Big wave surfers say Pipeline rescue highlights importance of safety gear

Big wave surfers say Pipeline rescue highlights importance of safety gear

HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - For pro surfer Kaleo Roberson, Mikey O’Shaughnessy’s rescue at the North Shore’s Pipeline earlier this week hit close to home.

“It’s like the fifth one of my friends that has been knocked out out there and it’s pretty crazy that it’s still happening every year it seems like,” Roberson said.

Incidents like that are exactly why he takes every precaution possible when his kids are out in the water.

Last month, his teenage son Steve pulled in to 50-foot faces at Jaws and a wet suit is just one of four layers of protective equipment to accompany his training.

“I have a Patagonia pull suit that will inflate and then I have a float suit over that and then I put a helmet on to top it all off,” Steve said.

Steve and his twin brothers, Justin and Eric, surf regularly at Jaws and also make trips to Pipeline.

They’ve noticed how more of their peers are sporting safety gear, especially after seeing the effects of no defense.

“All the kids just started wearing helmets out at Pipe,” Steve said.

“So kind of from there, we just used the same thing at Jaws. We all started wearing helmets at Jaws, and at Jaws you kind of need all that protective gear. If you go out there with just surf shorts, you’re just gonna get held under for way longer and if you’re board hits you, you’re kinda screwed.”

Big wave champion Billy Kemper was among those who helped rescue O’Shaugnessy and has seen a rise in safety awareness among his colleagues.

“The education that the surfers have brought on with big wave surfing in surfing heavy critical waves, this stuff, for me it’s more important than going to school,” Kemper said.

And it’s comforting to know the next set of young stars is making protection a priority.

“The first line of defense is our training,” Steve said. “The second line of defense is our safety guy and this is our third, all the equipment we put on when we go out there.”

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