Where there are waves, there are surfers, and die-hard riders have made it their prerogative to chase the biggest, gnarliest waves on the planet. While the rest of us are sitting comfortably in our houses, some watermen cheat death by throwing themselves at the mercy of hurricanes and melting glaciers.
It’s no secret that there are countless ways to surf. Each rider has his or her own distinctive style, and there’s really no wrong way to go about it as long as you are getting the most out of your surfing trip. For the majority, big wave surfing is the greatest aspiration. However, there are some who simply don’t find it thrilling enough anymore. These daredevils are not afraid to take a beating and, instead of doing things the old-fashioned way, they’ve taken a different approach. Through their insane and extreme ways of surfing waves, they are proving that nothing is impossible.
We all know what big wave surfing is, but do you know that big wave SUP surfing or big wave motocross surfing actually exist? If not, hold on tight and be prepared to be blown away as we take a look at the craziest feats in the world of surfing!
7. Hurricane surfing
Surfing during Hurricane Sandy – Photo credit: surfline.com
Daredevil surfers may just be the only people who will run towards the beach when a hurricane is nearing. While the rest of us may see them as threats, to some surfers, tropical storms mean one thing only: an awesome opportunity to surf insane waves. They are drawn to hurricanes like moths to a flame.
When the hurricane season hits the USA’s East Coast between August and December, the Atlantic fires some rad tubes and waves around 15 ft (4.5 m) and even taller. This is a great chance for local surfers to have a taste of the big surf that is usually found only in Hawaii and Tahiti.
In October 2016, surfers charged the massive waves created by Hurricane Matthew, which hit Florida’s coast as it came storming in from the Caribbean, wreaking havoc in its path. While millions were being evacuated in Florida, Georgia, North and South Carolina, kitesurfers saw a great opportunity to fling meters into the air, laughing in the face of danger.
6. Glacier surfing
Photo credit: carvemag.com
In August, 2007, daredevils Garrett McNamara and Keali’i Mamala became the first persons to surf a roaring tidal wave in the waters of south-central Alaska. The two spent 20 days in the freezing water waiting for a 300-foot (90 m) chuck of Child’s Glacier to come crashing into the water below. At any given moment, the glacier could have collapsed on them.
When the day finally came and the piece of glacier fell down into the Copper River near Cordova, Alaska, it produced a massive tidal wave. Garrett McNamara and Keali’i Mamala emerged from the churning water, one on his surfboard and the other on his jet ski.
Remember pro surfer Mick Fanning, three-time world champion and the guy who survived a shark attack at J-Bay, South Africa in 2015? In 2016, he decided to take some time off competition surfing and dodge icebergs instead. He traveled to the north of Canada, near the Arctic Circle, to catch some sweet glacial tidal waves. He waited for days in a row in the freezing water for chunks of the glacier to fall into the lake, which would form a unique swell.
5. Big wave motocross surfing
Photo credit: Robbie Madison
Walking on water? These days, that’s no incredible feat. After all, surfing and SUP offer just that. How about riding your motorcycle on water instead? Now, that’s something!
In the summer of 2015, daredevil Robbie Madison surfed the legendary waves of Tahupo’o and Papara in Tahiti on his motorcycle. He called his project the ‘Pipe Dream’, and it took Maddo more than two years to see his dream through. The greatest challenge was adapting his dirt bike to ride waves. His efforts eventually paid off, as he became the first person to ever ride a wave on a motorcycle.
Madison plans to continue to tinker with the design of his motorcycle, as he sees much room for improvement and is already planning some even crazier projects. Let’s wait and see what he has in store for us!
4. Big wave kayaking
Photo credit: surfkayakskills.com
Ocean kayaking is a wonderful way to expand your water sports horizons. Surf kayaking makes use of the same vessels used in whitewater kayaking, which means that the paddler can easily reach high speeds. Therefore, you don’t need big waves to go surf kayaking. Small surf, like the one on the US East Coast, should suffice.
