SAN DIEGO, California - Fresh off his win at the Nelscott Reef Big Wave Challenge, Rusty Surfboards team rider and San Diego native Jojo Roper caught up with the crew at Surfer Mag to talk about his recent win, working for waves and big wave surfing. Here are some highlights:
SURFER MAG: From the outside looking in, this seems like the craziest time to be a big-wave surfer, just in terms of the evolution that's happening on all fronts: bigger paddle ins, guys exploring tow surfing again, people packing lefts at Mavericks—the speed of that evolution has just gotten nuts, right?
JOJO: It has, absolutely. I actually had a tow board shaped for me by Rusty 6 years ago, but I didn't glass it, because I thought, "When am I actually going to use this?" But after last season I had to glass it, because it ended up being the Year of the Tow and we all saw what these other guys were doing and realized that in certain situations, that's the best approach. I was kicking myself for not having it before that big Fiji swell [where Ramon Novarro towed into this beast.] And then the left at Mavericks is so gnarly. But whether you're going left or right, if you're anywhere near the vortex of the bowl, it doesn't matter–either way if you fall, you're going to be in adventure world down there for a very long time. It's so heavy regardless. A couple of guys have gotten barreled on the left, and that's the dream, obviously, but going backside out there is pretty hard. I've had six or eight lefts this year, and when you take off, there's this big lump that you have to go over. It's such an uneasy feeling. But it's exhilarating, and there's a lot to accomplish going left out there, which is cool.
SURFER MAG: It must be wild, because you probably start the year with certain goal posts, but then you end up moving them after practically every swell.
JOJO: Yeah, 100 percent. At the start of the season, I wanted to just get a left at Mavs, and then it changed to trying to get barreled on one. Or like last year, I wanted to come from behind the Jaws bowl, and now you have to get a crazy barrel at Jaws or it doesn't count [laughs.] The bar is so high, and it pushes you to think about things differently. It changes the way you think about boards, too, because now the big-wave boards we order have to be able to put you in parts of the wave that you weren't even looking at before. I spend quite a few hours with Rusty, just sitting with him on the computer, seeing how we can tweak all my big-wave boards. Everything is getting so much more fine-tuned. My Mavs board is different than my Jaws board, which is different than my Nazare board, and then my Puerto boards are a foot smaller than all the rest—I've ended up with a lot of surfboards, but it helps that I'm glassing them [laughs.] It's an exciting time to be surfing big waves, for sure. Pretty soon people are going to be surfing huge waves on smaller boards, doing things that you never would have even thought of just a few years ago.