Winter Surfing in Cape Town

wave at Long Beach Cape Town

An empty wave slips past unridden at Long Beach, Cape Town. Photo: Gero Lilleike

Words and Photographs by Gero Lilleike

Winter surfing in Cape Town is by far the best time for surfers to suit-up and ride waves. The water is ice cold and it’s usually raining, but on the up side, the dreaded South Easter is mostly dead and perfect offshore winds prevail most of the time, depending on the break. The best waves are known to grace the Mother City during the Winter months thanks to regular low pressure systems sweeping across South Africa.

So, when the first proper, large, winter swell of the year hit the weather charts around Cape Town last week, surfers everywhere went mentally haywire. On the one end of the surfing scale, there were a few big wave surfers piling into boats with tow-in crews revving their jetski’s in Hout Bay Harbour, ready to surf mountains in privacy at Dungeons. And on the other end of the scale, you had everybody else, myself included, piling into the sea to surf mountains at Muizenberg and Long Beach. With my GoPro in hand, I set my sights on the sea and paddled out into the chaos.

Surfing in Muizenberg

Surfing in Muizenberg is almost always a crowded experience, even more so when there is fresh Winter goodness pulsing into Surfer’s Corner. Unsurprisingly, I arrived to find at least 300 surfers waiting to scratch onto the next wave that appeared on the horizon. It was low tide and by the looks of it the swell was still filling in and a clean 2-3ft Muizies freight train was on the cards.

Surfing Muizenberg

Riding giants in Muizenberg, Cape Town. Photo: Gero Lilleike

Although Muizenberg is super crowded most of the time, it’s often exaggerated by the fact that it’s such a big lineup and everyone just spreads out, making it bearable on most days and thankfully I managed to catch a few chilled waves of my own. Later that day, the swell whipped up into a frenzy of meaty walls and the incoming tide extended the paddle-out by what felt like a couple hundred metres. The wind was offshore with clouds brewing on the mountain and the waves just kept rolling in for everyone’s enjoyment. Surfing in Muizenberg is like that. On its bad days it makes you feel like going back to work and on the good days it makes you feel like you surfing in heaven.

Surfing at Long Beach

Two days later, Muizenberg went flat and I had a sneaky suspicion that Long Beach in Kommetjie might still be picking up some nice leftover swell. I was right, but an army was surfing there too. Long Beach differs from Muizenberg in the sense that the lineup, or zone for catching waves is much smaller, so like always, when it’s crowded, it’s really crowded and you have to fight for your waves. Consider yourself a winner if you get a Long Beach wave all to yourself.

Surfing Long Beach Cape Town

Surfing a fun wave at Long Beach, Kommetjie, Cape Town. Photo: Gero Lilleike

The wave at Long Beach is a bit more punchy compared to Muizenberg, especially on the inside section and it can be a really fast and fun ride when the swell is a bit bigger. I joined the army of surfers in the water with clean 3-5ft waves washing our sins away. It took a while to get a wave but perseverance paid off and when that wave came along, it was good. I decided to beat the crowds and do a bit of bodysurfing in the shorebreak to end my session, which actually turned out be loads of fun.

Across the ocean, Dungeons was alive with moving mountains of water pounding the Sentinel senseless. The sound of Jetski’s revving filled my ears, somewhere there, a wave was being ridden.

Long Beach Cape Town

The scene at Long Beach in Cape Town. Photo: Gero Lilleike

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Big Wave World Tour coming to Dungeons, South Africa

Grant 'Twiggy' Baker about to tame the beast, Dungeons, Cape Town, South Africa. Photo: Kimi Stewar Billabong XXL

Grant ‘Twiggy’ Baker about to tame the beast, Dungeons, Cape Town, South Africa. Photo: Kimi Stewar Billabong XXL

Words by Gero Lilleike

It’s on!!! The time to whip out the ‘Big Guns’ is looming on the horizon as the monster that is Dungeons is set to come alive for the 2014/15 Big Wave World Tour (BWWT) following the announcement of the official tour schedule by the Association of Surfing Professionals (ASP).

The BWWT will see the world’s finest big wave surfers tackle surf no smaller than 25ft and South Africans will witness the full power of Dungeons bearing down on their heads, so yes, there is definitely reason to be excited.

