Big Wave Surfing

Monster waves are some of
the best waves to ride but they are very dangerous to ride in because of how
monstrous they are and a simple mistake can have very bad consequences. That is
why big waves need to have experienced surfers riding them. But let us see what
big wave surfing really is.


Surfing is riding the
forward side of a wave to be taken to the shore by means of a surfboard and in
which the surfer is either standing on or lying down on it. The most preferred
option is to stand as it gives the surfer more control on the movement of the
surfboard. The surfer will usually be parallel to the beach as they try to ride
out the wave before it dies out or they fall off as the wave heads to the

The most common form of
surfing is by standing on the board. But there are other forms of surfing that
are commonly done. Other forms of surfing is when the surfer is lying on the
board, is in a drop knee stance, or knee boarding where the surfer is using a
buoyant and is on their knees as the buoyant is being towed by a motor boat. But
there is a type of surfing that is thought of as the purest form of surfing and
it is using the body as the surfboard. This works in the sense that the surfer
will surf without the help of a surfboard but is using the body to ride out a
wave. And as unique and dangerous as it sounds, it is a very common feature
practiced in most of the surfing areas all around the world.

First historical recording
of surfing was in 1769 when James Cook arrived in Tahiti. In 1907 a land Baron
in California vacationed in Hawaii and saw teenage boys surfing and decided to
introduce the activity to California. But it was George Fleeth who revived it
by creating the now commonly used long board that made surfing such a hit in
California. He would show off his skills twice a day to the excited hoteliers
of Hotel Redondo. It wasn’t until 1975 that surfing competitions began and
Margo Oberg was the first female professional surfer to participate in. The
international Surfers Association estimates that there are 20 to 25 million
surfers and the industry itself is worth over $15 million.

There are different forms
of surfing

1. Surf

This is when the surfer is
ride the front part of a moving wave to surf the water. The surfer will pad out
towards a wave using hands and then turn the back towards the wave. The surfer
will then wait for the wave to take over so that the surfer can now stand on
the board and let the wave to take them to the shore. Surf boards vary in size
with beginners using soft boards which are among the big sized boards but offer
more stability. But with experience surfers tend to go with small sized boards
but it is not all that necessary. Surfing can be done at any age as long as the
surfer knows how to swim. It is easy to learn and really fun to try out.

2. Windsurf

Combines both surfing and
sailing and can take place in an ocean, lake or a fjord. The wind surfing gear
is made of a surfboard that has a sail and enables the surfer to use the wind
effectively to propel them. The sail size ranges from 2.5 m2 to 12m2.
Experienced surfers will use small sails and boards especially when there are
strong winds. All ages can learn to wind surf easily but in light winds and in
areas that have shallow waters and have enclosed bays for safety.

3. Kitesurf

This is a sport that
combines different elements of surfing into one, from wakeboarding, surfing, windsurfing
to paragliding. The surfer will use a large controllable kite that is powered
by the wind to surf across the water using a small surfboard. More experienced
kite surfers will tend to opt for stronger winds in order to surf. New kite
surfers have got utilize small weaker winds to be safer. The best place to
learn kite surfing is in small enclosed areas that have shallow waters. Having
previous knowledge of surfing is good though it is not necessary. Kite surfing
will usually take a longer period to learn as compared to other forms of

4. SUP

This means a Stand Up
Paddle. It is an off ramp of surfing and has its origins in Hawaii. The surfer
usually has a large board and a one bladed paddle to be used to paddle out to
see to get to a wave. The surfer has to stand up the whole time. The sense
behind for this is so that the surfer can be able to get to waves that are
harder to reach using hands to wade out to sea to catch a wave. It was named
the fastest growing water sport activity for surfers who love big waves. SUP
can also be enjoyed on calm waters like lakes, fjords or rivers. This then
becomes the perfect water sport for every single person and age.

Understanding how wave
energy forms to create massive waves is what will guide you to face the biggest
waves and enjoy big wave surfing to the fullest.

Waves are usually generated
by winds which are created by low pressure systems found mostly in coastal
areas. Another way waves can be formed is through an earthquake at the bottom
of the ocean but these rarely occur though when they do, they end up being very
destructive. They are commonly known to form Tsunamis.

