to know what is the worst I’ve ever seen. How about the good stuff instead like seeing Bede Durbidge, Owen Wright and Kalani Chapman surfing again after their accidents out there.”

He may not have alluded to the crazy situations he deals with on the beach at home but says that last year’s Red Bull Cape Fear event was something else. When he’s not surfing, lifeguarding or diving Wassel takes his seat in specialty surf events like the Padang Cup and Cape Fear, as a commentator. His energy and insights elevate the action and intensity, unlike any other surf commentator.

The 2016 Cape Fear really was a whole different experience though, “It was a really hard event to commentate without swearing. After each ride, I had to pull my bottom jaw off the floor. I mean, how many times do you think the average viewer screamed ‘what the F*#$ or holy Sh*$%!.”

This guy chases, charges and bizarrely enjoys some of the biggest waves on the planet but admits he felt pretty ‘lame’ for not jumping in for a taste of what Cape Solander had on offer on Monday 6th June. “I tried to paddle a couple on the Tuesday and after pulling back a couple of times Kobi Abberton cruised up on a ski and said ‘Don’t do it, it’s still not a paddle day.’ In fact, after the tow part of his heat, he walked up the rocks and refuse to paddle it too. I think we can all agree he’s kinda the guy with the most experience out there, and I respect his call.”

Over the last 20 years he’s seen so many changes in the evolution of big wave surfing. “On the downside” he says, “it’s definitely more crowded in the lineups on the big days with people and cameras. The safety issue has become paramount. Guys flew from Ireland to Hawaii just to participate in the Big Wave Risk Assessment Group, it’s amazing and has paid off. Take Ryan Hipwood for example. During Cape Fear he ditched his ski and successfully C-Spined an unconscious Justin Allport, just a month after he was performing CPR on Aaron Gold at Cloudbreak.”

As go live with this story, Wassel is lifeguarding in Fiji and hoping for the swell to ramp up next week so he gets a couple for himself.

******

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Going left on the Seven Mile Miracle, Photo by Matt Paul @mattp.aul

Going left on the Seven Mile Miracle, Photo by Matt Paul @mattp.aul

In his element, Photo by Todd Glaser

In his element, Photo by Todd Glaser


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