The BWWT is split into a two-part schedule, with generous window periods for both the Northern and Southern Hemispheres, with the gnarliest big wave spots in the mix. The 2014/15 BWWT schedule is as follows:

Southern Hemisphere (April 15, 2014 through August 31, 2014):
• Punta de Lobos, Chile
• Pico Alto, Peru
• Dungeons, South Africa

Northern Hemisphere (October 15, 2014 to February 28, 2015):
• Todos Santos, Mexico
• Punta Galea, Basque Country Spain
• Pe’ahi (Jaws), Maui HI

Dungeons and Pe’ahi (Jaws) are new events to the tour and will hopefully add some big wave flavor to what looks to be a tasty treat for the contestants and big wave spectators around the world. Grant ‘Twiggy’ Baker, the current BWWT leader,  will no doubt be chuffed to surf in his home waters and put on a show of a lifetime in front of a home crowd. All we need now is for ‘The Kraken’ to emerge from the depths of the Atlantic and kick up some serious swell when the times comes. For now, all we can do is wait…BRING IT ON!!!

Grant ‘Twiggy’ Baker cooks a big win at 2014 Mavericks Invitational

 

Grant 'Twiggy' Baker rides a big one. Photo: Grant Ellis

Grant ‘Twiggy’ Baker rides a big one. Photo: Grant Ellis

Words by Gero Lilleike

If there is any reason at all to feel like a proud South African then today is surely the day and Twiggy is the reason. To most South Africans, the name Grant ‘Twiggy’ Baker is like any other but within the loins of the surf community, that name means business, serious business, and with good reason, the man is as tough as nails and has the heart of a lion beating in his chest. On Friday, Twiggy cleaned the pipes of 23 of the world’s top big wave surfers at the Body Glove Mavericks Invitational held in perfect 40ft surf at Pillar Point, Half Moon Bay, California.

Grant ‘Twiggy’ Baker tops Big Wave World Tour standings

That’s a huge achievement for South Africa and South African surfing right there. Twiggy scored two amazing 10-point rides during the event to score an overall 29.33 out of 30, which is a phenomenal performance considering that Shane Dorian, who placed second, came in with a score of 25.53 out of 30. Twiggy clearly dominated the lineup and put his best foot forward to claim his second Mavericks crown and his second consecutive win on the Big Wave World Tour after conquering the Arnette Punta Galea Challenge in Spain this past December. The result puts Grant ‘Twiggy’ Baker right on top of the Big Wave World Tour (BWWT) standings.

Twiggy had the following to say shortly after the event, “I’m feeling pretty good – amazing in fact! Two of my favourite surfers in the world, Shane Dorian and Greg Long, were in the final so to win Mavericks is the greatest feeling in the world!”.

Twiggy wasn’t the only South African representing on the day. Fellow big wave chargers Chris Bertish (2010 Mavericks Champ) and Frank Solomon (Alternate Competitor) were also there to celebrate the big win.

 

Chris Bertish, Grant Twiggy Baker and Frank Solomon celebrate in the channel. Photo: ZigZag

Chris Bertish, Grant Twiggy Baker and Frank Solomon celebrate in the channel. Photo: ZigZag

A massive 40ft congrats goes out to Grant ‘Twiggy’ Baker for bringing this big win home. Damn it feels good to be South African today. A few parting words from Twiggy sums up the feeling perfectly, “I’d like to thank everyone in South Africa for their support. This is it, we are the best.”

If you wish to follow the Big Wave World Tour then visit bigwaveworldtour.com

Biggest wave ever ridden or media hype?

Carlos Burle on what is supposedly the biggest wave ever ridden at Nazare, Portugal. Photo by Getty Images

Carlos Burle on what is supposedly the biggest wave ever ridden at Nazare, Portugal. Photo by Getty Images

Words by Gero Lilleike

There is a debate raging on in the surfing world about whether Carlos Burle managed to ride the biggest wave in history on Monday 28 October 2013 at Nazaré in Portugal. Various media sources imply that the wave was in the 100ft range or in excess thereof, which would certainly be a monumental feat for surfing, if it’s true that is…

A few months back I wrote about Garret McNamara’s record wave which he also rode at Nazaré and I questioned whether that wave was indeed the biggest wave ever ridden, and so forgive me, I have to question Burle’s wave, too. That said, I have tons of respect for big wave surfers and the waves they ride and I take nothing away from them, in fact, I applaud them. But take a closer look at these two pictures, which is bigger? It’s really difficult to tell.

