Maverick's, California January 26, 2017

There is a time in a young man's life when he is immortal and there is nothing that can take him down. These are the times when valor comes in well before discretion, when chances are taken, and when young bodies can still bounce back from incredible beatings. There are many such moments in the sport of big-wave surfing, all undertaken by the younger crew, with the older crew still charging harder than anyone but with more calculation, with more control, and with more chance of making each and every one of the waves that they attempt.

Santa Cruz's Wilem Banks turns 21 in November, and with youth on his side, he's ready to charge whenever it gets serious -- like it did on January 26 this year at Maverick's. It was crowded, there was a stiff offshore whistling up the faces, and the only way to get into a wave was with total commitment. If you didn't put your head down and paddle as hard as you could, you were not going to get over the ledge.

Wilem does just that. He puts his head down and he paddles as hard as he can, but there's that instance, that terrible moment of clarity, when he realizes that his surf is about to change from a fun big-wave session to a full-rinse cycle in the biggest washing machine in the world. At that moment he bails off his board. Then it's a long way down, with a whole lot of water chasing him down.

"My family and friends inspire me to keep pushing myself to my farthest surfing limits," says Willem, in an interview on the Rip Curl website. "My love for surfing will die when I die."

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