On a recent big-wave session at a South Coast NSW bombie, Paul Morgan rode a wave considered to be one the best seen at the break. Now 36, he spent most of his 20s as a professional surfer, both in competition and as a freesurfer. Whilst his talent was almost criminally underrated, he nonetheless forged a reputation as one of the world's hardest chargers.
For the last five years, the goofy footer has worked full-time as a carpenter, building homes around his hometown of Ulladulla. Throughout that time he's been committed to surfing and especially this secret bombie. Ask any surfer who has tackled the wave and they'll tell you that "Morgs" is the man out there whenever it turns on. We chatted to Morgan about that session, and that wave.
WSL: Hi Morgs, as a bit of a background, how long have you been surfing that wave?
Morgan: I started towing it in 2006. However, since around 2013 it's been just paddling. I wanted to progress my surfing and figured that was the best way to do it.
Was that the biggest wave you have paddled out there?
It's hard to gauge the size, but the heaviness of the takeoff was something I hadn't experienced. I'd been dreaming of a wave like that for a long time. I was thinking you could ride a really big wave and get barreled. It was a big wave and I got barreled so I lived that dream.
How was the rest of the session?
I hadn't surfed any big waves for a while and in the morning I was thinking, ‘What am I doing?' because it was so heavy and crazy. I was doubting myself and I eventually just went one out of frustration and was caught in the lip and had an enormous wipeout. So I went back out and had some deep breaths to myself and then got two nice medium ones, and then that big one at the end. Then I called it quits; four waves, three makes, and I was able to surf the next day, so that will do me every time.
How was the vibe in the line-up? There were some incredible waves ridden.
Yeah, it was great. Laurie Towner, Russell Bierke were out there for example. It's cool to see the progression at the wave. The guys are just going so hard. Everyone is paddling and throwing themselves over the ledge. It's inspiring.
Your board looked big too, what were you riding?
It was an 8'2 Kirk Bierke quad fin; a brand spanker. I had my first surf on it the night before. Last year I rode nine footers out there, so I was pretty stoked I was on the eight footer. I don't think I would have made it otherwise.
Now you are working full-time as a carpenter, how has that changed your approach to these waves? Is there a difference? These days I will only go there if I feel right. If somethings off, or my body isn't quite right, I'll let it slide. As a professional surfer I used to have that pressure to go no matter what, and now I don't have that pressure and it's a good feeling.
It doesn't always come together. Life gets in the way, be it work or family commitments. As a result, I've missed so many swells, but I have come to realize that's a good thing. You learn to be grateful for the sessions you get and when you turn up you have to make the most of it.
And why was this session so special?
The quality and the size of the swell helped massively. A long period swell makes all the difference. It meant a clean ocean and long, powerful lines. Then the wind backed off, the tide was right, so it just all came together for an hour and a half. And to have that in summer, with warm water, was even rarer. It can be years between surfing those type of conditions.
And where do you go now?
I'm pretty pumped, that wave has changed my mentality for sure. I'm psyched to get a bit fitter to go harder. I suppose I'll have to dream a bit bigger.