That being said, there will always be those who seek a greater challenge and will push the limits of surf kayaking as far as possible. In 2012, whitewater kayaker and RedBull athlete Tao Berman saw his dream come to life – he surfed the gnarly waves at Nellscott Reef off the coast of Oregon in his kayak. After spending three years preparing, he was finally towed-in towards the over 40-foot (12-meter) waves, setting a new record for the biggest ocean wave ever kayaked.
3. Big wave kitesurfing
Jesse Richman kitesurfing Jaws – Photo credit: naishkites.com
So, you’ve mastered the art of kitesurfing and now you’d like to take on a bigger challenge. Worry not, there are plenty of big waves waiting. Kitesurfing in big waves, over 25-foot (7.5-meter) tall, does require some special equipment. The bigger the waves, the more weight you need on your board and the more you will need to increase the length of your line. Good depower, stability and the line drift are essential.
Kai Lenny kitesurfing Jaws – Photo credit: RedBull
In December 2015, Jesse Richman headed to the massive Jaws in Maui to catch some of the biggest barrels of his life with… his kite. The swell was pumping, waves were over 30 ft (9 m) tall and the wind was gushing. The conditions were perfect, and Jesse became the first person in history to get barreled while kitesurfing at Jaws.
Nazaré, Portugal is home to some of the biggest waves on the planet. Few dare to surf them, and only one guy managed to kitesurf them. In 2016, Nuno "STRU" Figueiredo, a local surfer from Portugal, became the first kitesurfer to ride the behemoth waves at Nazaré.
2. Big wave SUP surfing
Laird Hamilton SUP surfing – Photo credit: Pinterest
Stand-up paddling has a reputation as a leisurely water sport. Nevertheless, a growing number of pro surfers are ditching their surfboards in favor for their paddleboards. Over the last few years, SUP has become known as an awesome means to charge the biggest waves on the planet.
“The biggest paddle-in wave ever ridden will be caught by a standup paddle surfer. It’s inevitable,” says Laird Hamilton. The advocate of stand-up paddle boarding believes that SUP surfing allows people to tackle waves in any given conditions, no matter how far from the shore.
Laird Hamilton SUP surfing Tehupo’o – Photo credit: lairdhamilton.com
Famous big wave surfers like Lai Lenny, Mo Freitas, Keali’i Mamala, Jamie Mitchell, Connor Baxter and badass female surfer Andrea Moller take up mammoth waves over 35 feet (10 meters) in size on their stand-up paddle boards. Their undisputable favorite SUP surfing spot is Maui’s very own Jaws, also known as Pe’ahi. But they are chasing massive waves throughout the world, with Mexico, Oregon, Oahu and California’s Mavericks being on top of their itinerary.
1. Big wave windsurfing
Jason Polakow windsurfing Jaws – Photo credit: Jason Polakow
Before big-wave surfers began to tackle it, the mega-wave at Jaws on the North Coast of Maui was surfed by windsurfers like Dave Kalama and Laird Hamilton. In 2016, Aussie windsurfer Jason Polakow joined the club and rode the infamous Jaws in Hawaii in 2011. He even had a nasty wipeout while at it. In fact, he is the only surfer in the world to have experienced being underwater at Jaws for that long. Let’s just say he’s lucky to have survived.
Tahupo’o in Tahiti, also known as Chopes, is considered the world’s most famous wave. It is also insanely dangerous. The name itself means something in the lines of ‘to sever the head.’ And guess what? It has been windsurfed by the same Jason Polakow.
Jason Polakow windsurfing Nazaré – Photo credit: Jorge Leal / Red Bull Content Pool
Actually, the two-time windsurfing world champion and all-around waterman Jason Polakow is determined to windsurf the world’s biggest waves. So far, he seems to be on the right track. In 2016, Jason became the first person to windsurf the towering waves at Nazaré, Portugal. Jason spent two years preparing for the 43-foot (13-meter) that remains the tallest ever to be windsurfed.
Let us not forget Pedra Blanca, an offshore monster deep in the Tasmanian Ocean. This behemoth has been ridden by only a handful of surfers. Among them, Australian pro surfer Alastair McLeod was the first and so far only one to windsurf this man-eater.
Are you ready to take your surfing to the next level? Now you have some ideas to get you started. Go to BookSurfCamps.com, choose your next wave surfing destination and get creative!