Big wave surfing
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 surfingEdit
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 to 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.
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 18 January 2010, Danilo Couto and Marcio Freire became the first to surf Jaws Peahi paddling, surfing the wave to the left side. They did not have jetski support and used only their shorts and their surfboards. They were the only ones to surf Jaws paddling until 4 January 2012, when it was surfed to the right side for the first time.
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, on the north shore of Maui, 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 ContestEdit
The oldest and most prestigious big wave contest is the Eddie named after Oahu north shore Hawai'ian lifeguard and surfer 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, Kai Lenny, Ian Walsh.
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.
Beginning in 2014-5, the World Surf League (WSL) has sanctioned the Big Wave World Tour (BWWT). On February 28, 2015, Makua Rothman became the first WSL BWWT Champion with 20,833 points outscoring the runner up, Gabriel Villaran of Peru, by almost 7,000 points.
On November 11, 2016, Paige Alms of Maui was crowned the first women's big wave surfing champion at Jaws on Maui during the Pe'ahi Women's Challenge which was part of the Women's Big Wave Tour #1 held Oct 15 - Nov 11, 2016, at Haiku, Hawaii. This was the first big wave surfing contest ever held for women. The results were in first place Paige Alms (Hawaii), second place Justine Dupont (France), third place Felicity Palmateer (Australia), and tied for fourth place Keala Kennelly (Hawaii), Emily Erickson (Hawaii), and Laura Enever (Australia).
Big Wave Surfing AwardsEdit
Since 2005, the world's best big wave surfers gather in "Surf City" Huntington Beach, California for the annual World Surf League (WSL) Big Wave Awards hosted by surfer Strider Wastlewski. The gala ceremony is currently held at the Pasea Hotel and Spa and nominated surfers are awarded for their greatest rides of the past year and the big wave community is celebrated.
The event raises the bar every year with $350,000 in prize money allotted across seven categories:
- "XXL Biggest Wave"
- "Biggest Paddle Wave"
- "Tube of the Year"
- "Best Overall Performance"
- "Women's Performance"
- "Wipeout Award"
- "Ride of the Year".
WSL Big Wave Championship Tour championsEdit
WSL Big Wave Championship Tour champions
|Year||WSL Men's Big Wave Tour||WSL Women's Big Wave Tour|
|2017||Billy Kemper (HAW)||27,140||Paige Alms (HAW)||10,000|
|2016||Grant Baker (ZAF)||25,018||Paige Alms (HAW)||12,500|
|2015||Greg Long (USA)||21,266|
|2014||Makuakai Rothman (HAW)||20,833|
|2013||Grant Baker (ZAF)||2,459|
|2012||Greg Long (USA)||2,155|
|2011||Peter Mel (USA)||1,472|
|2010||Jamie Sterling (HAW)||2,509|
|2009||Carlos Burle (BRA)||2,443|
Notable big wave surfing spotsEdit
- 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
- The Right, Western Australia, Australia
United States (Mainland)Edit
- Cortes Bank, California, United States
- Ghost Trees, California, United States
- Mavericks, California, United States
- The Wedge, California, United States
- Nelscott Reef, Oregon, USA
- Cloudbreak, Fiji
- Jaws/Peahi, Hawaii, United States
- Pipeline, Hawaii, United States
- Sunset Beach, Hawaii, United States
- Waimea Bay, Hawaii, United States
- Teahupoo, Tahiti, France
- Cribbar, Newquay, Cornwall, England
- Belharra, France
- Aileens, Cliffs of Moher, Co. Clare, Ireland
- Mullaghmore, Ireland
- Madeira, Portugal
- Nazaré, Portugal
- Punta Galea between Getxo and Sopelana, Spain
- Aizpurupe near Zarautz, Gipuzkoa, País Vasco, Spain
- El Buey, Arica, Chile
- Punta de Lobos, Chile
- Puerto Escondido, Mexico
- Todos Santos, Baja, Mexico
- Pico Alto, Punta Hermosa, Lima, Peru
Notable big wave surfersEdit
- Koby Abberton Australia
- Eddie Aikau Hawaii
- Kala Alexander Hawaii
- Grant "Twiggy" Baker South Africa
- Ken Bradshaw Hawaii
- Tom Carroll Australia
- Jeff Clark USA
- Ross Clarke-Jones Australia
- Andrew Cotton UK
- Shane Dorian Hawaii
- John John Florence Hawaii
- Jérémy Florès France
- Mark Foo Singapore
- Maya Gabeira Brazil
- Laird Hamilton Hawaii
- Mike Hickman UK
- Malik Joyeux Tahiti, France
- Dave Kalama Hawaii
- Keala Kennelly Hawaii
- Kai Lenny Hawaii
- Greg Long USA
- Mark Mathews Australia
- Garrett McNamara Hawaii
- Peter Mel USA
- Jay Moriarity USA
- Greg Noll USA
- Jamie O'Brien Hawaii
- Felicity Palmateer Australia
- Mike Parsons USA
- Bob Pike Australia
- Makua Rothman Hawaii
- Jeff Rowley Australia
- Will Skudin New York
- Kelly Slater USA
- Buzzy Trent Hawaii
- Mark Visser Australia
Big wave surfing moviesEdit
- Distance between Dreams (2016)
- Point Break (2015 remake, fiction)
- View from a Blue Moon (2015)
- Hawaiian: The Legend of Eddie Aikau (2013)
- Storm Surfers 3D (2012)
- Chasing Mavericks (2012, biographical drama film)
- Fighting Fear (2011)
- Waveriders (2008)
- Pipeline (2007)
- Riding Giants (2004)
- Step Into Liquid (2003)
- Die Another Day (2002, fiction)
- Strapped (2002)
- Laird (2002)
- In God's Hands (1998, fiction)
- Point Break (1991, fiction)
- Big Wednesday (1978)
- Ride the Wild Surf (1964, fiction)
- Surfing Hollow Days (1961)
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