Boomerang Beach grommet Oscar Salt had a bit of a rough trot in 2019. A couple of unlucky injuries and a bout of glandular fever saw him do some cruel stints out of the water, but things turned around for him in December when he made the cadet final of the Aussie titles at Margaret River and then headed over to the North Shore for the first time. The 15-year-old spent seven weeks on the famed Hawaiian stretch mixing it up with a bunch of his grommet peers and sampling a healthy serving of big waves, solid wideouts, and Island-style fun. Above is a visual compilation of Oscar’s time there and below he reflects on the experience.

The North Shore is a place with a pretty heavy reputation. What were you expecting heading over there?

Pretty much everything you see online. Like how good the waves are. It’s pretty crowded but there are good waves. How nice the people are. Just the whole island itself is a pretty good place.

A lot of people have had their heads biffed over there and you can get in trouble in the water. Was that in the back of your mind?

A little bit. You just have to be a little more cautious, I guess. So you didn’t drop in on some of the big locals or anything, because I’m sure they wouldn’t care who you are.

Did it live up to your expectations?

Yeah, it did.

How many boards did you take over?

Five or six.

What was your biggest one?

6’0. But I had more people come over, like Jay ‘Bottle’ Thompson, and he brought heaps bigger boards, so I ended up riding like a 7’0 and heaps of 6’8s and 6’5s and everything. I learned my lesson to take bigger boards.

How many boards did you snap?

Four. They were all my own.

What was the heaviest session you had over there?

Probably Sunset, like 15-foot Sunset. It was pretty scary. I went out there with two of my mates and they had padded suits on and I just went out in boardies. It was pretty scary when we were paddling out in the channel but once we got the first wave it was alright. We got pretty smashed but it was worth it. It was a good experience and built heaps of confidence.

What was your worst wipeout?

Probably at Off The Wall. There’s a video of it (4:08). I was coming in from a session out at Backdoor and Off The Wall. I took off and did a bottom-turn and just did a half-turn up the top and I was really relaxed and came down and hit some backwash at full speed and just got smashed and my head went into the board and everything. Everything went into the board. The board was alright surprisingly.

How was your head?

It was a bit sore for a day or something but it was alright in the end.

What was your favourite wave?

Probably Rockies or Backdoor. Sunset would be up there too.

How did the power compare to home?

It was heaps different. Even if it was just two or three foot it compares to four to six feet at home. It’s all reef too.

After you got used to that did you enjoy it?

Yeah, you got used to it after two weeks and got heaps more comfortable with it.

Have you found surfing those waves has given you more confidence for when it gets big over here?

It definitely has. Over there just surfing 15-foot Sunset or 15-foot Waimea definitely has given me confidence for back home. You know you can surf it and you know you’re going to get heaps more smashed there in that swell than what you would get here. We had swell the other weekend and it was probably nine-foot and it was fun. You weren’t worried about getting too smashed.

Tell me about the Waimea session?

Just me and one other mate paddled out there and it was maybe 15-foot with maybe a freaky 20-foot set would come through every now and then. We only got one wave in two hours but it was pretty surreal and exciting and really scary. It was a good experience seeing all the local dudes just take off on massive sets and just charging. That’s like their backyard and just seeing how comfortable they are in those waves gave me heaps of confidence. It was really exciting but heaps scary.

What board were you riding?

A 7’0.

The best surfing you saw over there?

Probably Leonardo Fioravanti. He was there the whole time we were there so probably him or John John. It’s different to see how good he actually is in person. Like you see it on Instagram and everything but it’s on a different level to see it firsthand.

You frothing to go back?

I’m pretty excited to get back there. Now that I’ve been there I’ve got confidence and want to go harder and have a better go at some of the waves over there.

Do you think it’s important to surf well in Hawaii?

I guess it’s like the pinnacle of surfing. Everyone goes there and everyone is going to be there for those two months at the end of the year. You’ve got to just put everything into it when you’re there and surf your best.