A hundred feet underwater with a boiling ocean above driving him even deeper, you think this would be the perfect place for Ryan Hipwood to contemplate some of the life choices he’d made that had brought him here. Instead, of course, at that point he was dwelling on some more pressing matters… breathing being top of the list. He’d just wiped out at a secret offshore reef in a remote corner of Western Australia, a wipeout that would shake him to the core and re-engineer his thinking about big waves and why he’s dedicated his life to riding them.

Well, most of his life, anyway. “There are guys who just seem born to surf big waves,” offers Hippo, “but I wasn’t one of them.” I was shitscared of big surf as a kid,” he happily admits. It’s been a journey from that wide-eyed grommet to today, where he’s regarded as one of the most fearless and savvy big-wave surfers in the world.

“Hippo” was just another Gold Coast kid, a good surfer who grew up through the system, surfing contests with stars in his eyes, aiming for a career as a professional surfer. It was his first trip to Hawaii as a 14-year-old that opened his eyes to a bigger world in bigger waves. Surfing Pipeline on a big day the kid almost drowned (not for the last time) and was washed up on the beach afterwards looking like a dog after a bath. “I realised it was a men’s club out there and that I was a boy.” He picked up his board and paddled straight back out. “I had to develop as a person at a very young age.”


APT World tow in championships 2008
Black Knight award 2008
Runner up Billabong XXL Wave of the year 2009
Runner up Billabong XXL Wave of the year 2012
Red Bull Cape Fear Battle Winner 2015
Red Bull Cape Fear 2nd 2016