So when the wind blows adjacently
to the top of the ocean, wave energies are created. These energies will then travel on the ocean
and start creating swells. This is even possible because there are no obstacles
like land in the open ocean. When the swells become more and more organized
depending on the strengths of the wind, then they end up forming waves. There
are types of swells that are created:

Ground Swells – They are
developed from stormy conditions and very strong winds in the open ocean. The
energy of the wave will depend on how strong the storm is and the stronger it
is, the more powerful the swell will get. The energy of the now created swell
can be as deep as 1000 feet and thus will be travel for thousands of miles
without losing energy.

Wind swells – This are
created by wind currents and are much closer to the shore. Therefore they will
not be deep enough and will not produce strong waves.

After the swells are
created, the waves will start travelling outwards form the central point of the
storm. These swells will continue until the ocean floor begins to shallow up.
This will force the swell to slow down and release the energy that was stored
in it. This energy will eventually form into a breaking wave. The wave will
then head for shallower waters because now the swell isn’t moving as fast on
shallow waters as it deep on deeper waters. The way in which the swell breaks
from underneath and bends horizontally is commonly referred to as Refraction.
The refraction of the wave will depend on the depth of the sea floor and the
characteristics of the landscape in which it is travelling in. There are two types
of wave refractions when you are in a surf spot.

Concave Refractions – This
one is formed when the swell travels over a raised ground contour at the floor
of the ocean and around the contour the waters are deeper. When the swell
breaks and forms a wave, the wave will have an upside down shape look of a bowl
with the center of the wave raised up. This is called the peak of the wave. The
way the wave is outlined in the horizon is what gives it the name “concave
wave”. These types of waves are powerful enough and excellent to be ridden from
the left or right of the center part of the wave.

Convex Refractions –This
type of wave is formed when the swell meets a headland that has deep waters at
the floor of the ocean and the incoming wave will seem to move away from the
center as it heads to the shore line. Therefore, the wave will be more spread
out and seem like it is efocusing’ itself. Thus it gets the name “convex
wave” because of the center looks like the shape of a bowl. The wave will not be
as strong as concave waves but it will last for a longer period.

In order for a swell to
form a wave, there needs to be a break in the ocean to transform all that
energy into a big wave. There are a number of breaks that help in creating a

1. Beach Breaks

These are waves that break
over a sand bottom. The sand at the bottom of the ocean will usually shift from
time to time thus the waves formed at these breaks will neither be of the same
quality or the same shape but will always be changing. The sand banks can stay
in the same position for months or can change in just a number of days or
weeks. Because of these inconsistencies, the waves could be very powerful at
times and also short and very gentle in others. Because of these
characteristics, such beaches are good for new surfers to learn how to surf.

2. Reef Breaks

These are waves that break
over a rock or reef bottom. Therefore the waves formed at these locations are
always consistent throughout the year and will only depend on the energy of the
swell. Because of this consistency, the waves from these breaks are some of the
biggest and most powerful waves formed. But the biggest threat to any surfer is
not the wave itself but the coral reefs found below. Coral reefs are usually found
near the shallow parts of the ocean and are very near the surface and can thuscause serious injury to any surfer who is not careful. A cut
from these reefs can make a wound become infected if not treaded carefully.
Thus it is not best for new beginners to venture out and try them. Indonesia
has some of the biggest waves that break over reefs. These places are Teahupoo,
Cloudbreak and Pipeline.

3. Point Break

These are waves that break
on a part of the land that shoots out. They hit the stretch of land at a
perpendicular angle that causes the wave to break around and along the section
of the land instead of going directly around it. The waves that form from these
breaks are usually longer than those formed from beach and reef breaks. Epic
waves are formed when the swell comes from just the right direction and wraps
around these points. Point breaks are the best places for which intermediaries
can surf and to perfect their maneuvers and better their skills in surfing
because of how long and predictable the wave is. They will also help the surfer
to better predict the pace of the wave and read the movement of the wave.

4. River mouth Waves

Similar to beach break,
they are formed by rivers which deposit sand into sand bars that are already
well defined and with which the waves will peel in a neat fashion. They are
really rare and thus very wonderful to ride them.

Now when swells meet these
breaks they will form different waves that are dependent on a number of
conditions like the size and direction of the swell, the currents, the tides
and how strong the winds are. Out of these conditions different kinds of waves
are formed when they meet these breaks.

1. Closeouts.

These are waves that break
all at once instead of continuously peeling. They will create a lot of white water
and thus they cannot be relied upon when it comes to surfing because they have
no clean face.

2. Crumbly

They are produced by a
floor that has a gradual contour and therefore they are not hollow, fast or
very steep because they break gently. And since they are not powerful they tend
to be a bit mushy and are ideal for beginner surfers to try out.

