from Inside Hook

The Man Who Surfs the World’s Biggest Waves Without a Board

Kalani Lattanzi is your favorite surfer’s favorite surfer


Kalani Lattanzi stands in the ocean
Kalani Lattanzi lives to bodysurf, even if it could kill him. RICARDO BRAVO

Early one morning in October of 2015, a 21-year-old Brazilian surfer named Kalani Lattanzi stepped onto the sand at Praia do Norte in Nazaré, Portugal. Muscular and clad in a tight wetsuit, Lattanzi was indistinguishable from the many surfers who, each day, stood on the beach where he now stood. Like all of his peers, Lattanzi was preparing to enter hallowed water, a devilish patch of ocean revered and feared for producing the world’s biggest swells. Just two years earlier, American surfer Garrett McNamara had been towed by a jet ski into an estimated 100-foot wave in these waters, a world-record ride that cemented Nazaré’s place in the pantheon of surf spots.

Lattanzi, however, planned to employ a different approach to surfing these legendary waves. He was going to paddle into the chaos without a critical piece of equipment: a board.

Later that morning, Australian Ross Clarke-Jones and American Jamie Mitchell, both professional big wave surfers, arrived at the beach. A major swell had descended on Praia do Norte and the two men were eager to get into the water before any other surfers arrived. As they headed out into the surf, Clarke-Jones was stunned to discover that they were not alone.  

“The sun was rising and I saw this like, what appeared to be someone in the water swimming,” says Clarke-Jones in Kalani: Gift from Heaven, a short film documenting Lattanzi’s life and exploits in Nazaré. “Is that a seal, or is that a dolphin, or is it a shark? Fuck, that’s a man.”

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