Waves like this (Ship Stern Bluff) do not come easy. Sacrifices made and consequences accepted. Looking at a dry rock ledge on your left and a wall of ocean on your right, it’s a scary proposition. There are two ways it’ll go... wipeout of the year or ride of the year... “ – James on chasing big waves in Tassie.


One of Rusty’s more extreme riders, James grew up in Tasmania where good surf is few and far between. A teacher by day, part of his commitment to the big waves is finding the time to get out into the water. Chasing waves around the world from Indo to the Caribbean, Ship Stern Bluff is where he shines.

“There comes a point down here when you have to decide on whether you want to surf a two foot beachie or ten foot barrels, when it’s put like that the answers pretty simple. Once I’d had a bit of a taste of Shippies I just wanted bigger waves, deeper barrels…”

Of course being a teacher has its benefits, straight out of Uni James was able to move around to various schools between surf trips.. Settling on a school in the town of Triabunna, he hopes not moving around so much free up some more time to chase swells and focus on surfing.

“… it’s full commitment. Anyone who says they don’t get scared is not in a good place if you ask me, it’s about acknowledging the fear and then being able to overcome it. It’s all in the mind and believing you can get whatever it is you’re after.  Wipeouts or failure are a part of it, it’s not something to be put off by rather something to learn from and motivate you to do better.”


Photo: Stu Gibson (@stugibson)

It’s a cold, rainy day, can you describe the urge that makes you get off the couch, out of your ugg boots to put on a cold wet suit and get out into the water?

It’s hard. If people knew what surfing down here in mid winter was like Shippies would seem even crazier. Getting up at 4am and into a wetsuit when it’s zero degrees sucks. Some days at shippies you get that cold you can hardly move your limbs let alone feel them, again the motivation comes from wanting more of the same.

What’s the furthest you’ve pushed yourself to chase that feeling?

The hardest part these days is having all the pieces in place when a big swell hits. I teach full time and have a lot of responsibility at work. Taking days off lets a lot of people down and is pretty stressful. Finding the time and motivation to train is a challenge and then finding to time to stay surf fit is even harder. So I feel like my time to push myself to the limit with my surfing is still to come and I’m hoping it will be coming in the not too distant future.

Surf is a very individualistic pursuit but with a lot of camaraderie. How would you describe the difference between being out there on your own vs. being out there with your mates? Do you have a preference?

The friendship and camaraderie that comes surfing shippies is unreal. The friendship we all have stems from surfing out there and that is something that’s very special. I feel really lucky to have it. Without having my peers to look up to I’d probably still be surfing that two foot beachie. My preference is to be out there with all my mates. Seeing your friends get crazy waves and sharing the stoke is often just as good as getting waves yourself, just in a different way. Doing it together is where it’s at for me.

Follow him on Instagram: @jimmy_mckean