Big wave surfing is an extreme sport in which surfing is done on waves over 20 feet high. Of course, surfing big waves is not an easy task. You need a lot of stamina, power, and specialized skill to paddle into big waves. Plus, this extreme sport can be very dangerous even for a strong and well-trained person. Due to this, there are very few surfers who dare to do big wave surfing. So, before you decide to progress from regular surfing to big wave surfing, it is necessary to learn about the dangers that you may encounter while surfing on big waves. Given below are some of the dangers which associated with big wave surfing. Have a look on them.
No doubt, the number one risk of big wave surfing is drowning. Because, massive waves sometime as high as fifty feet and they can literally push the surfers down 20 – 50 feet beneath the surface. Now, to avoid drowning, the surfer needs to quickly recover the resulting dis-orientation and figure out that in which direction he or she needs to swim to reach the surface.
Surfers may get hardly 20 seconds before the next huge wave hits them. Hence, the surfers must get to the surface as fast as possible to prevent from being held under the water by consecutive waves. Besides this, other factors like being separated from the board, getting trapped on the reef, not being able to swim in or being unconsciousness due to collision, all are probable causes of drowning while surfing on big waves.
Certain marine creatures can pose serious danger to surfers. They can cause severe injuries and sometimes even death. Among them, various species of sharks like tiger sharks, bull sharks, and white sharks are perhaps the biggest risk for surfers. Many biologists believe that sharks attack surfers because surfers look like seals or sea turtles when viewed from below the surface. Moreover, both these creatures are prey for sharks. Aside from sharks, there are some other marine animals that are equally dangerous. Animals like Jellyfish, Seals, Sea Snakes, Weever fish, and Urchins, all can be potentially life threatening to big wave surfers.
Rip currents are also a source of danger for big wave surfers. For those who don’t know, rip currents (also known as rip tides) are nothing but strong water channels that flow away from the shore. Rip currents are usually present in surf spots. They can have a width up to 40-50 feet and these currents are so strong that they can endanger both experienced as well as inexperienced surfers. Rip tides can be even more dangerous when surfing on big waves. However to a large extent, you can survive these rip currents by paddling parallel to the share.
Generally people use surf leashes while surfing for safety purpose, as it keeps the surfboard attached to the body of the surfer all the time. But, in some cases especially while doing big wave surfing, this leash can do more harm than good to the person wearing it. It can hold the person underwater, thereby restricts a surfer to reach the surface. Nowadays, as an alternative to these regular leashes, tow-in Surfboards are using foot holds (like those found on Windsurfs) to provide some safety to the surfer.
All these hazards have killed many famous and experienced big-wave surfers. The most notable accident was that of Mark Foo – a popular and famed Hawaiian big-wave rider. On 23rd of December 1994, he died while surfing at Half Moon Bay, Northern California. Surprisingly, this big-wave rider got wiped out in a moderate-size wave. It is being said that after wiping out, his leash got trapped on the rocks below the surf, and eventually he drowned. Foo was a brilliant athlete who helped popularize the extreme sport of big-wave surfing, and so his death was a big shock to the whole community of the big-wave surfers.
Exactly a year after the death of Mark Foo, another famous big-wave surfer named Donnie Solomon died in a 20 feet wave in Hawaii’s Waimea Bay. Then in coming years, a few other world-famous big-wave surfers passed away while surfing. For example, Todd Chesser died at Alligator Rock on the North Shore of Oahu in the year 1997; Peter Davi lost his breath at Ghost Trees in 2007, and Sion Milosky expired in the year 2011.
Back in the year 2011, Keala Kennelly (a famous female big-wave surfer who has set a record at Teahupoo in 2005 by surfing the biggest tow in wave by a woman) was seriously injured after suffering a dangerous wipe out in Teahupoo, Tahiti. While surfing, she got barreled and was pushed to the sharp coral. The accident was so severe that she had to undergo a surgery to the right side of her face to remove the pieces of coral that were embedded in the wound. She had around 40 stitches – 30 at the front on her face and 10 in the skull.
Recently, in the month of January 2013, the very popular big-wave surfer Mike Parsons almost drowned after a brutal fall on a triple overhead wave in Ocean Beach, San Francisco. In this brutal wipeout session at Ocean Beach, he broke his C7 vertebra, which is the largest and the lowest vertebra in the neck. Fortunately, a nearby surfer named Charlie Vaughn, saw Mike struggling and helped him reach shore. He is expected to make a full recovery very soon.
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