Garrett McNamara rides the big one in Nazare, Portugal. Photo by Tó Mané

Garrett McNamara rides the big one in Nazare, Portugal. Photo by Tó Mané

However, like millions of people across the globe, I watched the footage, I read the articles, but somehow I remain skeptical. Maybe the footage is poor or the pictures are misleading, or both, but in my mind that wave was not in the 100ft range, but it was big for sure. But therein lies the problem. My perception could be horribly wrong and will probably differ from everyone else’s, but consider this though, someone who has never set foot in the ocean and with very little knowledge and experience of waves will probably look at that footage and be in complete awe at what they are seeing and quickly be convinced that that is indeed a 100ft monster bearing down on Carlos Burle. It therefore becomes easy to sensationalise the size of the wave, don’t you think?

What is interesting though is that throughout the coverage of this event, all kinds of figures have been thrown around,  ranging between 70 and 100ft+ and the truth of the matter is that nobody knows for sure, and how will it be verified anyway? For all we know it was a 50ft wave. Look, there is no denying the fact that the big-wave surfers who were out there were indeed surfing big waves, there’s no questioning that, but for the media to insinuate that a 100ft wave was surfed is shooting the piss a bit far, I think.

Big wave surfing extraordinaire, Laird Hamilton, has his doubts, too. For Laird, claiming the credit for riding the biggest wave means that the surfer needs to complete the ride, which in his eyes Burle failed to do after getting eaten by whitewater. In an interview with CNN, Laird gives his opinion on Carlos Burle’s ride, “In the school I grew up in, unless you complete the ride, it’s really, you know, a non-factor, and as every big wave rider knows, it’s all about finishing the ride, and I think that even Carlos would tell you that unless you finish the ride, you didn’t really make the ride but otherwise it was a great attempt”. Following Laird’s interview with CNN, Burle responded by saying that Hamilton was “spoiled” and that he “never had any support from him”. Concerning the ride though, Burle commented that “I had already ridden through the bottom of the wave. He [Laird Hamilton] is right to a certain point. It would be better if I’d kicked out through the channel, but there have been approved waves with the surfer falling in the whitewater”.

Laird Hamilton riding the 'Wave of the Millenium' in 2000. Photo by Tim McKenna

Laird Hamilton riding the ‘Wave of the Millenium’ in 2000. Photo by Tim McKenna

To add another spin to the tale,  before Carlos Burle rode this so-called record breaking wave, he came to the rescue of female big wave surfer Maya Gabeira who wiped out while surfing a big wave and narrowly escaped drowning. Burle managed to get Gabeira to the safety of the beach where she lay unconscious with a broken ankle until she was resuscitated and taken to hospital for treatment. From the outside or from a readers perspective it seems that the media is latching onto this wonderful story of courage and bravery and riding it all the way in to the beach, creating dramatic sensational hype in its wake. That’s just my opinion though.

Whether all of this is just trivial media hype or whether Carlos Burle rode the biggest wave in the history of surfing is all a matter of opinion, but the fact remains, the size of that wave is a mystery, for now at least. Opinions aside, Burle deserves credit for saving Gabeira and still getting out there and catching the wave of the day, well done Burle.

How big do you think that wave is? Share your comments below.

The Matt Bromley Interview: For the Love of Big Wave Surfing

Matt Bromley in Hawaii. Photo: Sacha Specker

Matt Bromley in Hawaii. Photo: Sacha Specker

Words by Gero Lilleike

For those of you who’ve been living under a rock for too long and don’t know who Matt Bromley is, wake the hell up! Matt is a man who takes no prisoners and he is one of South Africa’s hardest charging big wave surfers alongside the likes of Grant ‘Twiggy’ Baker and Frank Solomon to name a few and you may even have seen him striking a pose on the cover of ZigZag Magazine, numerous times.

