ASB MAGAZINE: As the first big swells of the season hit Hawai’i, Patagonia has released the short film Connected by Water | The Story Behind the Big Wave Safety Movement. It’s a great insight into the Big Wave Risk Assessment Group’s (BWRAG)’s backstory – from humble beginnings in Kohl Christensen’s North Shore barn almost a decade ago to the invaluable work the group is doing today with surfers of all levels. And even during social-distancing times, as an online course launches next month.


“This film is the story behind the big wave safety movement but it’s also about sharing knowledge for everyone’s safety whether the surf is 2ft or 20ft,” explains Dan Ross.



Sion Milosky’s death at Mavericks in 2011 left the big wave surfing community reeling from the loss of another talented surfer. It was a wake-up call. Big wave surfing was advancing faster than safety protocols, and something had to change. Later that year, a group of surfers led by Kohl Christensen and Danilo Couto gathered in Kohl’s barn on the North Shore of Oʻahu and held a CPR course taught by a veteran emergency room nurse. This was the first unofficial meeting of the Big Wave Risk Assessment Group (BWRAG). The following year, BWRAG held its first public summit at Turtle Bay Resort on the North Shore, expanding its teachings from CPR to first aid, water rescue skills and more.


A couple of years later, veteran Hawaiian lifeguard, surfer and ocean risk specialist Brian Keaulana joined BWRAG at Kohl and Danilo’s invitation, bringing with him decades of ocean safety knowledge that substantially expanded BWRAG’s training offerings. Over the next decade, BWRAG evolved into an international gold standard, holding summits all over the world that covered ocean risk management, CPR and AED training, first-aid medical intervention, spot analysis, mindful breathing and energy management, emergency action planning and water rescue, taught by some of the world’s best emergency response-trained big wave surfers and ocean technicians, including Greg Long, Andrea Moller, Mark Healey, Pam Foster, Jon Hoover, Ryan Hargrave, Ian Akahi Masterson, Liam Wilmott, Ramón Navarro, Otto Flores, Gabriel Villarán, Dan Ross and Zeb Walsh, to name a few.


“Being involved and closely connected with the BWRAG family has given me the opportunity to improve my skills to immediately act in critical situations. After attending BWRAG summits and learning from some of the most respected water-people in the world, I now look at the ocean with a wider lens. I realise just how little I knew about risk management, effective CPR/AED application, emergency action planning…  the whole spectrum of ocean safety,” said Dan Ross, surfer, Patagonia Global Sports Activist and BWRAG Australia Ambassador.


“ I’m so grateful to be involved. It’s inspiring to see the humble backstory and just how big of an impact a bunch of passionate, community-minded surfers can have.”

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