Humble, soft-spoken with a thick Italian accent, if you bumped into Niccolo Porcella at a smoothie shop on Maui you might mistake him for just another colorful character woven into the island's rich cultural tapestry. But under that casual demeanor is one of the world's true freak athletes.
As a kid Porcella grew up splitting time between Maui and the Italian island of Sardinia. Today, the pattern is much the same, just more radical. He spends his winters in Hawaii charging Jaws and kitesurfing. When summer hits he heads to Europe to go wingsuit flying and BASE jumping.
The surf world collectively gasped on July 22, 2015, when Porcella spun out at the bottom of a Teahupoo beast, got sucked over the falls and vortexed into the reef. Surviving one of surfing's most brutal beat downs, he was awarded the 2016 TAG Heuer Wipeout Award at the annual WSL Big Wave Awards for the effort.
"Obviously, the wipeout is not something you're super proud of, but as long as you come out of it and feeling okay, and you go back out and catch another, it's a good thing," said Porcella on the red carpet the night of the awards. "And I went back out and redeemed myself after."
Since then, Porcella's not only continued to be a fixture in the lineup on the biggest days at Teahupoo and Peahi, but he's pursue all kinds of adrenaline-inducing activities. From kitesurfing, skydiving and wingsuit flying to cliff jumping and martial arts, he definitely prefers his sports spicy.
For his latest act he has been working on a project where he SUPs to offshore islands, rock climbs mountains, then wing suits back down. He's producing a video project about the endeavor that he plans to release in April.
"If you want to get barreled, sometimes you're going to have to fall, but the most important thing is to get back out and charge and live your dreams," Porcella said during his acceptance speech at the 2016 Surfer Poll Awards.
If Porcella could survive that wipeout at Teahupoo with that kind of mindset, it's a good reminder about the power of positivity and keeping a strong mental outlook in these uncertain times.