Last week, Alastair McLeod – a 23 year old student from Monash University – became the first person to windsurf the giant waves of Pedra Branca off Tasmania’s South Coast.
Pedra Branca has gained a fearsome reputation amongst the global surfing community as one of the most remote and dangerous waves on the planet, but until now, it had never been attempted under wind power. Local Tasmanian surfers enabled Alastair to find and successfully ride the monster swells. For those surfers unlucky enough to fall whilst riding Pedra Branca, serious injuries including broken bones & being knocked unconscious are commonplace.
“I honestly wasn’t sure if windsurfing Pedra Branca was going to be possible. For everything to come together it was a miracle,” McLeod said when back on dry land.
“It’s without a doubt the most dangerous thing I’ve ever done but one of the most rewarding as well. It was an amazing experience to tackle one of nature’s most powerful forces and escape unscathed. I’m still buzzing from the adrenalin high.”
Sitting 30km due south of Tasmania in the icy Southern Ocean, the dangers of the location are heightened by the immense power of the wave, its extreme isolation and exposure to the large storms of the Roaring Forties. Pedra Branca is also home to a large and permanent seal colony attracting great white sharks to the area.
The waves windsurfed by Alastair were estimated to have faces in excess of 30ft – making them some of the largest waves ever windsurfed outside Hawaii. Alastair managed to ride a handful of waves during the filming of a secretive episode of the Red Bull documentary series “Explorers – Adventures of the Century”. The story of Alastair’s planning, preparation, forecasting and brutal crossing attempt are the subject of that documentary.
Alastair explained the secrecy of the project by saying: “It has taken years for locals like Marty Paradisis and his friends to study and workout this wave. The wind direction, swell direction, swell period and tide all play a critical role on making this wave break a certain way. Without their intimate knowledge and assistance – this trip would not have been possible. Out of respect for them, I don’t want to give any of those details away, even mentioning the date of the trip would give too much away. There are waves down here that were once closely guarded secrets – and are now over run with jetski’s and weekend warriors. I’d like to help protect the secrets of Pedra Branca as long as possible. Also, I would not want to encourage anyone to try this without serious local support. If you wipe-out and break a mast or tear a sail – your dead… there’s no way to swim back to Tasmania through those waters.”
The waves of Pedra Branca are featured in this year’s remake of the 1991 Hollywood block buster Point Break.