Bodysurfers often describe bodysurfing as a one-way street: once you start, it’s hard going back. Bodysurfing is a daring water sport, but it is also the purest way to connect with the ocean and for sure - race your heartbeat. One man in particular is making history by conquering the world’s heaviest waves – without a surfboard.
“Kalani goes into the ocean where fish are afraid.”
Attempting the Impossible
Truly fearless adventurers push their craft to the limit, moving the boundaries of what is humanly possible. At just 23 years old, Kalani Lattanzi is bringing an age-old sport to the heaviest waves on the planet. With just a wetsuit and a pair of fins, Lattanzi has bodysurfed towering 80-foot (25-meter) breakers, a feat pro surfer Nic von Rupp called “one of the top five most extreme things a human has ever done.”
Born to Ride
Lattanzi is the quintessential daredevil. The gnarlier the ocean, the better. Growing up in the Brazilian coastal town of Itacoatiara, Lattanzi fell in love with the raw power of a rough ocean. The currents along the town’s half-milestrip of beach are particularly strong and produce heavy, barreling waves. It’s in this challenging environment that Lattanzi became a masterful wave-rider, soon leaving the surfboard behind.
Lattanzi’s Aquatic Everest
Having won several World Surf League titles at a young age, Lattanzi set his gaze on an even bigger prize that would immortalize him in the world of surfing as a once-in-a-lifetime athlete, or, quite possibly, kill him. Nazaré in Portugal is a mecca for big waves. The giant breakers are formed by an underwater canyon and can reach up to 100 feet (30 meters) in height. Lattanzi achieved world fame by bodysurfing Nazaré waves that the best pro surfers deemed daring to attempt even with a surfboard. Film-maker Nino Dias captured his exploits in the biopic Kalani | Gift from Heaven.
Mind Like Water
Bodysurfing is far from a mainstream adventure sport. The risks involved and the dexterity and strength required to surf the waves using only your body can be intimidating to an outsider. Before the invention of the surf leash in the early 1970s, every surfer had to know how to bodysurf to recover lost boards swept away by the current, but it was a cautious undertaking born of necessity.
Today, bodysurfing is seen as a way to connect with the ocean in the purest way possible, be it for the thrill or a deep sense of fulfillment. And there’s science to back it up: In Blue Mind, marine biologist Wallace J. Nichols describes the calming, meditative state induced by deep, prolonged connection with the ocean.
Conquer the Currents
Lattanzi is a master at using his physique to defeat the waves. Whether with fins and a wetsuit or on a Burrasca, it is essential to know your craft. Discover how to harness the raw power of the Burrasca and become a conqueror of waves in our interview with Daniel Lasselsberger.