In California, the slope of the wave is more gentle, thanks to the gradient of the seabed to the shore. In this part of Hawaii, the waves form on such deep water that when they reach the shallow reefs near the shore, they tower right up and create a ledge at the crest.
It's like jumping off a 20ft building without a safety net Mastering the ledge takes real expertise. You need to analyze the wave’s approach then, at precisely the right moment, paddle furiously to get over the top.
One day, they bumped into him on dry land, and he barely recognized them. So when everyone lines up in the water, jockeying for position as the wave approaches, they’d furiously paddle out of the way for fear of being wiped out by him.
What was interesting, in the decades I’ve spent shooting surf culture, is how few people get killed. That’s remarkable when you think about the force of the waves and the risks you’re taking.
You wait for hours, analyzing the waves, getting to know the surfers, predicting who’s going to make it and who’s going to wipe out, because you have maybe one or two seconds to get the shot. When I started out, film was $10 a roll, and you had to wait up to a week to see the finished shots.
Spending years in the blazing sun takes its toll: I’ve had multiple skin cancers. Photograph: Julien Routine Born : La Jolla, California, 1950.
High point : “A yacht trip to the Mental islands off Sumatra, Indonesia, in 1996 with a group of the best surfers in the world. Low point : “Numerous skin cancer surgeries from sun damage.
Being held down under the waves for much longer than you might like can be traumatizing, and can question your entire commitment to surfing. A bad wipe out can lead to injuries, collisions, broken boards or worse.
Wipe outs happen in a variety of waves and for a great number of reasons. And if you’re just learning to surf, and you get wiped out on your first sessions, that can really put a damper on your holiday.
Make sure you are aware of the location of razor-sharp reefs, underwater rocks, rip currents. If there’s a sharp reef, you must be careful of the edges and cracks that might catch your ankle.
Take some time to observe a few sets of waves and take in the ocean’s rhythm. Keep your eyes open when you surf so that you are aware of their position at all times.
If your board breaks, the jagged edges and exposed fiberglass might injure you. Losing your consciousness : if you hit the bottom head first, you might become unconscious or even paralyzed, all while being held underwater.
In 2013, badass big wave surfer Maya Gadara nearly drowned in one of the most devastating wipe outs ever witnessed at Nature. However, there are still patrolled surf beaches in the world and, although it rarely happens, surfers still lose their lives drowning.
In many situations, there’s really no way to avoid getting wiped out, especially when you’re surfing a shallow break. All you can do is to protect your face with your hands and tuck into a fetal position.
If you jump as you would in deep water, you might hit the bottom and sprain an ankle or cut yourself in the reef. The best way to enter the water when you know you’re about to get wiped out is by going butt first like you would in a cannonball jump.
By bending your legs, you are minimizing the chances of hitting the bottom and spraining an ankle. Still, our head is the most fragile and important part of our body, and we must do everything we can to protect it.
Your body consumes more oxygen when under stress, which means you’ll have fewer resources when trapped under the waves. Being relaxed, even when trapped underwater, will help you retain your air supply for longer.
Needless to say, you should assess the bottom before entering the water so that you know what to expect. I’m sure you’ll want to get back up as quickly as possible, but your board might be lying just above you.
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Niccolo Purcell might not have been a name you recognized in the big-wave scene prior to last week, so here’s a little back-story about the man. Purcell was born in Maui, grew up in Italy, then convinced his parents to move back to Maui, so he could pursue a career as a professional kite surfer, all by the ripe young age of 12.
The adrenaline junkie jumped from sport to sport, including cliff diving, acrobatics, and skydiving, until he eventually fell in love with tow surfing after whipping into Jaws for the first time at the age of 17. Since that day, Purcell made it his goal to travel to Tahiti and surf its famed slab, Teapot.
And while his name was somewhat unknown prior to the Code Orange swell, one massive wipe out would lead to his name being littered across the Internet with headlines like, “Biggest Wipe out Ever,” “Heaviest Wipe out In Surfing History,” and “Man Escapes Death in Tahiti.” As interested as the rest of the world, we wanted to know what it felt like to be sucked over the falls during one of the biggest mutant swells to hammer Teapot. We caught up with Purcell to hear firsthand and let him know we were happy he made it out alive, to which he replied, he’s never felt better.
With the swell rising, we decided to head down to Teapot to pick off some bombs. My immediate thought was to engage my core, brace for the initial impact, relax, and put my mind into a meditative state.
I smacked the water really hard but thought I had penetrated and was going to pop out the back. I hit the reef five times, got held under for a bit, popped up, and fought for a breath before the next wave landed on top of me.
I was more fired up than before, so we waited 30 minutes until heading back out to catch another bomb, then continued to tow the rest of the day. We’re shooting for Liftoff, a reality show where professional wing suit pilot Joke Summer and I attempt to learn the other’s sport.