Photo credit: Jay Watson | www.jaywatson.com
Sheer adrenaline and serenity. Ask Richard Schmidt to describe surfing and that’s what he’d tell you. “When you harness the ocean’s energy by catching a wave, you experience moments of sheer adrenaline and excitement. In between waves, that excitement turns into a feeling of serenity, as you observe sea otters swimming by or pelicans gliding along a wave,” he explains. “Sitting out there and realizing that you are one with nature can be a spiritual experience.” Connecting with nature is part of what keeps him heading back into the waves for more; that, and the fact that Richard is a professional surfer.
Richard’s been on the cutting edge of high performance surfing, especiallly in big surf, for over 15 years now. Photographs of Richard dropping into huge waves at Waimea Bay, Sunset Beach, and Mavericks have been some of the most recognizable surf images over the years. His exploits in big surf have become near legend and he enjoys a respect within the surfing community that is given to only a handful of the world’s top surfers.
In Hawaii, during the ’89-’90 competition season he achieved the best contest results of any Californian in history, with two 1st and two 3rd place finishes. In ’96 with a 9th place finish, he had a strong showing in the O’neill World Cup of Surfing at Sunset Beach on the North Shore of O’ahu. In February ’99, Richard was runner up in the inaugaral Quiksilver Men Who Ride Mountains surf contest held at Mavericks. He has been featured in many surf magazines, web sites, photos, posters, books, and films.
Richard got his surfing start on family outings to the beach, where he would ride the waves on inflatable mats. It was only a short step from belly surfing to a real board on some of the most famous surf breaks in Northern California, including Steamer Lane, Santa Cruz, which was only a short walk away from Schmidt’s house. Time, dedication, and practice, as well as annual trips to the renowned waves of the North Shore of O’ahu in Hawaii help keep his surfing at the professional level.
…the wave is relatively fixed. The best rides have been had there, but it’s about repeating that and seeing someone lose their marbles for a minute or a day. Richard Schmidt had the best ride I can ever remember in the “Eddie” on that huge classic day in 1990. The free fall, tail drift is really the ultimate drop on a huge wave, and I can’t imagine it being any better than that even today.
— Kelly Slater, record setting 11x ASP/World Surf League Champion, on Richard Schmidt’s “best ride”
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