'Roll with it’: For this big-wave surfer, training is about prepping the body and mind

Pushing the Limits: Eli Olsen's quest for giant waves

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Surfer Eli Olson might have set a new bar during a giant swell this winter off Oahu’s North Shore, paddling into one of the biggest waves with almost no one else around.

Olson was born and raised on the North Shore so it was only natural that he grew up to be a surfer.

And it didn’t hurt that he was surrounded by a group of friends who pushed each other to get better.

“We all feed off each other’s energy. We all grew up pushing each other,” he said. “It’s cool because I’ve got all of my friends before anybody knew them now they’re world champions some of the best big wave surfers in the world some of the best competition surfers in the world.”

That group of friends includes two-time world champ John John Florence, his brother Nathan, and Koa Rothman.

Olson got noticed early ― along with his friends ― and as they got older, the waves got bigger and the stakes got higher.

But according to Olson, you’ve just got to step up.

“I’ve seen guys get knocked unconscious or not come up from being held down too long pass out ― so it’s a hard mental battle,” he said.

“I almost think it’s more sometimes mental than physical. You have to be really headstrong and be prepared for the best-case or worst-case scenario. You have to be OK with it before you go out. That way, you can roll with it and adapt to whatever Mother Nature gives you.”

This winter’s waves have been good. Really good.

“We got some amazing waves at Backdoor and Off the Wall. That was like a late season little blessing,” he said.

But even with the thrill and excitement of getting tubed out at Pipeline, sometimes the ocean serves up something even bigger.

A huge swell in November washed out most of the North Shore, except some outer reefs where the swells were nearly 40 feet.

Olson didn’t have any company when he went out ― only an injured Florence to help with safety.

Otherwise, he was all on his own.

“After waiting a little while it was, OK, I gotta go out. Just me and John John and it was such a special thing, not only the biggest waves I’ve ever seen in person when I was surfing, the fact that I was by myself was such a rare and special thing,” he said.

He added, “It was by far the biggest I’ve caught of my life biggest of my life for sure. It was such a crazy experience because we knew it was going to be the biggest swell we’ve seen in a long time.”

The pursuit of the thrill didn’t end with that wave.

"We actually just got back from a Mavericks trip recently. It was less than two weeks after that swell we went straight back into a giant swell and I ended up getting another really big wave pulled in," he said.

“Pushing the Limits” is an ongoing series that explores how surfers are taking on bigger and bigger waves while still living to tell the story.

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