3. Reforms

These are waves that will
break out and then die down again because they hit deep waters and then reform
again. These types of waves are only found in areas that have varying depths.
Advanced surfers usually leave the wave before it goes to deeper ends leaving
inexperienced surfers to continue with the reform.

4. Tubing

When swells in deeper
waters hit shallow waters, the waves formed become hollow and look more like
barrels which are also known as plunging waves. These types of waves are what
experienced surfers love to ride and beginner surfers should be far away from
them because of how dangerous they can get.

5. Double ups

These are formed by different
waves that will meet up and their peak and low points align together. When they
combine they form an extra powerful and a much larger wave. Because they are two
waves joining together, the hollow created by this massive wave is much bigger
and therefore become much more dangerous when they break. Even every
experienced surfers have a tough time trying to ride and tame such waves.

Now for a wave to be
considered a big wave, it has to be atleast 20 feet high. Boards for which the
surfer is going to ride the wave will usually vary in size depending on how
high and big the wave is going to be and the technique for which the surfer is
going to use when riding the wave. Longer, larger boards allow for faster
paddling and are more stable but they also limit maneuverability and the speed
for which the surfer is going to go with. But to even get close to such types
of big waves, surfers have to be towed to the wave by a jet ski so that they
can quickly reach the wave before it dies out.

Now, riding big waves is
very fantastic and offers a thrill that can only be gained by riding such
monstrosities. But with great reward there is an even greater risk involved and
big wave surfing has some really big risks attached to it.

In a wave wipeout, where
the surfer falls into the water mid wave surfing, the waves can push the surfer
20 to 50 feet below water. And in while still being pushed down the surfer will
be spinning around because of the current created by the wave. Now the surfer
would have about 20 seconds to regain their balance and decipher how to go up
before another wave comes and hits them.

The pressure at those
depths is strong enough to rapture anyone’s eardrums.

The currents that are created
by such waves can crush someone into reefs,
rocks or the bottom of the sea and get them seriously injured which may result
to even death.

The surfer can also be held
under water for long periods of time because by multiple consecutive currents
of the wave and surviving such currents is extremely difficult.

These risks are known to
have killed experienced and professional surfers like Mark Foo in 1994. Donnie
Solomon died a year later, Todd Chesser died in February 14th 1997
and Malik Joyeux died in December 2nd 2005. There have been a number
of other notable deaths and other experienced surfers but never went

So what got them killed?
Some it was just by bad luck and some it was by sheer human error. These are
some of the mistakes that some surfers make that lead them at times to trouble

1 Panicking

One of the biggest reasons
most people drown is actually believing that they will drown. This will
ultimately lead them to panicking a lot and use a lot of excessive energy and
thus ultimately the body will give in and let go. Yes it difficult to be calm
and stay in control but that is exactly every surfer in that situation ought to
be. So one of the best ways for which one can be able to maintain control is to
visualize other things and situations at that will distract them what is happening
around them. This will help in reducing
the levels of anxiety. This is what makes the best survive in such a situation
because they understand how important it is to harness their mental state.

2. Wishing of being

Big waves can be very terrifying
at first sight and therefore it will feel like it is too much to handle and the
best a surfer can do is to watch for a while until they are more confident to
venture out into the waves. Therefore
the surfer will have to fully understand what they are going to put themselves
through because this is a giant leap forward and that is going to be a very
scary feeling. And that is something that every surfer will have to go through
when facing such kind of big waves. They just need to have the passion and the
drive for it in order to be able to face it. But the best part is that in that
moment is when someone feels most alive.

3. Pulling Vests

Vests can become a life
saver when in such situations because they will automatically lift up a surfer
after falling from a wave. Safety vests can easily be pulled using a string
while the surfer is falling and this will help them save the energy while
underwater and the current is passing by. There are times though when the
current is so strong that the pull pad is shot inside the wetsuit but atleast
even is such situations a surfer will be able to get out alive. An example of
the benefits of wearing a vest was when Aaron Gold fell from a 12 foot wave and
ended up passing under water. Had he worn the vest that would not have been the
case. Waves that range from 12 feet to 30 feet can easily take someone’s life.

