Leroy Rust - Big Wave Awards

Leroy Rust has thrown himself into contention for Surfing Life’s Oakley Big Wave Awards after successfully navigating a huge wave at Papatowai in the Catlins, New Zealand. Rust was able to find himself in position for one of the best waves he has ever caught at the notorious big wave spot, with his years of experience at the break proving essential as he pitted himself against the treacherous conditions.

“When I was paddling I remember thinking it was big and good shape but I didn’t think it was as big as it was. I got a bit of water in my eyes on the takeoff so I was half blind through the drop. After that I never really got the chance to look up for long and assess the size properly, I was too focused on trying to stick it. It felt like a good one but it wasn’t until I saw the shots that I realised how it doubled up and hit the reef perfectly. I don’t know if I’ll ever be in the spot for one so perfect out there again, I’m so stoked I got it.”
After undergoing surgery in the middle of the harsh NZ winter to treat exostosis (surfer’s ear), Rust endured several months out of the water before setting his sights once again on testing the limits of big wave paddle surfing on the rugged coastlines he calls home.

“The difference here, to most of the world, is it’s 6 degrees Celsius in the water and about the same above. Half the swells or more that come through big enough are accompanied by snowfall and a lot of wind. That’s our biggest problem; we’re so close to the storm source (Antarctica) that the swells are always married with fowl winds. The peak at Papas breaks approximately 1km offshore on the end of some broken rocky reef. It gets pretty shallow in some spots and deep in others so there’s heaps of re-forming sections and currents spinning around. We’ll usually paddle out through some rocks on the shoreline. There’s a lot of a back flow in there on the edge of the cliffs and a major current running up the coast so it’s tough getting out there on the big days. I’ve seen a couple of the friends get smashed up on the rocks. I’ve come too close for comfort too. Sometimes you get out and you’re already wrecked physically and/or mentally. The other way is to jump off the ugliest jump rock way around the head land, but the last person that did it just about drowned so we don’t do that any more.” – words surfinglife

Photos captured by Derek Morrison and Brad Roberts

Leroy is currently on his OE traveling and chasing storms. The trip was delayed by several months after he had to wait on surgery to treat his exostosis (surfer’s ear). He will be traveling for 6months and is currently in Hawaii. You can follow him on his journey through his Instagram @rusty_gram.

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