Raglan, New Zealand’s Surf Mecca, my Home Spot in the North Island of Aotearoa (New Zealand in Maori language) for about 9 months.
I find myself at the “Food Department”, an Italian fast food, the workplace of most of my friends in town. We’re all there to discuss the surf from the day before, it’s been one of the biggest days of the year.
At that moment in the Food Department, there is also a visiting Italian girl who is in New Zealand for a yoga course (9 out of 10 girls that you would meet at a surf spot do Yoga, half them are teachers. Author’s note). She hears us talking excitedly about the surf of the day before, so she asks:
“How big was it yesterday?”
I think I will keep it a little low, in order not to sound like am exaggerating, so I go like:
“Mh, probably about 3 meters…”
At this point she explodes:
“Three meters?! … Do you know what you’re saying?… Do you even realize??? … “Do you know what 3 Meters are like?” … Come on, 3 meters is as high as the ceiling of this room!!! .…”
My friend Mingo, who is working behind the coffee machine, with a calm voice and his usual phlegm, while continuing to work responds:
“Then, I reckon it was bigger“.
Riding Giants: BIG Wave Surfing
I read in a book, that every surfer is guilty of having exaggerated at least once, in his tales, the size of the waves he rode. I agree with that.
However, it should be noted that size is not the only parameter to consider when evaluating a wave. Just like the slopes of the mountains for freeriders, the greatest difficulty is not the size of the surface you’re descending from but the verticality, plus the suction generated by the wave itself. Riding on a 3mt+ wave with soft form (called “Fat“) can be much easier than on a 2mt wave with very powerful and/or deep form. But apart from the form, you will definitely notice all that mass of moving water! Especially if you have to trespass it with the technique of “duck diving“.
In any case, 3 or even 4 meters are nothing. The real “Big Wave Surfing” starts from waves of at least the double of that size up to 20+ meters, often surfed with the help of Jet Skis towing the surfer in the wave (practice named “tow-in“). Surfing these giant waves requires serious preparation and is attainable only by well-trained athletes who also prepares for apneas.
Some legendary spots for giant waves are “Teahupoo” in Tahiti, “Shipstern Bluff” in Tasmania, “Mavericks” in California and “Jaws” in Hawaii.
The current record of 35 meters, a wave called “Big Mama”, ridden in January 2018 by the Portuguese Hugo Vau at the infamous spot of Nazarè, Portugal, is still to be validated.
Validated record or not, judge by yourself by watching the video…
Do You Want More?
If you are fascinated by Big Wave Surfing and Giant waves, I recommend the movie “Riding Giants” by Stacy Peralta (skateboarding legend), and the book “Force of Nature” by Laird Hamilton, Tow-in pioneer. In the book, he talks about his beginnings, training routines, injuries, reflections, and includes some interviews with the members of the team that assists and prepares him (they are not few!).
Maybe size does matter, but 3 meters doesn’t seem so huge all of a sudden…
We Talked about:
"Riding Giants" di Stacy Peralta "Force of Nature"di Laird Hamilton
Credits: Cover pic by Sara Guix