4. Not enough grasp

When riding waves, the most
important aspect is how stable a surfer is while riding the wave. When a surfer
is riding the wave, everything becomes amplified and thus the surfer has a
higher chance of even feeling the instability of a board. So if the board does
not have enough grasp, the surfer can and will easily fall off because now the
board feels very slippery and unstable. Therefore the board and the conditions
need to be right and comfortable or the consequences of falling off a board
could end up being drastic.

5. Not committed

The problem with some
surfers is not reading or completely assuming a big wave. There is a point in
which when riding a wave a surfer knows it is time to pull out of riding the
wave. Because you can either catch a big wave or the wave catches you. so even
before a surfer can head out at sea to catch a wave, they have to have a plan A
and plan B. Plan A is to make completely ride the wave and plan B is to pull
out of riding the wave because the wave can reach a point of no return. So the
surfer has to be 100% fully committed to know when to pull which trigger.

6. Losing confidence

The best a surfer can do is
having trust in the ability to survive a big wave. Because confidence makes
everything crystal clear. But if the surfer is to lose confidence even for a
few minutes, mistakes are bound to be made and the end result could end up
being catastrophic. There are so many factors that have to be considered when
riding a wave that there ought to be no time to start being in self doubt.
Therefore the surfer need to be confident enough to that the wave will ride
through but being conscience enough to know the best time to pull out of a wave
before things get out of control.

7. Being over confident

Now when a surfer is able
to handle a number of waves, there is a feeling of knowing that they can handle
any wave. But this could end up being a big mistake because even the best
surfers out there know the importance of gauging the environment for which the
wave forms. So if a surfer is new to a place, the best they can do is to first
and foremost watch the other surfers and know who they are, where they sit, how
they approach the wave to get to know the feel of the place. And when they
begin to surf, they first have to test the waters before they can dive in. so
respect nature and it will respect you.

So you have seen the risks
involved with surfing and the common mistakes made by surfers but there are
some things that you would need to know about surfing.

1. Some of the biggest
waves have been gone to height of over 80 feet high. But these measurements are
not scientifically accurate as they cannot be truly measured though it still
doesn’t mean it’s impossible to measure them.

2. The falls can feel like
being hit by a truck because of the impact and effects of the fall. Small waves
actually are harder to come out of because they will hold you down longer. You
will get disoriented because of the intense impact and your body will feel like
it is under a lot of pressure. And it will be very confusing to know if you are
doing somersaults or are upside down.

3. If it is to face big
waves you need not have fear because fear can easily grip you but also the
thrill of the ride is really amazing.

4. Jet skis are at times
needed to get to a big wave. This is because big waves can travel at high
speeds and therefore a jet ski will get you to a wave much faster that using
your own hands.

5. Big wave boards that
need to be towed are usually heavier and shorter and measure about 5ft, 11in
wide and 2in thick. They will weigh about 12kg so that they can remain afloat
in the sea water. Paddle boards are 10ft long, 22in wide and 4in thick for more

6. If you are to fall into
the water, you need to learn how to hold you breathe because wipeouts can last
for about 10 – 40 seconds.

7. If you want to try the
big wave, the best you can do is to get a mentor. They will help and guide you
to be better at surfing.

8. The sole way to ride
such a big wave is to go to one. Thus you need to know areas that are prone to
offer big waves.

9. The sensation of riding
a big wave is the best you can ever get. Because unlike other adrenaline rushed
sports, surfing big waves is very calming because of how fluid it is when
riding the waves and everything feels like it is in slow motion as you ride it.

The best places for which
you can get to surf big waves are experience are;

Australia: Western
Australia, Tasmania and South Wales

United States: California
and the Pacific Islands

Europe: England, France,
Ireland and Portugal

Latin America: Chile,
Mexico and Peru

Caribbean: Puerto Rico

Africa: South Africa

The greatest waves ever

1. Garret McNamara who rode
a 78 foot tall wave in Nazare, Portugal, one of the biggest waves ever to have
surfed. He was acknowledged in the Guinness book of records.

2. Carlos Burle who rode an
estimated 100 foot wave but it is yet to be confirmed. He also rode an 80 foot
wave while trying to save his friend Maya Gabeira who wanted to ride the
biggest wave a woman has ever ridden. She ended up in hospital because she
nearly drowned. But it was a 68 foot tall wave that led him to be awarded a
Wave Award that comes with a $50,000 reward plus a new Nissan SUV.

3. Shawn Dollar who rode a
61 foot tall wave in Cortes Bank, California.

For this and more information
about surfing big waves, watch The Big Swell, a documentary about surfing on
Stream Shift TV.

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