surfing wave

surfing waveSeri­ous wave rid­ers are often look­ing for ways to push the lim­its, but some­times there are waves too big for even the best to han­dle. Leg­endary surf spots from Cal­i­for­nia to Aus­tralia con­tain waves that reach upward of 60 feet, though don’t expect to be able to ride them. These pow­er­ful bar­rel rolls will wipe even the great­est off their boards. Pad­dle out at your own risk.

Mav­er­icks, California
At 30+ feet, Mav­er­icks isn’t the largest wave on the list, but it’s earned a rep­u­ta­tion for being one of the most dan­ger­ous. Break­ing a mile out from the shore, the right-han­der is thick and incred­i­bly fast and breaks smack in the mid­dle of some of the Pacific’s most tem­pes­tu­ous waters. Toss in the fact that the area is a haven for sharks and the cold tem­per­a­tures can eas­i­ly throw off your con­cen­tra­tion and you have your­self a recipe for dis­as­ter. Mav­er­icks, named after pooch who tried to surf the wave him­self, has already claimed the lives of two famous Hawai­ian surfers.

Ship­stern Bluff, Tas­ma­nia, Australia
For­mer­ly named (and per­haps more apt­ly) Devil’s Point, Ship­stern Bluff is a mon­strous behe­moth chal­lenged only by those who aren’t afraid to look Death straight in the eye. Even then, the chances of liv­ing to tell about it are prob­a­bly slim­mer than the like­li­hood of slid­ing face-first into the crag­gy rocks after a sud­den cross-chop.

Nes­tled in the south­east cor­ner of Tas­ma­nia, the bru­tal con­di­tions here are the result of the penin­su­la absorb­ing storm sys­tems of the “furi­ous 50s”, strong air cur­rents blow­ing in from the South Pole. The 30+ foot wave here is infa­mous for its “stair steps,” when the ocean draws water off the reef and the wave bends in the shape of the sea floor, which have been known to lob the best surfers from their boards. The sub-freez­ing waters cer­tain­ly don’t help matters.

Agi­ti, Spain
Though rarely seen, Agi­ti is a force to be reck­oned with when the stars align and the con­di­tions are just right to cre­ate one of the biggest swells off the coast of Europe. Big-wave surfer Asi­er Muni­ain is thought to have dis­cov­ered Agi­ti in the Bay of Bis­cay after a decade of surf­ing the area. The bay is only 200 meters wide and the waves break into a swath of enor­mous boul­ders, mak­ing surf­ing here a risky propo­si­tion. Catch­ing a wave here will be tough, with the swells only turn­ing big enough to start break­ing a hand­ful of times each year. The rocky head­lands make the area prime for ship­wrecks, so ride at your own risk.

Peʻahi, Maui
Pe’ahi, or Jaws, was once pre­dom­i­nate­ly known as a pre­mier wind­surf­ing des­ti­na­tion before the likes of Laird Hamil­ton and Dave Kala­ma got ahold of it. Dur­ing the bur­geon­ing tow-in move­ment of the late 90s they dis­cov­ered the occa­sion­al­ly 60-foot wave here was ripe for surf­ing. The loom­ing cliffs over­head and sheer veloc­i­ty of the wave make it a tricky sit­u­a­tion for even the sea­soned vets, but many surfers actu­al­ly found tow­ing in to be too safe for such an epic break. Nowa­days you’ll find plen­ty of surfers pad­dling out the chal­lenge this beast.

Cortes Bank, Pacif­ic Ocean
One hun­dred miles off the coast of Cal­i­for­nia lies one of the most fero­cious and moun­tain­ous waves on Earth—Cortes Bank. It’s believed to hold the largest sur­fa­ble wave in the world, reg­u­lar­ly spew­ing out swells that cre­ate waves too gar­gan­tu­an to even attempt. When the wave does reach a rea­son­able height, say 70 feet, surfers must con­tend with some of the most pow­er­ful and shark-laden breaks around. Com­bine that with the ship­wrecks still lying just below the sur­face and you have your­self an under­wa­ter play­ground of sharp teeth, rusty re-bar, and sub-freez­ing tem­per­a­tures with no land mass, or safe­ty, in sight.

Mav­er­icks, in North­ern Cal­i­for­nia, is a rel­a­tive new­com­er to the big wave surf­ing scene. Three surfers first attempt­ed the break in 1961 with a white-haired Ger­man Shep­ard named Mav­er­ick that wouldn’t stay put on the shore. The surfers had lim­it­ed suc­cess, and by all accounts, Mav­er­ick had the most fun that day. It would be more than a decade before Jeff Clark, a 17-year-old high school stu­dent in Half Moon Bay, became the first per­son to suc­cess­ful­ly ride the 20-foot waves.

The break remained a secret for the next 15 years.

It wasn’t until 1990, when Clark’s friend pub­lished a pho­to in Surfer mag­a­zine that the surf­ing com­mu­ni­ty tru­ly noticed. It was like find­ing Pipeline or Jaws, leg­endary Hawai­ian surf breaks, right in their own back­yard. But there was a catch; a very good rea­son why no one was surf­ing there.

In 2007, NOAA released maps of the sea floor at Mav­er­icks. They show a long, slop­ing ramp of ocean­ic crust that ris­es from the depths toward shore. Surfers call this ramp “The Thumb,” and there are numer­ous shelves of rock on it. Pow­er­ful win­ter swells gen­er­at­ed from mid-Pacif­ic storms ride The Thumb as the first point of con­tact with land and then explode with tremen­dous force upon the reef, near­ly two miles offshore.

It’s a very dan­ger­ous place to wipe­out. As leg­endary surfers began flock­ing to Mav­er­icks through­out the 90s they began to learn that the hold downs could be par­tic­u­lar­ly long and bru­tal. Mark Foo’s trag­ic, and untime­ly death in 1994 high­light­ed the extreme dan­ger of get­ting pinned among the under­wa­ter rocks, but even still, the surf break’s rep­u­ta­tion grew.

Now it has reached super­star sta­tus with a cameo in the surf doc­u­men­tary Rid­ing Giants in 2004, a Hol­ly­wood biopic called Chas­ing Mav­er­icks, and it plays host to the infa­mous Mav­er­icks Invi­ta­tion­al surf com­pe­ti­tion that kicks off this week.

Dur­ing the com­pe­ti­tion, you can watch live-stream­ing footage here.

Despite not win­ning a sin­gle com­pe­ti­tion dur­ing the fourth sea­son of the Big Wave World Tour, Greg Long has been crowned as the world champ.

Long won the title by turn­ing in sol­id per­for­mances in every event, fin­ish­ing 2nd in Oregon’s Nelscott Reef Big Wave Clas­sic, 3rd place at Mav­er­icks, and 2nd at the Pico Alto event in Peru.

To get a taste for what the world champ is capa­ble of, take a look at this video as he rips up Jaws on the North Shore of Maui.

Con­grats Greg!

[via iner­tia]