Kalani Lattanzi bobbed within the lineup of one of many world’s most fearsome surf breaks with little greater than swim fins.

A 28-year-old bodysurfer from Brazil, Lattanzi was treading water at Peahi, the famend surf spot on the North Shore of Maui that’s recognized to most as Jaws, ready for a large wall of water. When a 20-foot wave approached, he kicked his fins and swam ferociously to catch it.

With out the help of a surfboard, Lattanzi tautened his physique and prolonged his arms onto a handplane, a board in regards to the measurement of a serving platter. Gliding by way of the tunnel created by the curling wave, he grow to be one of many few bodysurfers to ever experience by way of the barrel of a giant wave at Jaws.

“Finest barrel of my life,” Lattanzi mentioned in an interview. In an Instagram story, Kelly Slater, the 11-time World Surf League champion, anointed Lattanzi’s efficiency “one of many all-time nice rides within the surf world.”

It was the newest jaw-dropping feat Lattanzi added to his résumé. Since he burst onto the scene in 2015 by bodysurfing 30- to 40-foot waves off the coast of Nazaré, Portugal, the Mount Everest of wave riding, Lattanzi has tackled a number of the greatest surf on the planet.

Within the course of, he has pushed the boundaries of big-wave bodysurfing, a distinct segment self-discipline during which surfers catch and experience monster waves with their our bodies, a pair of swim fins and at instances a handplane, a tool that may make waves simpler to experience (and one which some purists view as a crutch).

“It’s one of the crucial excessive issues I’ve ever seen,” Nic von Rupp, an expert big-wave surfer, mentioned. “It’s so excessive it’s like hanging from the wing of an airplane whereas everyone seems to be sitting inside.”

Bodysurfing is without doubt one of the most historic types of wave using, one which has loved a surge in competitions and members in recent times. Whereas there is no such thing as a organized circuit of competitors, in January, a national governing body was based in america with the purpose of getting the game into the 2032 Summer time Olympics in Brisbane, Australia.

The game’s devotees name it one of many purest types of any kind of wave using. “It’s like each cell in your physique is buzzing with the power of the ocean,” mentioned Ryan Masters, a big-wave bodysurfer from Santa Cruz, Calif. “I consider it’s the closest you will get to essentially bodily experiencing the universe’s tangible power, name that God or no matter.”

Catching a giant wave requires bodysurfers to place themselves within the lineup as a surfer would, treading water till the appropriate wave arrives. That may take some time: Lattanzi as soon as treaded water for 4 hours to catch three waves off Nazaré.

As soon as the appropriate wave approaches, bodysurfers should generate as a lot pace as potential by swimming and kicking their fins, then they use their arms, torso and legs to manage course and pace whereas contained in the wave. Some bodysurfers like Mike Stewart, one of many few individuals to ever bodysurf a wave off the coast of Teahupo’o, Tahiti — thought of to be one of many world’s most deadly — seems to seals, dolphins and otters for easy methods to finest maneuver within the water.

As a result of bodysurfers experience headfirst into large waves, it might appear a extra harmful model than boardsurfing, particularly so for novice riders, who are likely to catch waves in shallow water and should not know easy methods to keep away from head-planting when the wave breaks. Whereas boardsurfers usually tend to obtain lacerations from being hit by their boards, bodysurfers usually tend to come into contact with the seafloor, which might trigger devastating cervical backbone accidents, mentioned Pascal Juang, an emergency room doctor at Hoag Hospital in Newport Seashore, Calif.

However some say that skilled big-wave bodysurfers would possibly truly be safer and not using a board. “It seems a lot scarier, not having a board, however if you happen to’re a powerful swimmer, and have fins on, and know the lineup and have a excessive diploma of big-wave data, you’re higher off than being on a board with no fins,” mentioned Matt Warshaw, the creator of The Encyclopedia of Browsing.

Bobbing and diving by way of enormous surf like a seal, Lattanzi is remarkably relaxed, which he credit to a lifetime spent within the water. He acquired his begin bodysurfing at age 12 in Itacoatiara, Brazil, and had desires of charging monster waves.

“Once I began bodysurfing, I questioned if it was potential for somebody to bodysurf a giant wave,” he mentioned. “Then I began to develop up and I spotted, ‘OK, I’m the one who’s going to do that.’”

By 2011, at 17 years outdated, he was bodysurfing in Arica, Chile, and Puerto Escondido, Mexico, a giant wave capital of the world. In 2015, he headed to Nazaré, the place he spent the subsequent six years catching a number of the greatest waves ever bodysurfed, some as excessive as 40 ft, a death-defying feat akin to diving off a four-story constructing. “He’s in a league of his personal,” mentioned Mark Drewelow, a aggressive bodysurfer from Encinitas, Calif.

Lattanzi prepares like an expert athlete as a way to meet the calls for of his area of interest. He eats clear and cross-trains, lifting weights and doing yoga as a way to maintain the numerous hours of swimming, negotiate enormous waves and stand up to their impression. He now has his sights set on Mavericks, a notoriously harmful wave in Northern California that may attain heights over 60 ft, which he hopes to deal with this yr.

“It takes an actual tranquil thoughts. It takes unimaginable power. Unimaginable lungs. Aqua Gorilla is what all of us name him as a result of he’s so sturdy within the water,” Masters mentioned. “He’s the last word waterman.”

When Masters tried to overcome Mavericks in 2016, he bruised a lung, fractured his neck, broke his collarbone and 7 ribs, and was airlifted to Stanford Hospital. “Mavericks is only a totally different animal that’s in contrast to any wave on the planet,” Masters mentioned. “It’s extremely savage.”

Given the dangers, some surprise why Lattanzi is prepared to paddle out to the world’s most harmful surf breaks. Even Mark Cunningham, broadly thought of the very best bodysurfer of all time, has discovered himself questioning: “He’s swimming out in water I wouldn’t even take into account. What’s driving him?”

For Lattanzi, it’s easy.

“As a result of I find it irresistible,” he mentioned. “I like the adrenaline, I like this sense of being surrounded by water and discovering the most important barrels and pushing my limits. I’m chasing adrenaline for certain.”