Last week saw the re-awakening of the beast that is Dungeons in Cape Town, possibly for the last time this year, and Matt Bromley was out there doing what he does best, surfing big-ass waves to his heart’s content.  When the swell gets large and dangerous, most people run for the hills, but not Matt, he comes out to play, he drops-in, stands tall and gets the biggest barrels you can imagine, all with a nice big smile on his face and that’s what he’s about.

Matt Bromley surfing Dungeons, Cape Town, South Africa. Photo: Steve Benjamin

Matt Bromley surfing Dungeons, Cape Town, South Africa. Photo: Steve Benjamin

I met Matt for the first time a few months ago just before he was about to embark on a ‘slab hunting’ mission in Western Australia and I can honestly say that he’s one of the friendliest, most grounded and genuine surfers I have ever come across. That’s not surprising though because surely getting barreled on the world’s biggest, most terrifying waves must have a positive effect on you and Matt is a great example of positive energy personified. I threw a couple of questions his way to learn more about him and being the nice guy that he his, he answered them. Check out the interview below.

Matt Bromely gets pitted somewhere in Western Australia. Photo: Pete Frieden

Matt Bromley gets pitted somewhere in Western Australia. Photo: Pete Frieden

[GL) What is your full name and do you have any weird nicknames?

[MB] Matt Bromley “Bromdog”

[GL] When were you born into this world?

[MB] 12 September 1991

[GL] Where do you live?

[MB] Kommetjie, Cape Town

[GL] How do you pass your time?

[MB] I study part-time and I travel the world as a professional free-surfer.

[GL] What do you love most and why?

[MB] Waves, because they come from God. I’m constantly in awe of creation.

Matt Bromley getting shacked in Tahiti. Photo: Brian Bielman

Matt Bromley getting shacked in Tahiti. Photo: Brian Bielman

[GL] What are your professional achievements?

[MB] 3 x SA Junior Surfing Champion, 2 x SA Captain and 3 x Covers of ZigZag Magazine

[GL] Do you have any sponsors? If so, who are they?

[MB] Billabong, Monster Energy, Nixon, VZ, Kustom, Dakine, Futurelife and Virgin Active

[GL] What has been your most memorable sporting achievement so far?

[MB] Beating Jordy Smith at my home break when he was ranked world number 1. That was in the Coldwater Classic.

[GL] Do you have any other interesting hobbies?

[MB] Spear fishing. I love it! It compliments big wave surfing because it teaches you to be comfortable under the water and increases your lung capacity.

[GL] When and how did you start surfing?

[MB] My Dad got me into surfing at the tender age of 6. With the passion he had for surfing, I couldn’t not be a surfer.

[GL] In all the world, where is your favorite wave and why?

[MB] Teahupoo, Tahiti. It’s the most terrifying wave in the world as well as the most rewarding, if you survive it.

Matt Bromley sussing out a perfect wave in Tahiti. Photo: Unknown

Matt Bromley sussing out a perfect wave in Tahiti. Photo: Unknown

[GL] If you could change anything, what would it be?

[MB] I would have given more time in my life to previously disadvantaged people and helping those in need. But the good thing is that I’m still young and have lots of time in the future for this.

[GL] In what ways do you think surfing or sport in general can empower the youth in South Africa?

[MB] It brings a smile to EVERYONE!! When you enter the water, you leave your worries on the beach. This rejuvenation of joy and appreciation for the water saves kids from a life of crime because it keeps them off the streets and in the water.

[GL] If you had the chance to speak to the President of South Africa, what would you say?

[MB] Get everyone in the water and inject the stoke into every community.

[GL] What is your message to the youth of South Africa?

[MB] Put your trust in God and take every opportunity to enjoy his creation.

