Justin Holland (Kingscliff, Australia) drops to the bottom of what is likely the largest wave ever attempted in Australia. Holland challenged the wave at Cow Bombie, an offshore surf spot in Western Australa on June 27, 2015.
Justin Holland (Kingscliff, Australia) drops to the bottom of what is likely the largest wave ever attempted in Australia. Holland challenged the wave at Cow Bombie, an offshore surf spot in Western Australa on June 27, 2015. Nimai Strickland/Surfing Austral

Kingy surfer braves what could be Australia’s biggest wave

KINGSCLIFF’S Justin Holland, noted big wave charger, SUP champion and all-round ripper, has been nominated in next year’s WSL Big Wave Awards.

It’s a bittersweet accolade for the fearlessly fit Holland, who was lucky to survive the monster wave on June 27, captured here by Nimai Strickland at the Cow Bombie just north of Margaret River, WA.

Towed in by his sparring big-wave champion Jamie Mitchell, from Currumbin, Holland made the drop in heroic fashion but couldn’t out-run the lip that completely smothered him and snapped his femur. Luckily he was wearing a Quiksilver life vest that prevented him from being pinned down under a two-wave hold-down.

Last time I saw Justin, he won the Australian Festival of Surfing SUP final at Kingscliff in April and was a real chance at winning this year’s World SUP title.

In an interview with Surf Scene, Justin said his recovery was going well, although it was taking time.

“My rehab is going really well, it’s been five months since it broke,” Holland said.

“It’s still nowhere near 100% but my surgeon is happy with the bone-healing at the moment. The break was a type 3, like a bad car accident.

“My femur exploded, or what’s called a spiral fracture, so there are big chunks missing in there and I have a large titanium rod through both pieces of femur, with two screws in my hip joint and two in my knee to hold it all in place. Oh and two cable ties tying the bones to the rod.

“This is all permanent.”

Holland has been working hard in rehab with his physiotherapist, getting his leg to flex and bend again, while training back at the HP centre on his upper body and leg strength.

“I’ve been working with physio Tim brown who has been really good at speaking my language and getting my leg to flex and bend again,” Justin said.

“I have just started back at hpc, training upper body and leg strength which is great.”

He will need to keep up the training, with his eyes firmly set on returning to the tour next February.

“I’ve been told no 50- footers before February next year, which is because my leg is still mending back into one piece,” Holland said.

“I have been using a great machine from bioventus a company from the USA the machine is called Exogen, it’s and ultrasound-type machine that helps blood flow around the break site, I use it every day for 20 minutes and really believe it’s getting results.

“But I have goals to be back surfing the first event of the stand up world tour on February 8 at Sunset Beach, Hawaii, 2016.

“At the time of the break I was sitting fifth behind Kai Lenny and feeling good for a real shot at the world title, so it was hard to watch from the sidelines.”

Holland, who lives at Kingscliff with his wife Sally and two children, said he loved the feeling of riding the big waves.

“It’s so amazing to see the ocean so raw and powerful – it really makes me feel alive,” he said.

“I really want to get back into it and catch another great wave. I think I have a few more in me and I’d love to maybe get a late season in Maui at Jaws.”

“We all train on the jet skis and do gym work and have the safety gear to make things a little safer ... thank God I had a Quiksilver inflatable vest on, it for sure stopped me getting a two-wave hold down with a broken femur flopping around.”

Holland credits his wife and friends with helping him get back into form.

“I think hanging with Jamie Mitchell, who I have know since I was about five or six, probably has the most to do with it. He is an animal out there and so good in the big stuff and we both egg each other on to take a big one.”

Q. How far can we take it ?

“I think bigger for sure, if you have equipment that can handle the speed, bumps, and the pace of a wave that size, then it’s for sure doable. It’s being in the right spot at the right time on these type swells.”

“Jamie Scott, the legendary water photographer who was out shooting us had said over the three days that he had shot Cow Bombie, that wave was by far the biggest thing he had seen, so for us to be in the right spot at the right time was amazing.

“Riding a wave that size was actually really fun I was having a ball, probably should of focused on getting away from it a bit more though.

“I believe that it’s possible to get a really big wave on a SUP as they have the ability to get into a larger wave earlier and make it more of an option if paddling in is becoming hard.”

Q. What’s your equipment?

“I use a few different types of boards,” Holland said.

“That day we actually had two Pearson arrow boards, a stretch tow board and one of my starboard SUP guns out there anchored on a bouy so that we could do any type of surfing just whatever the conditions were like we’d be right.”

Q. How do you balance Big Wave riding and SUP?

“Most people know I SUP professional now as well so it’s actually really good fitness for big waves and my short board surfing, the more you do the easier it becomes to switch back.

“I really want to win that world title at the SUP surfing in the next few years, it’s right up there as a goal with ride big surf.”

Q. Whats the most important thing in your life?

The most important thing to me is my family, I have two great kids that love the ocean and surf every day and the best wife that supports everything I do even sometimes when she really doesn’t want to.”

The WSL Big Wave season runs until March, with winners picked in April 2016.

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