Big wave surfing is a unique discipline that pushes the limits of human courage and athleticism. It is an endeavor that takes surfers to the edge of what is physically and mentally possible, where triumph and danger teeter on a razor's edge. It is a realm where only the most dedicated, skilled, and daring individuals dare to tread.
Measuring a big wave is difficult and controversial because the angles used to take photos or videos make it hard to accurately measure the height of the wave. Finding the base of the wave can be tricky, and it is necessary to factor in a surfer's crouching position when estimating their height. There has been much controversy regarding record waves due to these difficulties.
Pipeline in Hawaii is the deadliest spot in the world due to its unpredictable waves, shallow reef, and uneven terrain. Every year people are injured or killed from hitting their head on the reef or getting knocked unconscious. Despite the danger, it still pulls in surfers for its incredible waves.
Measuring the height of a wave is really tricky and subjective. Generally, surfers use the Hawaiian scale which is measuring the literal feet from base to top of crest. However, depending on the energy of the wave, surfers may under or over estimate its size.
I've surfed in scary conditions at Nazare, Portugal, which has the tallest waves in the world. It's a beach break so there is no safe zone or channel, just flat sand and deep water canyons that create massive peaks of water which come in randomly. I once got caught by a 30-40 foot wave which broke on my head and I was stuck in a washing machine cycle with these surging currents pulling me back out to sea. The water was so aerated that I could barely get my head above the bubbles, making for a very intense experience.
I've always dreamed of surfing Cloudbreak in Fiji, one of the best big waves in the world. It's far away and expensive but I'll get there one day- it's an incredible left-hander over shallow coral reef that delivers a huge barrel and the ride of a lifetime.
It depends on the type of wave you are looking for. If you want intense barreling waves, look for an ocean floor with a steep gradient from deep to shallow. If you are looking for long point breaks, look for a headland at an angle where the waves wrap around it and create an even gradient from shallow to deep. The best is to have a reef or point where the energy converges and then a deep spot next to it.
When finishing a wave, make sure to jump off to the side when the water is shallow. Pull off the wave on an edge and do a close-out maneuver or jump over the back. In windy conditions, dive into the wind and have your board behind you to avoid it being blown back at you. As you gain more experience you will learn how to ditch your board safely.
Jaws is the scariest wave in the world because of its size, power and the way it breaks over the reef. It looks like a monster, and the water sucks out off the reef as the wave comes in.
Barrel riding is an incredible and surreal experience. When waves come over you, time slows down and your senses become heightened. It's a feeling like no other that can take you to another world and when the wave lets you out it's a beautiful feeling. Big wave surfers are always chasing big barrels as they strive for a life-changing wave.
Holding your breath underwater for long periods of time can feel like an eternity. The longest hold I've experienced was 25 seconds, but with the help of a floatation device and other safety measures, I'm usually able to stay under for much shorter periods. In the past, people have been able to hold their breath for up to a minute, but this typically requires them to be near unconsciousness.
Standing waves stay constant because the wave is shaped by the ocean floor. Depending on the river, standing waves may require lower or higher rainfall. They can be dangerous as they can cause someone to get sucked under the water, so it is important to wear a helmet and life jacket when around them.
Rip currents form at beach breaks because the water needs somewhere to go when it is being surged into the beach.
Riding a wave is the best feeling in the world - it's a moment of extreme focus and awareness, and when you manage to successfully ride a big, scary wave the feeling of joy and satisfaction that follows is unmatched.
My relationship with the ocean is special to me because it allows me to express my talents and fulfill my potential. It also helps me to zoom out and see the bigger picture, refreshing my mind from the busyness of life.
Sea life doesn't really affect the waves, but it can enhance the experience of surfing with animals like dolphins, whales or turtles.
Surging waves can be dangerous because they have a lot of energy behind them, even though they may not look intimidating. To be aware of their danger, pay attention to the wave period and size of the swell, as this indicates the amount of energy that is present.
To be a Soul Surfer is to not care about the hype or attention one gets from media photos and videos, but instead to focus on the feeling of being in the ocean, enjoying waves and having fun.
I've gone deep into the water while surfing, about 10-15 meters. It's dark, cold, and can be overwhelming with the pressure of the entire ocean above you. But I've trained for it and never been in a situation where I felt like I was going to drown - you just have to relax and let the wave take you back up to the surface.
I love Nias in Indonesia because of the perfect wave, the community and the beautiful scenery. Every time I see a swell heading to Indonesia, I book a ticket and follow it. The wave offers a steep drop with a massive barrel followed by a safe zone. It's one of my favorite places and 2018 was especially memorable during the biggest swell that ever hit Indonesia.
I have had many beautiful encounters with dolphins, seals and birds while surfing. I have also had 5 close encounters with great white sharks when I was young surfing in Jeffrey's Bay. I have never felt threatened by the sharks but they were close enough to almost touch them.
Jaws is an epic big wave location off Maui, Hawaii and it gets 25 meters high or bigger waves. It's the scariest place on the planet but also delivers some of the best rides and moments of my life. I get really excited when a big swell goes there and this picture is from me surfing Jaws in the middle of covid 2020.
Preparation is key to staying safe when paddling into large waves. This includes physical preparation such as swimming in the pool and getting used to being underwater, as well as having necessary equipment such as an inflatable vest and water safety personnel.
I'm a big wave surfer who actively seeks out dangerous waves to push myself to my limits. I use visualization, prayer and other mental techniques to help me face the fear and have full confidence in my ability to ride big, scary waves.
Dumping waves are unpredictable because they occur in places with an ocean floor that quickly goes from deep to shallow which allows the wave to maintain its energy and quickly rear up, making it more dangerous.
Swell are generated by storms far away from the coast, have longer periods between each wave, and are stronger. Wind waves are generated by systems close to the coast, have shorter periods between each wave, and are weaker.