If you wish to read more about Matt Bromley and his big wave surfing escapades, I strongly suggest you follow his blog at http://bromdogsblog.wordpress.com or follow him on Twitter @bromdog783

Matt Bromley taming a beast. Photo: Ant Fox

Matt Bromley taming a beast. Photo: Ant Fox

Choosing the right surfboard with Dutchie Surf Designs

A perfect wave offloads somewhere in the Southern Cape, South Africa. What surfboard would you choose to ride on this gem? Photo: Gero Lilleike

A perfect wave offloads somewhere in the Southern Cape, South Africa. What surfboard would you choose to ride on this gem? Photo: Gero Lilleike

Words and Photographs by Gero Lilleike

So, it’s the end of the month and you’re standing in your local surf shop drooling over the slick new surfboards before your eyes and the time has finally come to put your hard earned cash on the counter for a new surfboard, but what do you do? Finding the right surfboard is like finding the right women, it’s flat-out darn difficult but thankfully not impossible. It’s out there, somewhere. There are so many options to consider but what type of surfboard will be best suited to you and your surfing ability? Ultimately, the decision lies with you and you’ll have to consider many factors before making your final decision. To get the ball rolling, you should take the time to think about what type of surfer you want to be, what waves you will be riding and how you want to ride them. That way, you will most likely choose the right surfboard that will satisfy your surfing needs. It’s also useful to remember that there are no hard and fast rules when choosing a surfboard and this is because everyone approaches surfing in their own unique way and everyone will have their own personal preferences. The key however, is to choose a surfboard that will help you achieve your surfing goals while also providing the most enjoyment and satisfaction while you frolic in the surf .

For the sake of finding some answers, I managed to pick the brain of master Cape Town surfboard shaper, Dutchie, of Dutchie Surf Designs to find out more about choosing the right surfboard. Dutchie has been shaping surfboards for over 14 years with an excess of 15 000 surfboards behind his name. With a background in graphic design and an enthusiastic passion for surfing, Dutchie has become highly respected in the surfing industry for his quality workmanship and professional approach to surfboard shaping and his surfboards are being ridden in just about every ocean across the world. Dutchie is a man with a wealth of surfing knowledge and I was eager to step into his office and learn more about these things us humans ride so “gently on the surface of the sea”.

Dutchie hard at work in his den. Photo: Gero Lilleike

Dutchie hard at work in his den. Photo: Gero Lilleike

“Surfing these days is all about volume and your height, weight and surfing level is super important. Surfing also requires timing, balance and rhythm, and like golf, surfing is very organic in that it’s impossible to duplicate a golf shot and no waves are ever the same. The first thing a customer needs to understand is that there are different kinds of surfboards for different kinds of surf and they must decide how much volume they are comfortable with and then look at what type of surfboard is suitable for the waves they will be surfing” explains Dutchie.

Some things to think about before you break the bank

Experience – Are you new to surfing or are you an intermediate or advanced surfer looking for a more challenging ride? Your level of experience will influence your choice in surfboards.

Fitness – The board you choose to ride should be suited to your level of fitness. After all, there’s no point trying to surf a high performance shortboard if you can’t paddle it into waves let alone stand on it.

Body Weight – The dimensions of your surfboard must be suitable for your height and weight.

Waves – The type of board you choose to ride must be suitable for the waves you intend to surf.

Surfboard Dimensions – Optimum surfboard dimensions will give you maximum enjoyment in the surf.

Budget – How much are you willing to spend on a surfboard?


Surfboards for Beginner Surfers

Never surfed before? Well, you’re in for a big surprise as Dutchie puts surfing fitness in perspective perfectly, “The ocean, this unknown element, covers most of the earth’s surface and somehow we feel connected to it. Whenever you see people connect with the ocean, like fisherman and surfers, they don’t let go” explains Dutchie. “There’s a very strong bond to a very powerful energy source that we don’t really know anything about. The first thing you must know about surfing in general is that you are dealing with the ocean. Surfing is quite possibly the most physically demanding sport in the world because it requires so many different elements like flexibility, muscle strength, power and resilience and when you paddling out, you actually paddling against the force of the ocean, so it’s a really physically demanding sport. ”

If you are a complete newbie to surfing, you might want to keep your money warm in your pocket before buying a new surfboard that you may only ride once in a blue moon. Many beginners buy a brand new surfboard only to realise that surfing is not as easy as they initially thought and as a result that surfboard eventually finds its way to the bottom of the junk pile in the garage. If you have surfed a couple of times, you may want to weigh up your commitment to surfing before splashing out on a new surfboard. It might be in your best interest to ‘test ride’ different kinds of surfboards to get a feel for what you enjoy riding, so you may want to visit your local surfboard rental shop to do this before buying your very own surfboard.

