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The thrill of the big wave

Experienced surfers brave the big wave for the thrill of the sport and the risk that surfing affords them.
Experienced surfers brave the big wave for the thrill of the sport and the risk that surfing affords them.
Red Bulletin

It is the thrill of the waves, the rush of adrenaline. Surfing can take on a whole new meaning depending on the size of the wave and the experience of the surfer. Big wave, tow surfing is a water sport with much appeal for the daring and the surfer who is ready and able to take on that risk. So where do you find these massive waves that contribute to the excitement of the sport?

There is a nine-mile stretch of the two-lane Kamehameha Highway which is on the North Shore of Oahu. This notable location offers surfers some of the most gargantuan waves and the most heart-stopping surf spots found on this earth. Perhaps you may have read about the legendary Waimea Surf break or the reef break at Pipeline. The wonder boy of the Big Wave Surf community these days is American surfer, Greg Long, 30 years old, and absolutely fearless in the face of the waves. He has been known to ride waves that are 20 feet high.

Not far away from this area is the memorable island of Maui with another notorious spot, Peahi, which has come to be known as "Jaws". This is the location where swells that begin in Japan and Alaska's Aleutian Islands meet their first underwater resistance. In turn, this leads to 60 foot waves for only the most advanced surfer to attempt. Surfers of this caliber willing to take on the risk can be found in South Africa, Brazil and California.

From December to March this is where surfers like Brazilian Carlos Burle and Grant “Twiggy” Baker, from South Africa, journey to tackle the annual mega swells. Burle, 46, is a former big wave world record holder, after riding a 68-footer at Mavericks, off the Northern California coast; his record was broken in 2008. In 2012, the American Garrett McNamara set the current high-water mark: a 78-foot wave surfed at a recently discovered break at Praia do Norte, in Portugal. (In February of this year, English surfer Andrew Cotton rode a huge wave at the Portuguese break that is currently under world-record consideration.)

The sport received its name of Tow Surfing because jet skis have been used to tow the surfers in so that they can match the speed of the water on larger waves.

This is a water sport that is a true test of courage and skill. It is all about braving the challenge but sometimes we have to ask ourselves who will win, the surfer or the wave? The current paddle surf record is riding a 61 foot wave. It seems difficult to believe that anyone could surpass that.

To learn more about the sport of Big Wave Surfing and its diverse champions, check out the May edition of Red Bulletin.