“Sheer adrenaline and serenity”: that’s how Richard describes surfing. “When you harness the ocean’s energy by catching a wave, you experience moments of sheer adrenaline and excitement. In between waves, that excitement turns into a feeling of serenity, as you observe sea otters swimming by or pelicans gliding along a wave,” he explains. “Sitting out there and realizing that you are one with nature can be a spiritual experience.” Connecting with nature is part of what keeps him heading back into the waves for more; that, and the fact that Richard is a professional surfer.
Richard has been on the cutting edge of high-performance surfing, especially in big surf, for over 15 years. Photographs of Richard dropping into huge waves at Waimea Bay, Sunset Beach, and Mavericks have been among the most recognizable surf images over the years. His exploits in big surf have become near legend, and he enjoys a respect within the surfing community that is given to only a handful of the world’s top surfers.
In Hawaii during the ’89-’90 competition season, he achieved the best contest results of any Californian in history, with two 1st- and two 3rd-place finishes. In 1996, with a 9th-place finish, he had a strong showing in the O’Neill World Cup of Surfing at Sunset Beach on the North Shore of Oahu. In February 1999, Richard was a runner-up in the inaugural Quiksilver Men Who Ride Mountains surf contest held at Mavericks. He has been featured in many surf magazines, web sites, photos, posters, books, and films.
Richard got his surfing start on family outings to the beach, where he would ride the waves on inflatable mats. It was only a short step from belly surfing to a real board on some of the most famous surf breaks in Northern California, including Steamer Lane, Santa Cruz, which was only a short walk away from Schmidt’s house. Time, dedication, and practice, as well as annual trips to the renowned waves of the North Shore of Oahu in Hawaii, help keep his surfing at the professional level.