Christiann Otter Baily has a spinal cord injury (L3, L4) from a skateboarding accident in 2006 and does what he loves actively, which includes WCMX, scuba diving, sailing, and skydiving but his passion is surfing. For Christainn, surfing is the “only activity out there where you have that direct connection and interaction with nature.”
1. How long have you been surfing?
Over thirty years.
2. What inspired you to surf in the first place?
I grew up next to the ocean, it was my playground. So, where most kids have baseball diamonds and basketball courts, my town had waves and skateparks.
3. What kind of surfboard do you have?
Well I have quite a few in the quiver, what I decide to ride that day, depends largely on the size and type of waves I’m looking to ride and yes, there are quite a few adaptations compared to your average board. My boards are specifically designed to maximize performance for someone laying down on the board. They incorporate a very specific rocker, fin, and channel design that has been a massive help to me in pushing limits. As far as my legs go, I have a strap that keeps my legs together and a pair of small neodymium magnets (one in the straps, the other in the tail of the board) that keep my legs from bouncing off on bigger waves.
4. Where in the world have you surfed?
As travel intensive as the job is and as long as I’ve been doing it, it would probably be easier at this point to list where I haven’t been…
5. What are your top 3 favorite surf spots?
Cloud Break (Tavarua Fiji), Jeffreys Bai (South Africa), and Anchor Point (Morocco) come to mind, but there are WAY too many great breaks in the world to sum them up in just three don’t you think?
6. Where’s your go-to surf spot near home?
Pleasure Point and Steamer Lane in Santa Cruz, California.
7. Where do you still want to surf?
I’d love to have the opportunity to surf in Patagonia and Antarctica sometime, I’ve seen pictures and heard stories from friends who have gone and they tell me it’s both pretty ridiculous and beautiful!
8. What procedures and/or equipment do you use to assist you to get to and from the ocean via the beach? In other words, how do you get to the waves?
I’m sponsored by Box Wheelchairs and they have a pretty wicked sand chair that I’ve used, otherwise, if I’m traveling, I usually just drag myself along.
9. Can you do any tricks on the waves? If so what?
Cutbacks, barrels, floaters, and if the conditions are right, airs… I launched and landed adaptive surfing a first barrel roll air during the O’neill Cold Water Classic last year, so I’ve been trying to perfect that trick lately.
10. What has been the biggest wave you have surfed?
Mavericks at about 40 feet, back in 09’—that was a great day!
11. Ever seen a great white shark or any other shark while you surfed?
Sure, tiger sharks, bull sharks, and the occasional great white… You’d be amazed how often they are around and you never know… By and large, they have no interest in us as food, so I don’t worry about it. Statistically, you’d have a greater chance of getting struck by lightning than immediately winning the lotto, then getting attacked by a shark.
12. Ever been pulled under a riptide? If so, what happened and what do you do to get yourself safe?
All the time, the key is just swimming out to sea, then parallel with the coast until you’re free of the current, never try and fight it, you’ll waste valuable energy and that’s when things get dangerous. Keep in mind, at the end of the day, the ocean always wins!
13. Why do you love to surf?
It’s how I find my Zen in life… Some people like to paint, others play music or sculpt… For me, my board is my brush, the wave, my canvas. I like to think of surfing as an artistic expression, I surf because that’s where I find my happy place!
14. What has surfing taught you about yourself and life?
Patients, joy for travel and love of exploration, harmony with nature, the list goes on… Suffice to say, surfing has the potential to teach you a lot about life, but what that is exactly, is personally reflective of an individual perspective!