Tayla Hanak Takes On South Australia

Story By: Mimi LaMontagne – November 13, 2017 for Red Bull.

Photo by: Shannon Glasson ©

At just 20 years old, Tayla becomes the first woman to paddle this insane South Oz wave.

Last week, a storm swell circled its way up from the Roaring 40s and made way towards the rugged coastline of South Australia. As it approached, it built in both strength and size, and rapidly became one of the biggest swells to hit the area in recent memory.

But unlike the waves heavily surfed and shot in Western Australia, South Oz still holds secrets – and for those daring enough to chase a swell, near empty lineups. And last week, 20-year-old Tayla Hanak became one of the select group of humans to brave the elements and wild ocean of a South Australian swell – and the first woman to paddle the wave you see here.

Captured through the lens of young up-and-coming photographer Shannon Glasson, the ladies made history. We caught up with them to see how it all went down.

Tayla, at 20 years old you’re the youngest invitee to the Red Bull Queen of the Bay event. And Shannon, you’re one of the youngest photographers on the block. How did this trip, and this wave, stack up to some of the waves you’ve surfed and/or shot over the years?

Tayla: I think I can speak for Shannon when I say that we are both used to being the only girl in the water – so it was pretty special to have a female shooting me at this wave that hadn’t been paddled by a female before. It was a pretty rugged day, but there were definitely a few diamonds in the rough.

This wave is something special, it’s more challenging than a lot of waves I’ve surfed over the years. It gets the blood pumping… that’s for sure.

Shannon: One of the well-known local fisherman/surfers said it was one of the biggest swells he has ever seen on the buoy. We had to wait out a few stormy, windy days to get what we were there for. On the day I shot this wave there were still a few wobbles from the previous days, and plenty of swell. I was blown away when I first saw this wave up close, it was impeccable.

Have either of you ever been here before? How’d you end up chasing this specific swell? Did anyone show you the ropes?

Tayla: I have been chasing this particular wave for the past two years, this is the first swell where everything has lined up to allow me to surf it.

When I saw the swell coming on the long-range forecast I was super amped. Initially it looked like the perfect size swell with light offshore wind, but in South Oz you can expect the forecast for swells of this size to change quite bit… which it did. The predicted wave height increased by the day and the winds changed unpredictably. But regardless, the both of us were more excited than a kid on Christmas. I had never surfed the wave before and only seen it at a distance and in photos… the photos didn’t do the power of the wave justice.

Shannon: South Oz is completely different to what I’m used to shooting around Sydney. I’ve never had to wear a 4/3 before, and the lineups are pretty much empty. There aren’t many people around to show you the ropes. I was just winging it, but it was a remarkable experience. I can’t wait to get back to South Oz.

“I have fear… fear of missing out on chasing swells.”

Were there any terrifying moments out there?

Tayla: When we first got out there it was just me and one other guy in the lineup, who had also never surfed the wave before. I was hoping to get a quick one before other crew came out, but was still trying to get my bearing. A good wave came and the other guy just missed it, so I turned late to go. In hindsight I probably needed five or so more paddles, but I thought I was in.

First wave and I went down. Not only did I go down though, I snapped my board… it was a one hit wonder. I watched the next hour of waves from the ski with Shannon.

It was incredible to see how Heath Joski, Rasta and Dan Ross took on some of the biggest waves of the day with ease. Then of the boys leant me an 8’0′, slightly under-gunned, but I was stoked to be back amongst it.

At that point I copped the biggest wave of the day on the head, which was cool cause I got to test out my Patagonia impact suit. Six people surfed that day, three boards were snapped and one board even lost at sea. It was a hectic day to say the least, but I can’t wait to get back out there!

How did this experience stack up to your other big wave experience? Where were your fear levels?

Tayla: When I was 14 years old, my mum (who doesn’t surf) let me paddle out at Pipe. It was pretty big, and I got sucked over the falls backwards. When I was 16 I went back to Hawaii and surfed Waimea, where I also copped a set on the head, hit the bottom and got washed all the way in with only one breath.

Since then I’ve chased a few swells with a bit more success. There has always been something about big waves that excites me… that makes me feel alive. My dad says that the risk equals the reward, and the greater the risk of a terrible wipeout, the greater it feels when you making it. So yeah, I have fear… fear of missing out on chasing swells.

Click here to see the original story on the Red Bull website: https://www.redbull.com/au-en/tayla-hanak-takes-on-south-australia

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