“Waves are not measured in feet and inches, they are measured in increments of fear” Buzzy Trent
Surfers measure waves from the back so if the biggest wave of the day was 30 feet according to their measurements you will find that to the watchers on the other side of the wave, a surfer could be riding a wave that is sixty feet tall, the height of a six-story building.
CYCLOPS, Western Australia
This is mainland Australia’s heaviest wave. It is rarely surfed by tow-in and surfers tend to favour bodyboards as it breaks onto shallow rocks. It is a righthand wave which breaks on a coral reef. It is hollow, fast and powerful and ranks very highly in the ratings – “totally epic” is how I’ve heard it described!
SHIPSTERN’S BLUFF, Tasmania
Shipstern’s Bluff is a fast deep water extremely powerful reef break near Tasmania, South Australia which breaks onto huge boulers in freezing waters! It is an amazing wave if you can get there as it’s hard to find and you have about an hour and a half walk-in. Because of this and the cold water, menacing size and sharp reef there is never a crowd there. It is a right hand wave which is best at low tide. The best season is winter and the hazards are rocks and sharks! It is a wave for advanced surfers only.
The wave is named after rocks on the western edge of Towan Head and works when a low spring tide combines with a south-east wind within the Cribbar, a shallow reef off Fistral Beach. With 30-foot waves that are definitely not for the inexperienced, it is more similar to surf off Hawaii than North Cornwall. Surfers are towed by Jet Ski into the monster wave.
Only a few surfers actually dare ride the wave when it appears. According to local legend, three Australians first rode the highly dangerous wave in 1966. Looking more like a suicidal situation, only four surfers were brave enough to surf the Cribbar this year. Among them were three people from the UK and one South African.
The wave is a dream for surfers. Modern technology such as weather track systems and meteorological data allow surfers to make sure they do not miss the opportunity. “It’s a big thing in a surfer’s life. They make sure that they are fit and healthy for this moment so they can’t miss it when it comes,” says Tom Oliver, a spectator from the car park at Fistral Beach.
Local surfer Lee Hallam, 28, says ‘I have watched a few people try and surf it unsuccessfully. I have only recently seen one person who actually surfed it- a travelling South African, big wave surfer Chris Bertish. It is very powerful and if you make a mistake it could have disastrous consequences!’
The Cribbar is for the highly skilled, and otherwise should be left alone.
The best big wave riders will chase this Antarctic swell which steams towards south west Tahiti and the reef at Teahupoo, home to some of the most spectacular and dangerous waves ever faced by surfers. This wave is generated by open ocean swells hitting the coral atoll reef with Hawaiian type power. It is probably the heaviest wave in the world and it is certainly the thickest. It is a wave that has claimed lives and brought the great Laird Hamilton close to tears after an incredible ride.
Dungeons, Hout Bay
Dungeons combines an offshore rock reef with cold water, white sharks and massive swells which definitely puts it right up there with the world’s other most dangerous waves. Hout Bay, also known as “Dungeons” to the surfing community, is one of the sixteen recognised big wave spots around the globe. The annual Red Bull Big Wave Africa competition is held here. Swells of up to 47 feet have been recorded as well as numerous deaths as a result of shark attacks and surfing related incidents. The spot consists of various reefs. The most popular is called “2.5 “since it is 2.5 m deep. Behind it is “3.5”, which is 3.5 m deep. There is also a reef that is reputed to be able to hold a 100 ft high wave, should one ever come. Before the use of jetskis or charter boat (which is a 20-minute boat trip out) to enter and leave the area, the surfers who braved these waters had to paddle through a dark and deep channel, through to where the waves break.
One doesn’t really expect to find a big wave in Europe, but this one can hold its own with the best of them. Belharra is an outer reef situated 2km outside Saint Jean de Luz in the French Basque region. You need a boat or jetski to go there.
This is a wave for advanced surfers. The wave occurs on a rocky reef and breaks to the right and left. The bottom is coral and sharp rocks. It’s a very hollow, fast and powerful wave of about 50 – 150m length but on a good day can go from 150 – 300m. The swell direction comes from the northwest, west and southwest. Swell size starts at about 3.5m (12ft). In 2003, 2 local tow-in surfers surfed waves of 60ft. The wave only breaks on rare occasions (5 days a year maybe). It comes in on a deep ocean trench and unleashes its power on the reef. The general feeling is that no-one yet knows what size Belharra could go to.