5 Facts On How to Learn Riding Giant Waves and Where To Find Them

Remember the end of the legendary Point Break: Ride The Wave?

Storm, salty splashes of waves, sobbing bandit Patrick Swayze begs police officer Keanu Reeves to let him go to a wave of dreams as high as a house.Point Break: Ride The Wave

Each of us would like to be in their place at least once, to conquer a big  wall of water and a raging element… And this is possible.

In our material – 5 facts about how to ride big waves.

Patrick Swayze and Keanu Reeves

Hero Patrick Swayze knowingly shed tears in front of the police.

To ride the storm, you need to wait for it first, but oh, how slow. The spots to which giant swells come once a year can be counted on one hand.

Let’s name the main ones: Teahupu in Tahiti, Nazarre in Portugal, Mavericks in California, Jaws in Hawaii, Sipsterns Bluff in Tasmania.

Surfriders “wait by the sea to the weather,” keeping an eye on weather sites to the slightest sign of a storm. The pursuit of the possessed is described in detail in last year’s film “Slaughter Surfers”.

big wave surfing in 2019

Once you’ve arrived at the spot with the perfect storm, your job is to catch the coveted big wave.

You can swim on it in two ways: on your own on a long narrow board up to 3 m (it is called “gan”) or with the help of a jet ski on a short board.

The surface of large waves is bumpy, so the board must be heavy so it will keep the rider on unevenness at high speed.

By the way, the speed record in the world of riding belongs to Mick Fanning: the Australian has developed a speed of 39.1 km / h in the town of Snapper Rocks.

Mick Fanning
Mick Fanning

The only thing that can save you on a big wave in the event of a fall is a life jacket or an extra-long durable leash (for gun fans), along which you will get to the surface after the board.

It is easy to ride a gentle wave, but after falling, the underwater “meat grinder” can hold it underwater for up to 40 seconds.

You can survive in this hell to claustrophobes if, after training your lungs, you can relax and not resist the big washing machine – when it dies down, it is time to make your way to the light.

The big wave in the shape of a pipe will not be so friendly to you – just a few seconds underwater in exchange for hitting the reef / bottom or meeting the skull with your own board.

big wave

Oddly enough, they die on such waves much less often than on ordinary Balinese spots.

“It is because only professionals ride such monsters,” you say, and you will be right, but only in part.

Such skiing does not require special professionalism, it is important to catch the wave and stay stable on your feet, in comparison with the usual tricks of surfriders, it is a kindergarten.

In the face of a wall, which sometimes reaches 30 meters in height, it is very important not to lose self-control – and therefore this must definitely be a professional who is well familiar with the treachery of the ocean.

So they do not die here often, rather because the conquerors of big waves in general are few and they are unfamiliar with fear.

Surfriders aren’t the only ones chasing storms around the world. Windsurfers and kiters, e.g., expect not so much the waves as the terrible gusts of wind brought by the storm.

There is even a world series of Red Bull called Storm Chase, where riders, judging by the videos and pictures, regularly try to windsurf to the moon.

These people are not often found on the beach, at least when there are no barriers and signs foreshadowing a storm, and rescuers do not run around with loudspeakers and do not repeat the memorized: “Everyone get out of the water, a storm is coming!”

Do not try to repeat this at home

The classic phrase “Do not try to repeat this at home” does not work here: the big wave comes to many of us only in a dream.

If you suddenly seriously decide to take up the pursuit of the storm, know: before successfully ride the storm, you will have many years of training.

Bigwave riding is a separate area in which success is measured by other criteria compared to conventional surfing.

Surfrider’s tricks fade into the background, and the first place is given to the wave itself, or rather, its size.

Since 2011, world records to the biggest wave have been set on the same spot, and if you ask why, the answer is: Nazaré is the only spot in the world with 30-meter waves suitable to ride.


Nazaré, Portugal
Nazaré, Portugal

In fact, the Nazare spot has been known to surfriders since the middle of the last century, but they rode here only on the “smallest” waves close to the shore.

In general, until about 1990, waves over 6 meters were considered not particularly suitable to ride. Bodyboarders were the first to ride the big waves of Nazare, and since 2003, annual competitions in this sport have been held here.

In 2010, Dino Casimiro, just one of those who regularly rode a bodyboard on Nazar, invited the Hawaiian bigwave surfer Garrett McNamar to his home spot. And then it began.

The world record for the largest wave taken is held by a Brazilian named Rodrigo Koxa: On November 8, 2017, he rode a 24.38 m (80 ft) wave on Nazaré. This is half a meter more than Garrett McNamara’s previous record set on November 11, 2011: a wave of 23.8 meters (78 feet).

Koxa not only got into the Guinness Book of Records, he did what everyone had been waiting for so long.

For six years, many bigwave surfers, including Garrett himself, have attempted to break the previous record.

The fact is that it is rather problematic to fix and accurately measure the size of the wave. A whole panel of judges does this, and, you will be surprised, but with a ruler based on photography.

Knowing the exact height of each surfer can fairly accurately determine his height when he is standing on the board. Well, then the wave height is calculated in surfers and converted into meters and feet.

WSL XXL Biggest Wave Award

In addition, according to the WSL XXL Biggest Wave Award rules, the surfer must travel a “significant part” of the wave, and many attempts to break the record ended in a premature fall (and fierce mixing!).

Among the “not counted” attempts for one reason or another were the following:

  1. On October 28, 2013, Brazilian surfer Carlos Burle successfully rode the largest wave of the day, estimated by jet drivers at 30.5 meters (100 feet). Due to the difficulties with shooting and fixing the height, this record remains unofficial.
  2. In January 2014, Andrew Cotton, a surfer from the UK, launched a wave on Nazar, which is estimated to be 24.3 meters (80 feet) high, but did not complete it.
  3. On December 11, 2014, Benjamin Sanchis, a bigwever from France, almost drove a wave of 33 meters (108 feet), he did not receive the XXL prize, because he still fell, and he was not included in the Guinness Book of Records just because his passage was not properly recorded.

