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Koa Smith has been surfing his entire life. Growing up on Kauai, he began surfing with his brother at the age of three. “There’s not much to do there,” Smith said. “My parents would drop us off at the beach. You start playing in the sand, playing in the ocean, body surfing, boogie boarding and it keeps evolving. I started surfing when I was three. My brother is four years older. When he started, it was, ‘If he can do this, I can do this.’”

Koa Smith, however, has now done more than his brother. In fact, Smith has done what few surfers to no surfers have ever done.

The 23 year old road into surfing history recently on a wave he caught at Skeleton Bay. This nearly mystical stretch of beach is legendary in the surfing community. Located in Namibia on the western coast of Africa, Skeleton Bay faces the Atlantic Ocean and requires a local guide and a lot of dedication to reach. The beach is a two day plane trip from Hawaii, followed by a car ride through the desert and down unmarked roads to the ocean. Once at the beach, surfers have to keep their eyes open. They share the beach with hundreds of aggressive seals and the water with Great White Sharks.

“When you’re out there, you’re really out there,” said Smith. “You’re kind of on your own. But when you’re out there, you’re not thinking about it. You know you’re [risking] sacrificing your life for this.”

For Koa Smith, the risk paid off in the form of what he called a “life changing wave.” Smith’s now-legendary ride lasted for 120 seconds and covered nearly a mile. While the distance and time was impressive, it was the sheer number of barrels Smith rode through that made history. Barrels in surfing are the hollows that form when a wave curves over a surfer’s head when breaking. Smith caught a wave that formed an unprecedented eight barrels. “There was a point where I was at four barrels, and I was already like, ‘This is amazing,’” Smith recounted. “It looked like the wave was over, but it formed again. I figured, …I might as well stay on. And I was like, ‘Whoa!’ This went from a good wave to like a life-changing wave.”

Smith’s incredible ride was captured by Chris Rogers using a GoPro attached to Smith’s mouthpiece and a drone that followed Smith from above. “I’d like to think that everything I’ve done my whole life led up to that moment,” Smith said. Whether that is true or not, there is no doubt that Smith and his wave are well on their way to becoming something of a surfing legend and a new record for other surfers to try and beat.

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