Kalani Lattanzi Brings Bodysurfing to Peahi and Takes Wave Riding to the Next Level
In early November, Hawaii saw its first proper XL swell—and it ended up being a great way to kick off the season. Solid 12- to 18-foot waves hammered the North Shore, where the wind was light/variable and conditions were pretty perfect. Meanwhile, over on Maui, the waves were a touch bigger, and the wind also stayed light, which is a rarity on the Valley Isle. This provided a rare opportunity for Kalani Lattanzi, a Brazilian who was born in Hawaii and who has made a name for himself as the world’s gnarliest big wave bodysurfer.
Although he moved to Brazil when he was young, Lattanzi is now based between Maui and Nazare, Portugal, where he has spent the past decade honing his big wave and bodysurfing game. Lattanzi has been swimming out at massive Nazare for over a decade, often without any media coverage or water safety, and bodysurfing humongous peaks that usually end up mowing him down. But he has always wondered what would happen if he could body surf a clean, big day at Peahi, the world’s most perfect XXL barrel that is located just a few minutes from his home on Maui. After waiting years for his opportunity, he finally got the chance during last week’s swell.
Lattanzi caught a handful of waves during the swell, all of which can be watched on Magicseaweed.com. One on of them he got a pocket ride and a bit of a head dip—a success in anyone’s book, especially when you are trying to ride the world’s heaviest wave with nothing but a handplane. But he wasn’t satisfied with that, so on his next wave he packed a big barrel on the west bowl. While the foam ball ended up eating him, it was arguably the largest bodysurf barrel of all time—again, a huge accomplishment, no matter who you are. But Lattanzi still wasn’t done. He had always believed it was possible to bodysurf a huge barrel at Jaws and make it, and he wanted one more try.
His final wave was similar to his second, but a bit more open. And more importantly, his positioning was perfect. What transpired on that wave is arguably one of the greatest rides in the history of surfing, regardless of what type of board or craft you ride. Kelly Slater has called it one of the most significant waves ever ridden. Even if you took away the fact that Lattanzi was doing it on his belly, with nothing but swim fins and a handplane, it still would have been one of the best barrels ever ridden at Peahi. I can count on two hands the barrels that have been paddled at Jaws on surfboards that were as good or better than this one—Billy Kemper has had a handful, Albee Layer has had a few, Ian Walsh has one of the best, Shane Dorian had a couple—but again, they were all on surfboards that were built for going as fast as possible and planing across the surface through the barrel. Lattanzi’s wave may have been the greatest of all of them, due both to the fact that he arguably rode deeper on the foam ball than anyone in the history of Peahi, and the fact that he did it on his belly.
While the media paid a bit of respect to Lattanzi’s accomplishment, the hype that he received was nowhere near what was deserved. Perhaps this is because bodysurfing is simply not as commodifiable as other forms of surfing—or maybe they just didn’t know how to process something so new and groundbreaking. Either way, it doesn’t really matter how much coverage the wave got or whether it is eligible for a nomination in the big wave awards (spoiler: It probably isn’t, due to some ridiculous fine print that will need to be rethought after this ride). What matters is that Kalani Lattanzi has spent his entire life training to be the world’s best big wave bodysurfer, and that training paid off last week when he did something that many of us thought was impossible—he once again revolutionized the act of wave riding, sending us into a new era of performance with one of the greatest big wave barrels in history.