It can be assumed that such an extreme bigwave is a purely masculine business, but no, there are girls who ride big tides.

The record to the largest wave among women belongs to the surfer from Brazil Maya Gabeira. On January 18, 2018, she rode a wave of 20.72 meters (68 feet).

Finally, her attempt was recorded and credited, because the Maya fought to a place on the podium for a long time.

Moreover, on October 28, 2013, she almost died. On that day, she kicked off a 24-meter (80-foot) wave, which would have been an all-time record to women, but ended up in a very hard wipeout and ended up going to the hospital with a broken ankle.

And in 2019, Nazare also went down in the history of Russian women’s surfing – on February 24, Irina Kosobukina rode this spot. Of course, the waves that day were not so huge, but this is just the beginning!

Giant Wave, Nazare, Portugal

Surfers owe their ability to ride such huge waves due to the presence of jets. It is technically impossible to get your hands on such a wave, which I will clearly show further.

Nevertheless, on “small” Nazar, when the waves are 8-10 meters, they ride on 11-foot guns.

Moreover, in 2016 WSL included Nazaré in the Big Wave Tour, in addition to Portugal, it includes the Mexican beach break Puerto Escondido, the Californian spot Maverics and the legendary Hawaiian Pe’ahi (or Jaws).

Today Nazaré is experiencing a real boom. For bigwevers from all over the world, its 30-meter giants are Everest, which they want to conquer no matter what.

Surfers and operators are nervously waiting for the strongest storms to try their luck, because this promises them not only world fame, but also a good cash prize: $ 125,000 for a surfer and $ 13,000 for a videographer for Ride of the year!

By the way, there is also an incentive prize for the most fierce wipeouts: $ 5,000 for a surfer and $ 2,000 for an operator.

Andrei Karr and Andrei Ovchinnikov
Andrei Karr and Andrei Dolph Ovchinnikov

Surfers from Russia have not stood aside to a long time: since the 2016/2017 season, the first Russian bigwavers Andrei Karr and Andrei Dolph Ovchinnikov spend the winter months not in the warm Indian Ocean, but on the Atlantic coast.

I highly advise you to subscribe to their Monster.Wave project and get the news firsthand.

In general, the guys in every possible way support the development of bigwave among Russian surfers, therefore they help those who are ready mentally and physically to start their acquaintance with Nazare.

So, Fyodor Kuzovlev, Sergey Mysovsky, Ira Kosobukina have already caught their big waves with them, and I believe that the list will grow over the years!


Now comes the fun part. Nazare is the only spot in the world that produces katabatic waves with a height of more than 30 meters.

But why? How do they get so big? It turns out that the answer is hidden at the bottom of the sea.

The ocean floor is as diverse as the land surface, there are mountains and depressions, ridges and canyons.

Usually the shallow reaches the continent gradually, but Portugal is the only place in the world where a deep underwater canyon stretches all the way to the coast.

A sharp drop in depth from 2700 to only 50 meters occurs literally at the very bay.

This canyon plays the role of a kind of “pipeline” to water: over the continental plate in the coastal zone, the swell waves begin to slow down and grow, and along the depth of the depression they continue to move at the same speed, eventually changing their direction.

Nazaré canyon

Then, bumping into a vertical wall, they also slow down and grow, but at an angle to their original direction.

As a result, the waves interfere, that is, they add up, growing almost twice as much as they could have been without the canyon.

In addition, water from a strong current along the coast is added here, it is sucked in from the north side, and as a result, the wave collected from these three sources begins to collapse when it reaches a depth approximately equal to its height.

ride the giant tide in portugal

Now a little about why the biggest waves on Nazar cannot be cleared out with your hands.

Usually, everyone is looking at the spot from the shore or from the lighthouse, and due to the distorted perspective, the wave seems almost vertical. But in fact, the crest never hangs over the base of the wave, Nazare is a huge mountain, and the more swells, the more flat it is.

Of course, up to the critical point, when the wave begins to break, a huge mass of water falls and rolls down this mountain with powerful foam, catching up with the surfer.

So, the moment when you can get on a wave, in the case of giants of 15-20 meters, it comes too late, you won’t have time to get away from the avalanche.

So, on the largest waves of Nazare you can ride only by accelerating after the jet. And Surfing on Nazare is no longer a selfish occupation of one person, it is a whole team work.

When it comes to surfing at moderately large waves (about 15 meters), the team consists of two or three people: one jet with a driver who takes the surfer to the lineup and accelerates it to the waves, and sometimes a third person with a walkie-talkie on the shore, for safety reasons.

Each driver of each jet has radio sets, and they are all tuned to the same frequency.

Once again, you should not chat on them, and when someone rides along the wave, it is customary to remain silent. Because if a surfer falls, his partner reports it over the radio, and all jet drivers leave their surfers in a safe area and start looking for the one who fell.

big wave surfer

When it comes to world records, the preparation is much more serious.

E.g., in Garrett McNamar’s team, he is assisted by three jets: one accelerates him to the wave, the second jet insures from below in case the surfer falls, and the third insures the other two jet drivers if they accidentally fall into a batch.

According to Garrett, these measures are not at all unnecessary: ​​“Of course, all this safety net and technical devices in surfing on big waves is a kind of cheating.

And in principle you can do without them, but in this case the chances of dying are much higher.

As for me personally, since I had a wife and children, I feel more responsibility to them and fear for my life, so I go to all the technical tricks in order to most likely return home alive. ”



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