What type of surfboard do you want you want to ride? Photo: Dutchie Surf Designs

What type of surfboard do you want you want to ride? Photo: Dutchie Surf Designs

For beginner surfers however, the best surfboards to learn on are longboards and funboards, preferably made of foam, which helps prevent injury while trying to perfect the basics of surfing. As a general rule of thumb, if you are learning to surf, start with a surfboard that has lots of volume for flotation and stability and as your confidence increases you can choose to ride something with less volume and then eventually as your skill level and confidence soars, you can shave more volume off and attempt riding shortboards which typically have less volume, but require more skill and ability to ride them properly .

Surfboards, such as your longboards and funboards, are best suited for learning because of their forgiving length, width and thickness which makes standing and surfing on a wave that much easier for just about any type of surfer. The theory is simple. The longer, thicker and wider the board, the easier it will be to paddle into waves and the easier it will be to actually stand. Longboards however can be unforgiving in terms of handling the board in the surf and are less performance orientated than a shortboard.

“Hybrid Funboards and your Mini Malibu and bigger Fish designs are very much beginner orientated and these boards are designed specifically for flotation, stability and finding your feet and are popular choices for first-time surfboard buyers” explains Dutchie.

If you simply have to buy a surfboard but are unsure about whether surfing is for you, then you may want to consider buying a cheaper second-hand surfboard until you decide whether surfing is something you want to actively pursue. A good second-hand surfboard can go a long way in teaching you the basics of surfing and it won’t be the end of the world if you ding it a couple of times while you learn to surf. However, if you are buying a second-hand surfboard, make sure that it’s in reasonable condition, meaning that it shouldn’t be severely damaged and shouldn’t be full of dings that will take on water and destroy the board over time. If second-hand is not your thing, then by all means, go big and arm yourself with a new surfboard. In the wise words of Dutchie, “There is no such thing as a cheap, good surfboard and no good surfboards are cheap”.

Gero Lilleike digs his rail into a Cape beachie. Photo: Gero Lilleike

Gero Lilleike digs his rail into a Cape beachie. Photo: Gero Lilleike

Surfboards for Intermediate Surfers

Once you have spent sufficient time in the water coming to grips with the basics of surfing and your confidence and ability has improved, you may want to explore new surfboard territory to replace your trusty piece of drift wood that made you love surfing in the first place. As an intermediate surfer, you have probably started learning the basics of wave riding by linking maneuvers together on a wave and you will in all probability be ready to try shorter boards with less volume, but with the advantage of more maneuverability and speed.

Apart from high performance shortboards, the intermediate surfer has various surfboard shapes to experiment with, whether it be the longboard, shortboard, funboard, hybrid, fish or retro, the world is your oyster. However, your final decision should ultimately be based on your surfing ability and the type of waves you are surfing.

Not surprisingly, Dutchie offers sound advice on how to harness your ability and fine tune your wave riding skills, “You need to learn the ocean. The number one problem for people who struggle to progress in surfing is positioning. Every wave has a point A and a point B, where it peaks and where it fades or closes out, and once you position yourself in the right place and catch the wave, the line you ride between those points, and how you approach that wave, that is surfing. Your surfing ability is therefore really important and as you get better, you squeeze that volume out and refine your surfing.”


Surfboards for Advanced Surfers

I’ll go all in and say that an advanced surfer can ride a wave on just about anything, even a plank. Advanced surfers are another breed entirely and if you are lucky enough to be one, you will most likely be throwing yourself into the biggest, most powerful waves on the planet at the drop of a hat, with a fat smile on your face. Dutchie elaborates, “The beginning of advanced surfing is when you starting to control your environment in the ocean. In other words, you start surfing much bigger and more powerful waves. You are handling that, not just surviving, but actually playing in those waves. It’s like when you paddle out and there’s a 8-foot Speedies G-Land freight train coming at you and there’s a guy standing so far back, in the most dangerous position you have ever seen, and you don’t understand why the guy has a big smile on his face while everyone else is running for hills. That’s when you start to master the ocean.”

