A quick chat with Nantucket Island Surf School‘s Gary Kohner.
N MAGAZINE: Seems like you have the dream job. What did you want to be when you were a kid?
KOHNER: A herpetologist (a scientist who studies reptiles and amphibians), an artist, a pro-surfer, or an actor.
N MAGAZINE: What do you miss most from the Nantucket of your youth?
KOHNER: I miss the way things were more laid back, and all the sand dunes on the south shore.
N MAGAZINE: What’s the longest you’ve been held down by a wave? Where was it and what happened?
KOHNER: I had my longest hold down at a big wave spot called Pico Alto in Peru. The waves were between 25 and 35 feet that day. I wiped out on a take off and got violently pummeled by the wave, tossed around like a rag doll and held under for what felt like an eternity. When I came up, I was so disoriented that I was seeing the horizon vertically and was immediately pushed back under by the next wave and violently tossed around again. I had climbed my leash and was bear hugging my board underwater and I was seconds away from blacking out when I popped up to the surface. I took a couple smaller waves on the head but managed to catch my breath and make my way back to shore.
N MAGAZINE: What’s one thing most people don’t know about surfing on Nantucket?
KOHNER: That every now and then we get world-class surf here.
N MAGAZINE: How many days do you surf a year?
KOHNER: When I am on Nantucket I surf any time the waves are good. In Costa Rica or Hawaii I surf almost every day. Probably close to 300 days a year.
N MAGAZINE: You take such stunning surf photos. What’s your secret?
KOHNER: Thank you. I love surfing and I think my passion for it extends into the photography.
N MAGAZINE: What piece of advice would you give someone who is afraid to swim in the ocean?
KOHNER: Start slow, go in calm conditions and get comfortable before going out in bigger surf.
N MAGAZINE: Have you had any shark encounters?
KOHNER: Not really. In over 30 years of surfing on Nantucket, I’ve only seen a couple of sand sharks.
N MAGAZINE: Do you fear anything in the water?
KOHNER: I think having fear is good. The ocean can be a dangerous place and should be respected. I try not to let my fear keep me from doing things, but you have to take caution. Big waves and shallow reefs can be pretty scary.
N MAGAZINE: If you could meet any surf legend, alive or dead, who would it be?
KOHNER: Eddie Aikau
N MAGAZINE: What’s the best rule of thumb you’d give to a newbie who’s paddling out into the lineup on Nantucket for the first time? What’s the best etiquette?
KOHNER: Don’t drop in on other surfers. The surfer closest to the peak has the right of way. For more inexperienced surfers: don’t be afraid to ask a local surfer questions about the break. Be friendly.
To catch a wave with Gary and Nantucket Island Surf School, call 508-560-1020 or click here.