Everyone wants to know how he does it. Travis Grant, seasoned racer, father, full time worker and an unleashed waterman is a dynamo in all aspects of his life. We give him deep respect.
So, when we caught up with him a few months ago to ask how he connected the dots to claim 3rd place in the 2017 Red Bull Heavy Water event when multiple world class athletes were completely denied by Ocean Beach’s treacherous shore break, we listened up.
2017 RED BULL HEAVY WATER: MASSIVE SWELL & NO SLEEP
Travis Grant flew in on the red eye in hopes of making it to the Red Bull Heavy Water in 2017. He literally landed in San Francisco about 5 hours in front of the event. He says he got about 2 hours of sleep that night.
When he awoke in the pre-dawn hours to get ready, he and the rest of the contestants had no idea what the conditions were like. They’d heard that this was one of the ‘biggest swells of the century’. But no one knew what to expect, especially in the cold water of Ocean Beach, San Francisco.
“I admire his tenacity and his vision of what he’s trying to do,” says Grant of APP World Tour organizer and CEO Tristan Boxford.
“I enjoy the thrill of competition and this is something totally different,” he reports on the Red Bull Heavy Water big wave SUP racing competition held each year in San Francisco, CA.
TRAVIS GRANT WORKS HIS WATER KNOWLEDGE TO WIN 3RD
“No one knew what was going on that day. No one knew the course and the secret reef breaks. I had made myself go to sleep for a couple of hours the night before and now, facing this unknown test, my thought was: ‘You have this energy, right?'”
Travis recalls that the swell didn’t even look that big from the parking lot. But then, they were high above the shoreline and still a long ways from the beach front. He didn’t look at the swell either when he and the other athletes were taken by boat out past the break to the start line.
He reflected on his friend Raimana’s advice before going out into large surf. Raimana Van Bastolaer, whose name is synonymous with Teahupoo and big wave surfing. Travis recalled Raimana’s stalwart belief that if you’re putting yourself out there in a large swell, you need to be confident in your ability. You’ve got to trust that you’re good enough.
For Grant, it felt like they all got thrown out into the middle of the ocean, behind the raging swell with hardly more than a ‘Good Luck!’ and a recap of the race course.
“The energy in the ocean gives you energy,” Grant says. “Your results in competition are just a bonus from that experience.”
SKILL PLUS POWER TO WIN THE RED BULL HEAVY WATER
Grant recalls the boat ride out was silent. There was no chatter, no banter. Each man was in his own world, wondering if he would make it.
At the drop point, where the athletes were told to get out of the boat, several men didn’t move, self selecting to stay behind rather than risk the carnage that awaited. No one had any comments about their decision. Everyone held respect for what was happening outside at Ocean Beach that day.
Travis Grant worked within his deep waterman skill to find his success on October 20th, 2017, the day of last year’s Red Bull Heavy Water. He remembers thinking that there was no way to match the ocean in energy on such a powerful swell.
Nuance was the key.
“When there’s that much energy in motion due to the swell, there’s all this surging in the water.” – Travis Grant
Grant recalls recognizing that it was way too easy to get fatigued quickly as the paddlers were in wetsuits and adrenaline was quickly having its way with them.
FLASH RIPS & TIMING TO BEAT THAT SHORE BREAK
Once he made it into the beach on his first pass through the race course that took paddlers through the breaking swell twice in both directions, Grant decided not to run at the shore break in order to make it back out. Where he witnessed Kai and Connor get swept down the beach a half a mile due to the massive swell, Travis paused and assessed the situation.
The Aussie says he was waiting for a ‘flash rip’, something to help carry him out through the heaving swell. He described it as this:
“On onshore wind days like this in a big swell, all the water comes sliding in toward the beach. Eventually it has to go back out. Once you’ve identified the logistics of the water flow, you can look for the flash rip.”
That’s where the water changes. It happens quickly and can be gone in the blink of an eye. Travis’ experience taught him to be vigilant to the nuances of the water even while it was heaving all around him. When he spotted a flash rip forming, he put his energy into catching it and being pulled out by the rushing water through the energy of the waves.
He says he did this and it worked for him both times he had to pass through the heavy shore break. Rather than risk getting pounded or try to power his way out, watching and waiting assisted the Aussie to a massive finish.
2017 RED BULL HEAVY WATER CHAMPIONS
Casper Steinfath was crowned champion that day for his 1st place finish. Casper’s speed and performance in the flat water section of the course, as well as his conditioning for cold water surf, moved him out in front for the win.
Young rider Ryan Funk surprised the pack by sliding in 2nd. Ryan is light of weight and also a skilled waterman. His ability to slide around and through waves using his eye and experience gave him a monumental win among some of the world’s best watermen.
And Travis Grant, father, worker, seasoned stand up paddler, using a lifetime of training, skill and strength, wound his way through that massive shore break not just once, but twice – after a 24 hour flight and 2 hours of sleep – in order to claim his crown at third place on the podium.
RED BULL HEAVY WATER 2018 CURRENTLY IN WAITING PERIOD FOR PACIFIC SWELL
This year’s Red Bull Heavy Water will take place between October 15th – 30th, 2018 at legendary Ocean Beach, San Francisco. We are currently in the holding pattern, watching the developing winter swells as they approach the Pacific Coast.
For the Red Bull Heavy Water to take place, swells must exceed 10 feet for the racers to brave the shore break and test their skill against the wicked currents near the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco.
For the first time in the event’s history, the APP World Tour has a start list that includes 10 women who will partake in the event.
2018 APP World Tour Men’s Red Bull Heavy Water Start List:
Connor Baxter (HI)
Mo Freitas (HI)
Casper Steinfath (DK)
Lincoln Dews (AUS)
Arthur Arutkin (FRA)
Michael Booth (AUS)
Travis Grant (AUS)
Ryan Funk (USA)
James Casey (AUS)
Slater Trout (USA)
Kody Kerbox (HI)
Martin Vitry (FRA)
Kenny Kaneko (JP)
Leonard Nika (ITA)
Kai Lenny (HI)
Danny Ching (USA)
Zane Schweitzer (HI)
Riggs Napolean (HI)
Tyler Bashor (USA)
Bullet Obra (HI)
Christian Anderson (DK)
Fernando Stalla (MEX)
Mark Alfaro (USA)
Claudio Nika (ITA)
2018 Women’s Red Bull Heavy Water: Candice Appleby (USA)
Shae Foudy (USA)
Terrene Black (AUS)
Fiona Wylde (USA)
Annie Reickert (HI)
Izzi Gomez (USA)
Andrea Moller (BRA)
Nicole Pacelli (BRA)
Jordon Mercer (AUS)
Stay tuned to www.appworldtour.com for more information on the upcoming Red Bull Heavy Water as we await the swell. The event will be called 5 days in advance to give athletes time to arrive in San Francisco. We are currently in the holding pattern as swell action is projected and analyzed.
For more information, stay in touch with the APP World Tour’s Facebook page and Instagram feed @appworldtour.
We’ll see you in San Francisco!
Written by: Evelyn O’Doherty Online Editor / APP World Tour