The high-performance surfboards that advanced surfers ride on a regular basis are designed with a specific purpose and wave in mind and the high level of surfing these guys engage in on any given day is something us amateurs will never comprehend. But one thing remains consistent throughout, no matter what type of surfer you are, it all comes down to what you enjoy, the wave you are surfing and how you going to surf that wave.

An unknown surfer rains buckets at the  long-gone Lookout Superbank in Plettenberg Bay, South Africa. Photo: Gero Lilleike

An unknown surfer rains buckets at the long-gone Lookout Superbank in Plettenberg Bay, South Africa. Photo: Gero Lilleike

Surfboards for Big Wave Surfers

Talk about pulling out the big guns! Always remember, if you want to run with the big dogs, don’t piss like a puppy! In big surf, your choice of equipment becomes critical and apart from your surfing ability, it’s the only thing that stands between you and the towering beast that’s about to break on your head. For this very reason, big-wave surfers need to be meticulous about what surfboard they choose to take into big surf.

Every big wave spot in the world will require a specific type of surfboard suited to the wave. Big wave surfboards are commonly known as ‘Big Wave Guns’ or ‘Paddle-in Guns’ and generally range from anywhere between 7 and 11-feet in length, depending on the wave you are surfing. Big Wave Guns are typically long and narrow with healthy volume and exhibit a pointed nose and tail. These typical ‘Big Wave Gun’ characteristics are attributed to the fact that big waves move considerably faster than smaller waves and the time a surfer has to make the drop onto the face of a big wave is significantly reduced and Big Wave Guns therefore allow the surfer to negotiate the critical drop-in section of the wave while generating enough speed to outrun a large breaking wave. Big Wave Guns are not necessarily designed for maneuverability but are more suitable for holding your line and hanging on for dear life. Although, the smaller Guns can be used for doing turns on the face of a big wave, but only if the wave will allow it.

In the words of Laird Hamilton, if you are “surfing in waves too big to paddle into”, then you may want to consider riding a tow-in board which are generally in the six to seven-foot range and are a bit heavier than your average shortboard which helps with stability while flying down the face of a hefty wave. Tow-in boards are usually fitted with foot straps which help the surfer maintain control of speed and chop on the face of the wave. If you plan on tackling big waves, make sure that you are using the right equipment for the wave and conditions and be sure to speak to local surfers and surfboard shapers to get the inside scoop on the best equipment to use, your life may depend on it.

The process of buying a new surfboard may seem daunting considering the vast array of options available on the market, but don’t let that deter you from your mission to find your perfect board. With a guy like Dutchie around you can be sure that you’ll get the best results. Strive to find the surfboard that is best suited to your ability, height, weight and the waves you will be riding. If in doubt, make contact with a reputable surfboard shaper, like Dutchie, and discuss the various options available to you. True to form, here is some parting advice from the legend that is Dutchie on how to choose the right surfboard, “Go to credible people and do your research because the guy who is selling that surfboard to you in the surf shop, he doesn’t have a fucking clue about a surfboard, the shaper does, he’s the doctor, the other guy is the pharmacist and you can get misdiagnosed with the pharmacist.” Most importantly, whatever you do , keep paddling and persevere with your surfing, the ocean has many gifts to give, you just need to make sure that you are there to receive them.

It was was all barrels and fun at the old trusty Lookout Superbank in Plettenberg Bay, South Africa

It was all barrels and fun at the old trusty Lookout Superbank in Plettenberg Bay, South Africa

Is this really the biggest wave ever surfed?

Garrett McNamara rides the big one in Nazare, Portugal. Photo by Tó Mané

Garrett McNamara rides the big one in Nazare, Portugal. Photo by Tó Mané

On Monday 28 January 2013, Hawaiian big wave surfer Garret McNamara was towed into what many people believe to be a 90-100ft wave off the coast of Nazaré, Portugal, the same place McNamara set his 2011 Guinness World Record for riding a 78ft wave.

