Big wave group hopes to save lives worldwide

Local News

Surf season is here bringing thousands of surfers and visitors to some of Hawaii’s most dangerous surf spots. 

It was eight years ago when two big wave surfers created the Big Wave Risk Assessment Group, also referred to as BWRAG. 

“This course was started to honor our beloved friend Sion Milosky, who lost his life at Mavericks in 2011,” said co-founder and director of BWRAG, Danilo Couto.

“It was pretty clear there was a need for us to be more prepared to save each other,” he said. 

That year, Couto and fellow big wave surfer Kohl Christensen brought together a group of surfers to make sure everyone was on the same page when it came to safety. 

Part of that first group was big wave surfer Mark Healey. 

“Big wave surfing and big surf will never be safe,” said Healey. “It’s very unsafe, we’re just trying to make it as safe as possible and control the factors within our grasp.”

Over the years, the group has spread to six countries

“I would say we’ve taught more than 1,000 people at this point,” Couto said.

“The goal is for everyone to be on the same page and this is why we don’t only train surfers, but we train photographers and safety personnel,” he said.

The big wave seminar also helps keep the general public safe. 

This year’s course kicked off Friday by honoring five people who saved lives after taking the BWRAG course, including three men who helped saved Dusty Payne after a head injury at Backdoor earlier this year. And two men who helped a BYU student after he was attacked by a shark at Pounders just three months ago. 

For future big wave surfers, the course teaching valuable lessons. Fourteen-year-old Ty Simpson-Kane took on Peahi, known as Jaws, on Maui last week. He took the BWRAG course last year.

“They helped me to train myself mentally to hold my breath because when you’re getting pounded, it’s all a mind game,” said Simpson Kane. “You can be calm and as soon as you start freaking out in your mind that’s when it can get very dangerous.”

“Even though he’s young, he was prepared for that day,” Healey said. 

This years course brought in 70 people worldwide. All sharing ideas, experiences and goals to help save lives for years to come. 

“At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what kind of wave your catch, it matters people coming home to their families,” Healey said. 

The course is held every December on Oahu’s North Shore.

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