Big wave surfer Billy Kemper was battling for his life a year ago, now his story will be told in a six-part series on the World Surf League streaming service. 

Big wave surfing is one of the most dangerous sports in the world. Sailing down giant wave faces at speeds upwards of 40 miles per hour with nothing between you and mother nature but a surfboard. These men and women are some of the best athletes in the world and have dedicated their lives to perfecting this sport they love. Still, all the training in the world does not stop injuries and even death from happening. One man who knows all too well the dangerous conditions of the ocean is Billy Kemper.

One year ago Kemper was on the best surf trip of his life when he was injured. He was spent the last year fighting to regain his health and the film crew at The World Surf League has been documenting his recovery. There will be a six-part docuseries detailing the struggle and hardship Kemper had to overcome. He sat down with FanSided to discuss his incredible story.

“It was right around this time last year, the Hawaiin season came to an end and I had been looking at going down to North Africa,” Kemper said. “There had been a couple of waves down there that I really wanted to surf. With the alignment of a massive swell in the Atlantic Ocean and the conditions and everything came together for mid-February. bigger than anything they had seen in 20 years.  Probably the best trip of my life, with unbelievable waves for about ten days straight. On the last day of the trip, I suffered a very severe injury that put my life at risk. A handful of surgeries later, stem cell treatments, more physical therapy than you could even imagine. Now the return to surfing, the waves who made me who I am.”

Billy Kemper discusses big wave injury

This injury happened right as the world began to shut down due to rising COVID-19 cases. Being able to travel and get the necessary medical help that he needed would prove to be a difficult part of the recovery process, but Kemper knew he would have to make this road back to health. He is a motivated individual and has many reasons to be in his life.

“At a very early point in my recovery, there were questions,” Kemper explained. “I was asking ‘Do I really want to surf again? Do I really want to put my life at risk? But I was immediately fueled 100 percent. I want to be back stronger, I want to be back this season. When I made that decision it came naturally that that summer would be different than any other summer of my life.”

Kemper decided to leave Hawaii and settle into southern California for his recovery. He enlisted the help of Laird Hamilton and Gabby Reece who are known for having a very healthy lifestyle. Documenting this journey to recovery in California will be a large part of the series. Showing what exactly Kemper went through to get back to surfing shape and all the people who helped him along the way will be there for all to see.

“If I can give back some bit of inspiration or motivation to someone in the future coming back from a severe injury or a hard time in life,” Kemper said. “It’s not just about being injured, this story is far more than just a road to recovery. I’ve lost my brother, I’ve lost my mom, I’ve lost my best friends and I was able to figure out a formula to use all the hard times and losses as fuel to the fire and just push myself to be the best version of me, To do that is the reason why I wanted to make this series. To make an impact on the future and people who need that push when times are hard.”

Kemper is still training and surfing every day with hopes to compete this year. With COVID-19 putting a hold on many events, he is spending more time with family. The first episode of “Billy” will be airing on Wednesday, Feb. 24, and can be seen on or on the World Surf League app. This six-part series will continue every Sunday following the first part.


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