Surfing big waves is fun and scary all in the exact same moment. The difference between surfing and big wave surfing is the same as the difference between being in little league or being in the pros.
You can die or be seriously injured surfing big waves. Mark Foo’s death at Mavericks and more recently Maya Gaberia’s accident at Nazare are prime examples of what can happen when you charge the dragon. If you are going to pull your board off your car surf rack and tear into some big surf, you've got to make sure you're ready.
To surf big waves, you will need to meet the following MINIMUM requirements:
(1) Swim at least 1 mile in open water
(2) Prone paddle your board at least 5 miles
(3) Hold your breath underwater with your eyes closed for at least 1 minute
(1) Swim 1 Mile in Open Water
This is critical. Swimming in open water means you are not swimming in a pool. Open water swimming is far more difficult than pool swimming. If you cannot swim, you should not be attempting big wave surfing. Like running for other sports, swimming for surfing builds a surfer’s endurance.
(2) Prone Paddle your Surfboard for 5 Miles
Bigger swells break further out. You need to make sure you are able to paddle out to the lineup and if things get hairy, paddle back in when necessary. Last thing you want it to do is put yourself in a dangerous situation and not be prepared to get yourself out of it.
(3) Hold Your Breath Underwater with your Eyes Closed for at least 1 Minute
You will wipe out. Your body will be tossed and flipped all while underwater. A washing machine is a great analogy for a big wave wipeout. Time seems to slow down while your eyes are closed so, being able to hold your breath with your eyes closed is critical practicing for when you wipeout during a big wave session.
Endurance, attitude, and skill are all required when you charging big waves. Surfing big waves is like David versus Goliath. You must be prepared and you must stay calm. However, all your preparation will be worth it when you make the drop on your first big wave. It is in that moment that Goliath has fallen and you experience the raw power and freedom of victory.
What is the biggest wave you have surfed?