Apart from the sheer courage, skill and even luck required to surf a wave of that magnitude, the location is particularly unique too, from a geological perspective that is. McNamara himself explains,  “There is an underwater canyon 1,000ft deep that runs from the ocean right up to the cliffs. It’s like a funnel. At its ocean end it’s three miles wide but narrows as it gets closer to the shore and when there is a big swell it acts like an amplifier.” McNamara also reportedly remarked, “The waves break into cliffs 300ft in height. You can’t contemplate coming off because it would kill you.”

Looking at the picture, there’s no denying that the wave is massive and could very well be in the region of 90-100ft and hats off to McNamara and his team for being there and taking on the swell, but I cant help but wonder, is this really the biggest wave ever surfed? It quite possibly is, but how big is it really? In my experience, surfers have always had differing opinions as to how big a wave might be. One man’s 2ft is 4ft for the next and as the size increases, so too does the exaggeration. Either way, it will be interesting to see what the ‘official’ height is and how it was determined. In my humble opinion, this wave is no less than 70ft in height and I wont be surprised if its 100ft.

What do you think? Do you think this is the biggest wave ever surfed? And more importantly, do you think that the 100ft surfing benchmark has been achieved here?

2012 Billabong XXL Global Big Wave Awards

The winners of the 2012 Billabong XXL Big Wave Awards, sponsored by Monster Energy, were announced yesterday in Anaheim, California. The categories for the Billabong XXL Big Wave Awards include the Monster Tube Award, Monster Paddle In Award, XXL Biggest Wave Award, Verizon Wipeout of the Year Award, Surfline Mens Performance Award, Billabong Girls Performance Award and the ultimate Ride of the Year Award.

Garret McNamara, Nathan Fletcher, Dave Wassel and Maya Gabeira have dominated the Billabong XXL Global Big Waves Awards. The winner in each category are as follows.

XXL Biggest Wave Award

Garret McNamara – Praia do Norte, Portugal

2012 Billabong XXL Biggest Wave Award – Garret McNamara – Praia do Norte, Portugal. Photo: Wilson Riberio


Ride of the Year Award

Nathan Fletcher – Teahupoo, Tahiti

 

Monster Tube Award

Nathan Fletcher – Teahupoo, Tahiti

Nathan Fletcher, Billabong XXL Biggest Tube Award-Teahupoo, Tahiti. Photo: Brian Bielmann

 

 

Monster Paddle In Award

Dave Wassel – Jaws / Peahi, Maui

Dave Wassel, Billabong XXL Paddle In Award, Jaws, Peahi, Maui Photo: Frank Berthuot

 

Verizon Wipeout of the Year Award

Garret McNamara – Jaws, Peahi, Maui

Surfline Mens Performance Award

Nathan Fletcher – San Clemente, CA

Billabong Girls Performance Award

Maya Gabeira – Teahupoo, Tahiti

Push the Tempo

The sea is calm with no waves in sight. It’s been like this for days. There’s nothing left for me to do but engage in some mind surfing, even then I find no resolve. The sea gently laps the shore. On flat days like this my thoughts are blown out of proportion as I imagine gigantic swell heaving towards the shore, visciously wild and unridden. While I revel in the vestiges of my mind, somewhere across the vast expanse of the ocean, a beast is born.

The thought of big wave surfing scares the living shit out of me, but thats me and I have utmost respect for those who seek and conquer the world’s biggest waves. So when I came across this story, thanks to my friend Kelly Slater,  my mind was once again in turmoil trying to comprehend the thrill of big wave surfing. I think this story is an amazing example of the guts and determination of the human spirit to succeed against all odds.

Billabong XXL Big Wave Awards 2011

There’s a saying that goes “the early bird catches the worm”. Well, unfortunately, I wasn’t the early bird to catch this worm. However, even though I only picked up on this story a month too late it still holds massive relevance to all those big wave surfers, who to this day,  carry their massive testicles around in trollies.

I will always be amazed at how these surfers find the courage to ride waves of such epic proportions. This act, of riding monstrous waves, can only be understood by those super-athletes, the brave men and women who ride them. For the rest of us,  sitting in our offices watching these videos while the boss isn’t looking, can only use our imaginations and dream of riding gigantic waves. For us, it’s completely incomprehensible  and unfathomable. Nonetheless, I have attached a video that illustrates the epic nature of big wave surfing. Surfing is indeed the most exciting sport in the world.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2473_VuXEfw