He has broken his nose, fractured ribs, snapped a bicep and suffered numerous neck and spinal injuries — and at 51 big-wave surfer Ross Clarke-Jones has no plans to stop.
“The expiration date is not here,” he said this week.
Ross Clarke-Jones has been riding enormous waves for more than 30 years. (Reuters: Mario Anzuon)
In fact, Clarke-Jones has just returned from Portugal where he set a world record for riding a 40-metre monster at the famous surf town of Nazaré.
As the northern hemisphere big-wave season finishes up, Australian-born Clarke-Jones has returned Down Under in search of giant swells here.
He reckons there’s nothing quite like the thrill of it.
“You’re not thinking. You’re just so excited and you’re charged and it’s just go, go, go,” he said.
“It’s just a focus on the wave and catching it, and making it and it’s just an elation.
“Hesitation is the worst thing to do. It’s either go or not.”
Clarke-Jones grew up on the NSW Central Coast and was featured in the 2012 documentary Storm Surfers.
He did the professional competition circuit in his younger days, but found the experience too constraining.
“I was on tour for 10 years and my passion for big waves is different than a passion for small waves,” he said.
“I was on tour surfing one-foot waves for two years and it was killing me.
“And then I was free at last, you know?”
As you would expect, he has nearly drowned on multiple occasions.
Just last month in Portugal he suffered a concussion after a rip dragged him across a wave and threw him into the rocks.
If not for his special protective suit he said he would have died.
It would be enough to make any surfer more cautious, but age has not dampened his lust for the wave.
“In my 20s you just go for anything, like, it’s just stupidity,” he said.
“In your 30s, 40s, you start maturing, getting more calculated.”
Yet while his friend and fellow big-surf champion Tom Carroll began worrying about getting older, the same concerns just never eventuated for Clarke-Jones.
“It didn’t happen,” he said.