The following article was produced in partnership with Longines.
Kipp Caddy is a true daredevil. The 25-year-old pro freesurfer has made a name for himself as one of Australia’s best slab wave surfers around. For the uninitiated, a slab is a wave that breaks over dangerous rock shelves. Most surfers spend their lives avoiding these kinds of waves, but Kipp isn’t most surfers.
DMARGE had the chance to chat with Kipp about life as a freesurfer, his surfing evolution from a normal competitive surfer to a slab specialist, as well as the new Longines HydroConquest, the esteemed Swiss watchmaker’s newest and most capable tool watch.
Kipp loves surfing slab waves, not only because of the thrill of getting barrelled, but because “it challenges you to be better, train harder; stay in shape.” From Cape Fear in his backyard to Shipstern’s Bluff down in Tasmania, Kipp seeks out the sketchy slabs most of us consciously avoid.
Cape Fear, for instance, is one of the shallowest, thickest waves in Australia, breaking metres from a rock shelf, while Shipstern’s Bluff is known for its iconic ‘stairs’ and boils which surfers must hop over – while inside a gaping barrel.
Kipp was introduced to surfing by his dad when he was around 10 years old. He told DMARGE: “I remember one time I asked him to buy me a bodyboard and he just came home with a surfboard and was like: ‘Yeah, you’re going to do this.’ I started at around 10 years old and then just got right into it… and pretty well went every day after that.”
Kipp used to do more standard contests when he was in his teens, but he soon discovered the beauty of surfing reefs and ledges.
“I would describe it more as tube rider/slab surfing, which is large waves on shallow reefs. They create that perfect kind of barrel… Tube riding is the most technical style of surfing.”
It didn’t come easy, though: “When I first started, I was really scared,” Kipp told us. “I didn’t enjoy it as much then. I started to slowly keep building up. It’s something I came to really enjoy and love doing.”
He added: “I love how much it challenges you both in the water and outside the water as well. You always have to be physically and mentally prepared.” To do this, Kipp does a lot of gymnastics-based training as well as pool sessions, and a bit of Muay Thai.
Time plays such an important role in the life of a slab surfer like Kipp. Not only do you need impeccable timing if you want to catch the most thrilling waves, but the anticipation that comes with waiting for the perfect conditions – as well as the ability to put that anticipation aside, and be present in the moment – is absolutely key.
That’s why a watch like the Longines HydroConquest makes so much sense for Kipp: it’s tough, accurate and reliable, the perfect companion for a slab surfer.
Speaking of anticipation, Kipp told DMARGE that one of the biggest things he has learned when it comes to forecasting a swell is not to look at the forecast too far out. He told DMARGE: “Stay present so you’re not wasting a lot of energy leading up to the swell.”
“It sounds silly but it’s easy to do – getting super excited and thinking about what could happen. Take everything as it comes.”
The biggest influence on Kipp’s surfing, he told DMARGE, “is just watching the whole sport evolve as a whole.”
“It’s definitely growing at the moment and just watching everybody and seeing what’s possible has driven me the most.”
“Seeing what’s possible is what gets me the most excited. Pushing myself to see what can be done.”
In terms of inspiration, Kipp said he admires Portuguese big wave surfer Nic Von Rupp’s web series, freesurfer Craig Anderson’s style, and “soul searchers that just do it for the love of it.”
Further tips Kipp gave us on scoring better waves include paying attention to certain swell directions (“continuing chasing a place until you figure it out”) and patience (“if there’s a wave you want to score, you want to see it in all its moods; figure out what it likes”).
“It takes a while to get that wave you’re searching for at a certain destination. It can take a lot of sessions before you get that magic one. Very rarely do you just turn up and just get that wave you’re searching for straight away.”
Speaking of commitment: Kipp told us he once drove 14 hours down to the bottom of Victoria, only to get skunked (not get good waves). We can only imagine how his eyes would have been glued to his Longines watch during that drive…
Finally, Kipp shared with us his secrets for staying safe when slab riding turns sour. On catching closeouts he said: “The safest place is always inside the barrel.”
“That’s where the most water is. No matter what, I’ll just kind of pull in and wait for it to take me.”
“You want to avoid always being near the lip or out in front of the wave because that’s where the shallow water is. If you can stay inside the wave, you’ve got a lot more water around you, protecting you.”
On getting washed over rocks, Kipp said: “Lay flat; don’t put your feet down.”
Finally, faced with a lighter dilemma, Kipp talked us through how he decides whether to stay home or to chase waves when a promising forecast is imminent.
“We have such good waves where I live so knowing they’re potentially going to be pumping and you’re going somewhere you’re not as familiar with is always a gamble,” Kipp said.
“It’s a tricky one. Unless it’s a sure thing when going somewhere else, I’d try to stay at home because the waves are so good here. That’s kind of the reason I live where I live – because there are really insane waves here and you’re still close to the city as well.”
As for what the future holds for Kipp, watch the big wave space. As Kipp told DMARGE: “Big wave surfing is where I’m pushing myself into. I’m keen to travel to all those waves around the world.”
Kipp Caddy wears the Longines HydroConquest, the esteemed Swiss watchmaker’s newest and most capable tool watch. With its 300m of water resistance, a 72-hour power reserve and incredibly bright Super-LumiNova, it’s the perfect companion for men of action.
Find out more about the Longines HydroConquest range at Longines’ online boutique here.