Wild Rides

Sometimes the interesting part of a surf experience has nothing to do with how well a wave was ridden, or if one was surfed at all

| posted on August 18, 2013
Karl Attkins, really putting himself out there at Shipsterns. Photo: Tildesley

Karl Attkins, really putting himself out there at Shipsterns. Photo: Tildesley

By Todd Prodanovich

It was a brisk afternoon at one of the heaviest lineups in the world. After surfing all morning, Kelly Slater, Mark Mathews, and Laurie Towner were relaxing on the boat, watching massive barrels thunder across the shelf at Shipsterns Bluff. The wind had switched in an unfortunate direction, and the crew was ready to call it a day.

That’s when 23-year-old Sydney native Karl Attkins decided he was in the mood for one more. But this time, Attkins wanted to be towed into a mutant tube as naked as the day he was born.

“I don’t know why, but it just felt like the right thing to do at the time,” says Attkins. “I didn’t go there intending to surf it naked, but something just clicked in my head when we were in the boat. I asked one of the boys if they would whip me into one, and then I just ripped off my wettie. Everyone on the boat kind of freaked out a little bit, but it just felt right.”

Like the Bermuda Triangle, Shipsterns Bluff may be subject to strange forces that are not entirely understood by science. Even though the break is a terrifying phenomenon already, those who ride it are often compelled to spontaneous acts of insanity that make the experience all the more challenging. Cases in point: Mikey Brennan was once captured chugging beers in the barrel, while local charger Marti Paradisis rushed sets wearing a Santa Claus outfit and has even ditched his board entirely to bodysurf the slab at its most menacing.

“It’s a super challenging wave—maybe one of the hardest to surf in the world,” says Attkins. “But it gets a lot of swell, so it’s pretty consistent. The local guys surf it so much that they come up with weird, funny ideas for how to make it more interesting. Plus Shipsterns is such a crazy wave, maybe it just brings that out in people.”

In a blinding flash of pasty skin, Attkins got up to speed, let go of the tow rope, and found himself in a world of hurt. As he started his drop, a massive staircase presented itself. He took the first step in stride, but on the second he faltered, and like an aquatic catapult, the wave pictured here sucked him into the lip and tossed him into a dark, spinning abyss. While held under, he would have had plenty of time to consider his recent decisions, and the potential embarrassment of drowning naked in front of an audience. But instead Attkins’ mind went elsewhere.

“When I was underwater it was kind of warm because I was getting thrown around so much,” says Attkins. “Before that I was pretty cold, definitely cold enough to be wearing a 4/3 and some booties. After that wave warmed me up a bit, I felt alright and got back out for another one.”

  • Helder Neves

    How come the world

  • roger

    No way! Uncanny that this happened again, after the episode in April!

    • David Van Rensburg

      Very uncanny

  • LeRoy


  • OB Regular

    Hot flash. I was out that day. That was not a 10′ wave. It was nearly triple overhead. I suppose if you’re a macho Hawaiian Waterman, it’s only 10′.

    • nettwench14

      Was thinking the same thing looking at those photos! Looks 15′ even by Hawaiian standards. Huge.

  • Declan Lawn

    This man is incredible! So much respect for a legend! Take it easy bro, enjoy the ride and everything life has to offer. You have already proved yourself in every way that you are an impeccable surfer that charges harder than most ever will. Hope your recovery is quick!


  • kyesurf

    when your in the water you on you’re own I learned at age thirteen one mile out and dropped a fifteen footer on the backside hunting cliffs and leash broke every wave pushed my board a wave futher. had to swim in two foot of foam and finally caught my board on the beach.I told my uncle and cousin and they said cool were going back out.

  • Ryan Ragan

    God Bless you Mike – I lived in OB SF for 20 years and had some pretty bad one’s there too ,but your neck & almost paralyzed (woooo) you have gone through a lot. Glad to hear your on your way back to a healthy recovery. Heavy story -Ocean Beach does not play!

    I wish you a speedy recovery. Much respect & admiration. ( your the man)!

    Ryan Ragan

  • Joe Fonebone

    “It was shrinkage !!!”

  • Blake Corbin

    It was MUCH bigger than 10ft that day.. I was two blocks north and heard the ambulance arrive. Not the most reassuring sounds sitting in the line up.

  • Adrian

    How does religion come into this? Incredibly lucky man and strong man, that’s it. Survival of the fittest. Why would a mystical being choose to save one man in a sea of turmoil? Come on people, it’s 2013. Magicseaweed, you need to be educated.

    • Rich

      Adrian, there is a God! A God which loves you. Loves you so much He gave his only begotten son, Jesus, for you. Jesus came accomplished that goal and now waits for you Adrian, a place prepared. Free of charge…the one condition…accept it. You have your whole life, but you will never find true satisfaction outside of Christ, so I , not Jesus, say do it now. Don’t put it off. You know He is real you feel it just like I did. It is written on our hearts. That part of you that you argue with…the part that you have to keep telling “there is no God” that is your heart. The truth is written their. Jesus said, ” I am the way, the TRUTH , and the life. no man comes to the Father but by Me.” There I said what I needed to say whew! Now maybe I can get away from this computer. Oh, Adrian, I am really pulling for you man, REALLY.
      A former surfer,
      A present father,
      A future surfer,
      and father to a great
      surfer, Richard M.

  • Victor Redondo

    Awesome bro! Welcome to Costa Rica!!! Pura Vida!!! hope you recover soon

  • Ari Thompson

    who on earth takes a shotgun on a surfing vacation. this guys problem was his own. it’s madness – i’ve been on vacations all over the world – including central america, mexico, south america, asia pacific – i also enjoy surfing and scuba diving. NOT ONCE have I ever thought while packing – hey i should take a gun. (not that i even own one to begin with). YOU don’t need a gun here at home and especially abroad to surf.

  • Nick

    Mexico is a cesspit of corruption , nevertheless, it’s pretty stupid to take a shot gun to a foreign country – in some countries in the Caribbean and Central America he could have got 29 years for that Alone!!

  • Andres Niemeyer


  • AK

    At Sloat I always see these guys on SUPs that purposefully pull into closeouts at this size and bigger. How is it that Parsons’ got so wreaked? Maybe he was using the wrong equipment?

  • Kara Hawthorn

    life is gnarly dude

  • Bart Kalisvaart

    Why bring a shotgun… nothing good can come of that.

  • gary jones

    I like cheese Dudes