Big wave surfing
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Big wave surfing is a discipline within surfing in which experienced surfers paddle into or are towed onto waves which are at least 20 feet (6.2 m) high, on surf boards known as "guns" or towboards. Sizes of the board needed to successfully surf these waves vary by the size of the wave as well as the technique the surfer uses to reach the wave. A larger, longer board allows a rider to paddle fast enough to catch the wave and has the advantage of being more stable, but it also limits maneuverability and surfing speed.
In 1992, big wave surfers such as Laird Hamilton and Darrick Doerner introduced a cross over sport called tow in surfing. While many riders still participate in both sports, they remain very distinct activities. This type of surfing involves being towed into massive waves by jet ski, allowing for the speed needed to successfully ride. Tow in surfing also revolutionized board size, allowing surfers to trade in their unwieldy 12 ft. boards in favor of light, 7 ft boards that allowed for more speed and easier maneuverability in waves over 30 ft. By the end of the 1990s, tow in surfing allowed surfers to ride waves exceeding 50 ft.
Hazards of big wave surfing
In a big wave wipeout, a breaking wave can push surfers down 20 to 50 feet (6.2 m to 15.5 m) below the surface. Once they stop spinning around, they have to quickly regain their equilibrium and figure out which way is up. Surfers may have less than 20 seconds to get to the surface before the next wave hits them. Additionally, the water pressure at a depth of 20–50 feet can be strong enough to rupture one's eardrums. Strong currents and water action at those depths can also slam a surfer into a reef or the ocean floor, which can result in severe injuries or even death.
One of the greatest dangers is the risk of being held underwater by two or more consecutive waves. Surviving a triple hold-down is extremely difficult and surfers must be prepared to cope with these situations. Training styles vary such as D.Sloane weight drag/ free reef grab and pressure jet drag.
A major issue argued between big wave surfers is the necessity of the leash on the surfboard. In many instances, the leash can do more harm than good to a surfer, catching and holding them underwater and diminishing their opportunities to fight towards the surface. Other surfers, however, depend on the leash. Now, tow in surfboards use foot holds (like those found on windsurfs) rather than leashes to provide some security to the surfer.
These hazards have killed several big-wave surfers. Some of the most notable are Mark Foo, who died surfing Mavericks on December 23, 1994; Donnie Solomon, who died exactly a year later at Waimea Bay; Todd Chesser who died at Alligator Rock on the North Shore of Oahu on February 14, 1997; Malik Joyeux who died surfing Pipeline on Oahu on December 2, 2005; Peter Davi who died at Ghost Trees on December 4, 2007, Sion Milosky who died surfing Mavericks on March 16, 2011, and Kirk Passmore who died at Alligator Rock on November 12, 2014.
On 4 January 2012, Greg Long, Ian Walsh, Kohl Christensen, Jeff Rowley, Dave Wassel, Shane Dorian, Mark Healey, Carlos Burle, Nate Fletcher, Garrett McNamara, Kai Barger, North Shore locals and other of the best big-wave surfers in the world invaded the Hawaiian Islands for a historic day of surfing. Surfers had to catch and survive the wave at Jaws Peahi without the use of a jet ski.
Jeff Rowley made Australian history by being the first Australian to paddle into a 50-foot plus (15 metre) wave at Jaws Peahi, Hawaii, achieving his 'Charge for Charity' mission set for 2011, to raise money for Breast Cancer Australia.
On 30–31 January 2012, Jeff Rowley and a number of international big wave surfers including Greg Long, Shaun Walsh and Albee Layer spent two days paddle-surfing Jaws, on the Hawaiian island of Maui, as part of their ongoing big-wave paddle-in program at the deep-water reef, further cementing the new frontier of paddle-in surfing at Jaws.
On 12 March 2012, Jeff Rowley paddled into Mavericks Left, California, and became the first Australian to accomplish this task. Mavericks is traditionally known as a right-hander wave and Rowley pushed the boundaries of what was possible at the Mavericks Left hander, a task that wasn't without its challenges, requiring a vertical drop into the wave.
On 30 March 2012, Jeff Rowley was a finalist in the Billabong XXL Big Wave Awards 2011/2012, in the Ride of the Year category with his rides at Jaws Peahi in Maui, Hawaii on 30 January 2012, placing 4th place in the world of elite big wave surfers.
