Dark… that’s the feeling that video footage of this South African big wave gives off. Its setup is like something out of an HP Lovecraft tale and its name doesn’t do it any favors.
12. Waimea Bay
One of the gnarliest and most famous big waves in the world is a two parter… First you have the main lineup which is a huge right hander that is basically summed up by the instructions of “take off, aim and wish for the best”. If you get past that, then you just have to get past the most photographed shorebreak in the world which has waves of up to 15 feet detonating on a shallow sand bottom.
11. Cortez Bank
To get to Cortez you have to go into the middle of the ocean and surf in shark infested waters. To surf big waves you have to be wired differently. To surf Cortez you have to be f#$%ed in the head.
10. Shipstern’s Bluff
Holy mutant ledges Batman, what the hell is that? Initially a bodyboarding hellman’s paradise, Shipstern’s has been invaded by standup boarders towing into mutant slabs. It’s a messed up ride with high consequences… the funny thing is that bodyboarders would charge this place paddling into it.
9. Ghost Trees
Ominous, spooky and a big wave spot that offers some of the biggest barrels in the world. Ghost Trees is one of those spots where guys seem like they’re surfing dark cyclopean tsunamis.
The name would be bad enough, that this massive wave requires crowd control makes it even more dangerous. A right hander (and occasional left) that discharges on a Maui reef break is the diamond standard of tow-in surfing. It’s technical, it’s massive, you’ll go about a million miles an hour and all the while you’re just praying to make it to the channel. Never mind that you can get a barrel where a semi truck fits comfortably.
7. Cave Rock
I’m never going to forget a caption I read in a magazine that said something on the lines of “Perfect and completely empty… 14 shark attacks in 14 weeks will do that to a place.” Few places really ask you to fully risk your life when you paddle out… and quite frankly no other place intimidates me as much regarding my chances of getting attacked by a shark.
6. Puerto Escondido
All sand bottom, hot temperatures, direct tap to Pacific Swells that unload on this stretch… what’s not to love? How about a phantom set 6-7 ft. bigger than what you’re surfing to clean out the entire beach. Puerto can handle big size and it’ll kick your ass unmercifully, making you curse the day you said beachbreaks weren’t as dangerous as reefs.
Perfection can be scary… Teahupoo looks like God looked at a surf T-shirt and decided to put that on Earth… or vice versa. The thing is that Teahupoo’s lip is insanely thick, the wave ends in a closeout and if you get caught inside… well survival mode is pretty much your only option. There’s something about sucking 10 feet below level that perfectly demonstrates how little you want to wipeout in this spot.
4. El Gringo
I don’t think there’s a wave that has injured as many riders in as little competitions. Basically if the surf is going off, you can get hurt. The water is cold, the reef is shallow and the price to play can be dangerously high. The funny part is that standup surfers had an event here a couple of years back and aren’t too keen to go back whereas bodyboarders take every event to push bigger, harder, deeper and crazier than ever thought of.
Everyone dreams of surfing pipe… until they see a closeout set wipe the lineup clean. Pipe is a high-stakes high-reward wave. You can get the barrel of your life, launch the air of the year or die.
Mavericks shall unfortunately be known as the place where Mark Foo died. Murky cold water, a shady ass paddle out, sharks, phantom sets, undertows… you name the hazard and Mavs has it in spades.
1. Shark Island
No other spot on Earth can turn as nasty as fast as the Island. Mutant lips, shallow barnacle reef, the wave comes from way too deep way too fast for it to be predictable… and that’s the danger. The difference between bliss and obliteration is a matter of inches and milliseconds. The worst part, while you’re on a 5 foot face, you are clueless that the wave has a six foot thick lip. Pound for pound, there is no wave scarier than the Island.