HUNTINGTON BEACH, Calif. – Modern big wave pioneer Mike Parsons is joining Brad Gerlach, Sean Collins and Wayne “Rabbit” Bartholomew as the 2008 inductees into the Surfers’ Hall of Fame, at 10 a.m. Friday, July 25 in front of Huntington Surf and Sport (corner of PCH and Main). A veteran of the ASP World Tour, Parsons has played an instrumental role in searching for and conquering the biggest waves on the planet.
The 2008 Billabong XXL Big Wave Award winner transformed himself from a mainstay on the pro tour in the 80’s to a pioneering big wave surfer in the new millennium. He joins with partner Gerlach on this year’s Surfers’ Hall of Fame, where his hand and footprints will be immortalized in concrete in front of Huntington Surf and Sport.
“Mike has helped pioneer and transform big wave surfing for a new generation of riders,” said Aaron Pai, Surfers’ Hall of Fame founder. “Thanks to Mike and Brad, surfers have a new career to look forward to after their days on the pro tour.”
Born March 3, 1965, the former NSSA (National Scholastic Surfing Association) champion is an Association of Surfing Professionals tour veteran, boasting a top 16 finish in 1987. Known as “snips” during his competition days for an uncanny ability to cut through smaller surf, Parsons transformed his surfing in the late 90’s when he sought to tackle the largest behemoths on the planet.
The San Clemente native set a new benchmark in 2001 when he successfully rode a 66-footer off the coast of San Diego at Cortes Bank (a 25-mile-long, underwater mountain range that juts up more than a mile from the ocean floor to within a few yards of the surface) to win the Billabong XXL and its $66,000 prize. He returned the favor to Gerlach in 2006, towing him into a 68 foot wave in Mexico. Mike upped the ante earlier this year by riding a 70-plus foot wave at Cortes in January, becoming a two-time XXL champion.
“I didn’t think a session like that could ever happen twice; I mean that day in 2001 where I rode the first winner at Cortes was incredible,” said Parsons. “It feels surreal to say that I rode a 70 foot wave, I can’t believe it… There have been so many big waves ridden throughout time and when I sit at home I can’t believe that I may have ridden the biggest one ever.”
Parsons’ took to the water early on in life; his dad first took him surfing at the age of six and he started entering contests at nine. Mike is an ASP tour veteran, competing from 1984 to 1996, but started traveling to remote places in the mid-’90s in search of big waves, seeking an even bigger challenge. His close relationship with Sean Collins and Surfline.com aids his worldwide wave quest, providing much-needed information.
Parsons’ training regimen is rigorous; he surfs every day for as long as there are waves and does cardio exercises, including swimming and mountain biking, to strengthen his lungs. He also sometimes carries rocks on the bottom of his pool to simulate what’s it like to be stuck on the bottom of the ocean and have to struggle to get to the surface: Mike can generally hold his breath for two minutes.
Parsons has stated that his greatest fear is sharks, which are a frequent danger in the areas where the biggest waves are. He added that the worst rides happen when a surfer rides too deep and “the lip of the wave lands on top of you and just rolls you. You get blown off your board—it’s one of the scariest things you can imagine as a surfer.”
Parsons travels with an elite cadre of professional big-wave hunters in a quest to become the first surfer to ride a 100 foot wave. They have crisscrossed the globe in search of surfing’s last frontier: from Maui’s infamous Jaws surf break, to El Buey off Chile’s northern coast, and to a still-secret island off Australia’s coast the surfers nicknamed Cyclops for the size and force of its eye-popping rollers.
Mike recently added a new entry to his prodigious resume, beingg appointed Surf Marketing Manager at Von Zipper, but big wave surfing remains his first love. “It’s the best job in the world, for sure,” said the 43-year-old surfing legend to Portfolio.com. “Surfing big waves is the ultimate challenge for a waterman and surfer. When you’re doing it, you can’t think about anything else, you’re so involved in the elements.”
The Surfers’ Hall of Fame inductees are selected by a committee of business owners, surfers and surf industry professionals based on contribution, dedication, integrity and revolution to the sport of surfing. The Surfers Hall of Fame induction ceremony is open to the public, free-of-charge. Further information is available at HSSSurf.com/hall.