Big Wave Surfing Contest
The oldest and most prestigious big wave contest is the Eddie named after Oahu north shore Hawai'ian lifeguard Eddie Aikau. The competition window is between December 1 and the last day of February annually.
Another big wave surfing contest hosted by Red Bull is held at Jaws Peahi, with invitation of 21 of the best big wave surfers in the world. The waiting period for the contest is from 7 December to 15 March. Some of the known invitees to the contest include Jeff Rowley, Albee Layer, Greg Long, Shane Dorian, John John Florence, Kala Alexander.
Beginning in 1999, Mavericks has become a premier big wave contest. The first year's results were first place, Darryl Virostko ("Flea"); second place, Richard Schmidt (surfer); third place, Ross Clarke-Jones; and fourth place, Peter Mel.
Notable big wave surfing spots
- No Toes, New South Wales, Australia
- Dangerous Banks, Tasmania, Australia
- Pedra Branca, Tasmania, Australia
- Shipstern Bluff, Tasmania, Australia
- Cow Bombie, Western Australia, Australia
- Cyclops, Western Australia, Australia
- Tombstones, Western Australia, Australia
- Cortes Bank, California, USA
- Ghost Trees, California, USA
- Mavericks, California, USA
- The Wedge, California, USA
- Nelscott Reef, Oregon, USA
- Cloudbreak, Fiji
- Jaws/Peahi, Hawaii, USA
- Outside Avalanche, Hawaii, USA
- Phantoms, Hawaii, USA
- Pipeline, Hawaii, USA
- Sunset Beach, Hawaii, USA
- Waimea Bay, Hawaii, USA
- Teahupoo, Tahiti
- Cribbar aka The Widowmaker, Newquay, Cornwall, England
- Belharra, France
- Aileens, Cliffs of Moher, Co. Clare, Ireland
- Mullaghmore, Ireland
- Madeira, Portugal
- Nazaré, Portugal
- País Vásco, España
- El Buey, Arica, Chile
- Punta de Lobos, Chile
- Todos Santos, Baja, Mexico
- Puerto Escondido, Mexico
- Pico Alto, Punta Hermosa. Lima, Peru.
- Tres Palmas, Puerto Rico
Noted big wave surfers
- Laird Hamilton Hawaii
- Garrett McNamara Hawaii
- Brock Little USA
- Eddie Aikau Hawaii
- Ken Bradshaw Hawaii
- Jeff Clark USA
- Shane Dorian Hawaii
- Mark Foo Singapore
- Greg Noll USA
- Buzzy Trent Hawaii
- Jeff Rowley Australia
- Tom Carroll Australia
- Ross Clarke-Jones Australia
- Mike Parsons USA
- Bob Pike Australia
- Grant "Twiggy" Baker South Africa
- Dave Kalama Hawaii
- Malik Joyeux Tahiti
- Greg Long USA
- Koby Abberton Australia
- Maya Gabeira Brazil
- Mark Visser Australia
- Jay Moriarity USA
- Peter Mel USA
- Keala Kennelly Hawaii
- Kelly Slater Hawaii
- John John Florence Hawaii
- Mark Mathews Australia
- Ryan "Hippo" Hipwood Australia
- Mark Healey USA
Big wave surfing movies
- Hawaiian: The Legend of Eddie Aikau (2013)
- Storm Surfers 3D (2012)
- Chasing Mavericks (2012)
- Fighting Fear (2011)
- Ultimate Wave Tahiti 3D (2010)
- Waveriders (2008)
- Riding Giants (2004)
- In God's Hands (1998, fiction)
- Step Into Liquid (2003)
- Billabong Odyssey (2003)
- Point Break (1991)
- Ride the Wild Surf (1964, fiction)
- Surfing Hollow Days (1961)
- Warshaw, Matt. Mavericks: the story of big-wave surfing, Chronicle Books, ISBN 0-8118-2652-X
- Warshaw, Matt. "The Encyclopedia of Surfing." (2003).
- Jaws sees paddle-in surf madness | Garrett McNamara
- Npac Goes Xxl: Take Two | Surfline.Com
- Coastalwatch :: Reference :: Features :: Jeff Rowley first Aussie to paddle Jaws
- Big wave surf daredevil Jeff Rowley paddles in to conquer Hawaii's Jaws | Herald Sun
- In the jaws of the beast | Adelaide Now
- Wave Warrior (pbs.org)
- A selection of the worlds biggest surfing waves
- Google Map of the Topography of Giant Wave Zones