“To surf big waves, it takes a very unique individual.”
A big wave surfer, is someone who lives quite literally on the edge of life. Many attributes go into the character of such a person. Eccentric, esoteric, eclectic, no words can describe the big wave surfer. One thing is for sure: big wave surfers are definitely a breed of their own.
If you are seriously interested in riding big waves, then you will be joining one of the most exclusive clubs in the world. Owning an eleven foot gun does not get you membership into this club, but you do receive an application. To be one of the few, the proud, the fearless, you must take that first “balls in your stomach” drop. I’d say your first twenty-foot drop could achieve this rare medical phenomenon fairly easily. Big wave surfers go where no other creatures, let alone humans, have ever been. The only way to experience something like the awesome, unleashed, and totally raw power of an ocean wave is to ride it. More people have been in outer space than have ridden thirty-foot waves.
For those of you interested in joining the club, I would like to offer the following tips:
- Equipment. Get the biggest surfboard you can. Usually a surfboard around 11 feet will paddle you into any size wave, anywhere in the world. Whatever the board you pick, it must be big enough to achieve a good paddle speed. This is to not only minimize your risk of being caught inside, but a fast board will allow you to catch the biggest possible wave. Ten-foot boards with extra thickness can also be very useful.
- Buddy System. It’s best to surf with your amigos. In this case all big wave surfers are your amigos! Know where your brothers are at all times. If you are surfing alone, always remember that the ocean is your friend and that God is always with you.
- Water Safety. Learn CPR. If we all learn this, not only are we surfers, but lifesavers too. We all have to look out for each other, basic first aid and simply being alert will minimize the threat of injury or even worse.
- State of Mind. Always go out with a super positive attitude. Your mind should be clear, calm, and focused. Your only job is to catch the biggest wave you can, and drop in as deep as you can. You’re out there to ride huge waves, not small shoulders. So go big.
- Awareness. Keep your eyes open. Always be scanning the horizon for giant rogue waves that will come in and surprise you. A rogue wave is a wave that doubles up with another and becomes a super wave twice the size of the largest wave of the day! That’s the one you want to ride, and for sure the one you don’t want to get caught inside by.
- Safety Devices. Holding your breath for a long time can help build your confidence. A lot of underwater free diving will help you out here. Always stay relaxed, no matter how hard your getting pounded. Nowadays there are very good underwater breathing devices or “spare air.” I would not recommend depending on these, but it wouldn’t hurt to have a back-up air supply with you. A swim fin stuffed in your wetsuit is also useful in case you end up swimming back to shore without a board.
- Commitment. Once you have the wave, take a few extra paddles, and I mean put some power into your paddle. Cheyne Horan once told me about a very powerful day at Waimea Bay where a surfer had dropped all the way down the face of this wave, but the wave had so much water moving up it so rapidly, that the surfer actually got sucked back up the face of the wave backwards while still standing. So take it from me, paddle extra hard and be committed to the wave!
- Bailout. A good bailout procedure is to dive down feet first using your arms to propel you down. First, your head will be closer to the surface by about six feet (closer to air). Second, your feet will be closer to the reef instead of your head in case the turbulence bangs you into the reef. I have hit the bottom at spots that were considered deep, like Waimea. Although there are several different types surfers employ. The important thing is to have a plan when the big sets come.
- Pride. Yellow trunks will help you hide your dribble, in case you pee your pants
- Desire. You have to actually, truly, and honestly really want it. If in the bottom of your heart, you truly love riding big waves, then this actually covers all tips.