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Of Monsters & Men

MY OWN PRIVATE MONSTER is the story of Australian Alastair McLeod,is the first windsurfer to test the waters at Pedra Branca. 26 kilometres off the Tasmanian coast. With high seas, rough winds, monstrous waves – something was bound to go wrong.

How did you get into windsurfing?

My dad used to windsurf a lot. He started teaching me and my stepbrother when I was thirteen when we still lived in Queensland. Then we moved down to Melbourne, which is in a big bay with no waves. So windsurfing made a lot more sense there. If it’s not windy I go surfing and if it’s windy I go windsurfing. Either way I’m surfing.

What was your first experience catching a wave between Eddystone and Pedra Branca?

That was pretty scary. The wind was really low. It made it very hard to catch waves, because the waves are moving so fast and the low winds had me moving very slowly. I was just on the edge of the wave when I fell. I was just far enough out to not be swallowed by the wave. I was really lucky. You don’t really know what a wave like that would do to you. Especially in Pedra Branca and Eddystone—it’s in the middle of the ocean and you’re a long way from help.

What was going through your head when you fell? When I started falling, I braced myself because I knew something bad was about to happen. It felt like going into survival mode and I had to focus on the next 30 seconds and I thought, ”If you can survive the next 30 seconds, you’ll be ok.”

What made you go back in after this first close call?

I was really frustrated that the wind was so low, up to point where I just had to catch a wave. We’ve been planning this trip for so long. The adrenaline rush of going from thinking that you will get really hurt to being back in the water, really got me fired up to catch a proper wave.

With windsurfing you have to manage two elements, water and wind. Can you explain the ins and outs of catching a wave?

You need a specific wind direction in order to surf a wave. On the wave face the wind accelerates. The wind will blow your equipment away from you, so if you get hit by your own equipment, you mistimed the wave. Sometimes you just get hit in the face—I broke my nose twice.

Do you think you can windsurf a barrel?

No one has ever really done that. You probably could but there are very few waves on the planet that would allow you to do that. Windsurfing is more suited for Big Wally kind of waves. Riding the face is much like snowboarding down a face. You have a lot more speed in windsurfing. You can kind of outrun the wave and you have a little bit more maneuverability. If you catch the wrong wave and you know it, you can race out of the wave and get in front of it, while in surfing you cannot develop that kind of speed.

Any idols?

When I was growing up, Jason Polakow was the main guy. And I thought he was going to windsurf Pedra Branca but he didn’t. I haven’t talked to him since I surfed Pedra Branca (laughs). I’m the first person to windsurf there, showing that you can actually do it.

What made you feel ready for it?

To me it’s really important to challenge yourself. I got injured along the way, slowing the process down, but I focused on training my lungs, working on my lung capacity and carbon dioxide tolerance. Building up over several months, I was able to hold my breath for three minutes. This gave me the confidence to pull it off.

Is this still your OWN PRIVATE MONSTER?

Well, I’d say it’s really Marti Paradisis’ own private monster, because he was the guy who found it. He lives down in Tasmania and if it wasn’t for Marti, this project never would have been made. I was lucky that he helped. But concerning future projects, I’d like to find some big perfect waves. Cloudbreak, Fiji, Pe’ahi, Hawaii—waves in those places get really big and they are also perfect waves. At Pedra Branca, you can’t just focus on the wave because the whole place is so intimidating and hardcore, so I’d like to go places where you can just focus on the wave—for once. (laughs) Pedra Branca was more about survival.

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