Welcome to the second edition of A leisurely chat... with our friend, Western Australia born and bred big wave surfer Mick Corbett. Mick's an honest, hard working, hard charging bloke who is part of a group of big wave surfers that continue to redefine what's possible in the realm of ocean surfing.
His full-time job as an electrician foots the bill for most of his wave chasing adventures. If you've never heard of Mick, he's the guy you want to have a beer and talk story with; someone who surfs for all of the right reasons. Not to brag, not for sponsors and certainly not for stardom.
Mick happens to live a stones throw from our HQ in Dunsborough so we caught up before he traveled to the states for the big wave awards to catch-up on all things life, WA, monster pits and more. Dive in below:
So lets bring it back to the early days - what was it like growing up in Western Australia?
I grew up in the city, in Scarborough right outside of Perth. It’s funny because the waves are pretty terrible there but all of my close childhood mates are big wave surfers. I’m not sure how that happened haha. Because of that it was all about the adventure for us growing up. Tracking swells, waking up early, hunting waves. I moved down to South WA 3 years ago because I was coming down to surf and see my family so I got a job and made the move.
How did you get into surfing?
When I was about five years old I got my first surfboard from a rubbish pile when my family was living up in Wedge Island. My parents loved the ocean so it was pretty cool they were pushing us into the ocean when we were young. We would bike down to the beach in Scarborough, barefoot and just go surfing for hours.
Who’d you look up to growing up?
The WA guys like Jake Patterson and Taj. I’ll tell ya what though I remember watching big wave surfing movies featuring Ross (Clark Jones) and what not when I was young and just seeing that got me going, “Ok this looks sick.”
Jaws, opening up wide for a massive pit (Photo: Jamie Scott)
What waves groomed you into a big wave surfer?
Big Yallingup was definitely the one as well as Margaret River Main Break. Those two waves pretty much did it around here and then we got old enough to start exploring waves on the South Coast which is when we became interested in The Right (a massive slab reef that any normal human would run away from). I got into surfing The Right before I started surfing Cow Bombie. From there it was just a progression – we’d go out when it was a bit bigger, and then even bigger and then eventually got to a point where we were surfing The Right at the biggest it could get.
What kinds of training do you to do to keep in shape for big wave surfing?
For me it’s more stretching and then a bit of training. My muscles get really tight so stretching is really good. I never use to train until I did my knee in last year. It was a good wakeup call for me. Especially if I want to keep going with it staying in shape is big. A lot of it is mental capacity as well. I’ve always been good in my headspace and staying calm out there, which you have to have control over.
What are some of your favourite big wave spots?
The Right is probably my favourite wave. It’s just such a big sick barrel. In terms of paddle waves, I like Mavericks. All of the locals and the line-up vibe is so good there and the wave is just so perfect.
Navigating the steps and intricacies of The Right wave are no easy task. Mick makes it look as though it's just another walk in the park (Photo: Andrew Semark)
Any waves on your bucket list for the near future?
I really want go surf big Cloudbreak and Teahupoo. It just comes down to timing those places with the right swell.
So you’ve been frequenting Nazare on the past couple big swells – what kind of prep do you do for a strike mission to Nazare?
It’s actually pretty easy to get ready for a trip over there because I have all of my boards in Nazare. I’ll keep an eye on the swell charts and usually book my flight two days before. I’ll drive up to Perth, catch all my flights and arrive the night before and get a good night sleep. Having all of my equipment there makes it easy so I can travel light.
A few must haves for any big wave chasing mission
What’s it like surfing out there? Do the pictures do it justice?
Nazare, when you get out there there’s usually only 4 or 5 blokes out. If you want a big one you can get one you just have to be in the right spot. It’s a big playing field and when the big ones come through it doesn’t just break in the same spot.
I swear the photos don’t do that place justice. When you’re at water level it’s a way different experience. It’s the biggest ride-able wave in the world and it doesn’t need a big swell. It’s ultra-consistent because of that canyon. It’s all about quality out there for me. You might not get the most waves, maybe three or four waves all day but you wait for the best ones.
Nazare is a fairly newer wave to big wave surfing, compared to places like Jaws and Mavericks..
People were surfing it for a while, but they weren’t surfing it big. They were surfing the beachie. For the Portuguese it was almost forbidden when it got big because of all the fishermen who passed away out there. I think it all came to life when Garret (McNamara) went and checked it out.
Not your average A-frame... (Photo: Andre Bernardo)
Do you get more comfortable out there after every session?
It’s always nerve wrecking. Especially if you go on the big ones. When you get onto the rights and kick out right in front of the rocks it gets sketchy. The waves moving so fast, you’re just trying to outrun it and sometimes it just catches you. You go out there and you’re so nervous, you get a few waves and you go “sweet, now lets get the biggest, best one out here”
It must be amazing to see and be apart of the big wave progression in the past few years..
Oh yea, it’s crazy. Guys like Lucas Chumbo just airdropping into 60-foot bombs. The stuff he is doing is amazing. The biggest swells everyone is out there. It’s funny I don’t know how much further it can go. Everyone is always on the big swells, just going for it in all of these sessions. In Nazare, every big swell that has been ride-able there are people on it.
Your body must take a serious beating during some of these sessions – where was your worst beating?
At The Right for sure. The water moving underneath that wave is just insane. It can break your bones. It’s not the worst hold down but it’s just a beating. After a session your body feels like you’ve played a footy game.
Mick Corbett puts new meaning to riding the foamball (Photo: Andrew Semark)
What’s the most challenging part about chasing and surfing big waves?
To be honest, it’s probably the planning and logistics and just the timing. Being there for those good days especially with working a full time job. Outside of that it’s probably the first wave of the season. It’s always scary. Just getting yourself to “Alright, here we go..”. You haven’t surfed the wave in ages and then you’re just out there.
One of your waves at The Right was nominated for tube of the year – who are you stacked up against.
I’m up against Grant Twiggy Baker, Billy Kemper, Ian Walsh and Tyler Hollmer. (Afternote: Ian Walsh ended up taking home the award)
What was your tube of the year wave like? Did you think it was one of the best waves of your life?
That wave was my first wave of the day. It didn’t feel that big. The boys were hooting in the channel after it. It was actually a pretty shitty day out there. I wasn’t even really keen to surf to tell you the truth; I was towing Jarryd (Foster) in all day. When I saw the land angle I said “holy shit that was big, haha”. I guess I just didn’t even realize and think much of it.
So looking back on your career, any memorable achievements that stand out to validate all of your hard work, blood, sweat, tears?
It was that 2015 swell. We surfed massive Cow Bombie with nobody out but Jarryd (Foster), Zac (Haynes-Love) and me. And then we went to Tasmania, got Shipsterns Bluff as big as it could get and then came back and surfed The Right. I got one photo from that session at The Right that just kind of catapulted me into the big wave surf world. I was always surfing big waves but after that I got some attention and just been running with it since.
Mick, charging The Right (Photo: Andrew Semark)
What’s one word to describe Mick Corbett for someone who’s never met you?
What’s next mate, any trips or plans for the future?
I’ll go over to the states for the big wave awards and then just come back and chill around home and get some waves.
Follow Mick @mickcorbs to keep up with all of his big wave chasing adventures