Preparing for Heavy Surf // Brian Keaulana

Over three days each winter in Oahu, the world’s best big wave surfers gather for an immersive summit in deep water risk management.  With rapt attention they followed area experts in mapping out the dangers at Cloudbreak and Jaws, listened to the likes of Greg Long, Aaron Gold, and DK Walsh share near death experiences, and prepared themselves with first responder skills, mental clarity practices, and risk assessment tools that will be the difference between life and death in waves of consequence.




The framework of the summit is presented by Brian Keaulana, a legendary Makaha Big Wave Surfer, Lifeguard Captain, and Hollywood Stunt Coordinator. Brian was enlisted by Big Wave Risk Assessment Group founders Kohl Christensen and Danilo Couto to take his years of experience as one of Hawaii’s top surf safety experts and create a template for training.


At the core of the course is a methodical approach to assessing hazards, identifying risks and implementing a pre-planned approach to responding. There’s repeated emphasis on preparation and planning, and in waves of consequence, knowing exactly what to do in any situation is the difference between life and death.

High Surf Risk Management is not a science, it doesn’t provide people with a precise course of action. Neither is it just “common sense” or “something good Surfers have always done.” It is an important tool that can be fully integrated into your Surfing and responses. It is more an art than science, but an art based on systematic procedures and specific techniques. – Brian Keaulana

While focused on heavy surf, Brian’s presentation can be applied to any water safety situation. You can find the complete presentation below. There has been conversation about doing an annual event in Half Moon Bay in the future. We’ll keep you posted if that materializes. If you happen to be in Oahu after Thanksgiving, registration is open for anyone involved in big wave surfing. It will be a requirement for anyone who wants to buy the Patagonia PSI Vest. At the very least, it should be required reading for anyone who surfs deep water.


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