Chris Dixon: “Ghost Wave” | Talks at Google


>>Female Presenter: So welcome on behalf
of Authors at Google. I’m really excited today to bring you Chris Dixon to discuss his new
book Ghost Wave: The Discovery of Cortes Bank and the Biggest Wave on Earth. Chris is the
founding editor of SurferMag.com. He once spent a year documenting the wild life of
another author we’ve posted here, Jimmy Buffet. And his work has appeared in many publications,
including the New York Times, Outside, Men’s Journal, Popular Mechanics, Surfer, and Surfer’s
Journal. He lives in Charleston, South Carolina. And I’m wondering how the surfing is there.
>>Chris: Actually it can be pretty good.>>Presenter: Okay. Friends have tagged along
with Chris today, and I’m going to let him introduce them and tell you more about them.
One point is — remember we have a remote audience. So, when you want to ask a question,
we’ll need to get a mic to you so they can hear it or the speaker can repeat the question.
So I can — join me in welcoming Chris Dixon. [Applause]>>Chris: Thank you guys a lot for coming.
This is a real honor. I used Google a lot in researching this book in ways that I didn’t
even expect to. And so, to be able to actually, you know, come here and talk to you guys and
maybe even tell you a little bit about how [chuckles] I used some Google in some ways
— it was pretty cool. This book is — obviously, it’s called Ghost Wave: The Discovery of Cortes
Bank and the Biggest Wave on Earth. And I became really fascinated in the Bank early
on in 2001 after a group of guys that — one of whom is here, up here in the front with
me — went out. And the photographer — actually, two guys are here, Photographer Rob Brown
and Ken “Skin-Dog” Collins who is a well-known Mavericks surfer, went out and road these
waves that nobody even knew existed back in 2001. And I’m going to stop real quick and
just tell you that the other guys I have with me are Greg Long, big wave surfer from San
Clemente, Jason Murray, “Skinny”, Jeff Clark of Mavericks’ renown and Rob Brown. And they’ll
be available to answer some questions afterwards, too, because the book wouldn’t have been possible
without the help and just amazing work that these guys [chuckles] have done through the
years conquering big waves around the world. So I’ll start with showing you a pulled back
picture of this wave on Cortes, January 2008. This is actually stretched a bit. So this
wave is actually bigger than this. If you were looking at it in a real regular perspective
— perhaps — I don’t know — 65, 70 feet high. This is Grant Banker, who is one of
Greg’s best friends, he’s a South African. And he’s also very well-known in the Mavericks
community. The Cortes Bank is a really unusual underwater feature. And it was first explored
by sort of the group of surfers who now go out there on a regular basis — or started
going out there on a regular basis — around the turn of the century by a group of guys
that included Larry Moore who everyone knew as Flame who was the photo editor of Surfing
Magazine. And Larry developed a real mania to chart the spots off the California coast
that he thought might have waves. And this included the outer Channel Islands on San
Nicholas and San Clemente. And then, he became sort of fixated along with two other guys
that he worked with at Surfing Magazine. Bill Sharp, who is right here. And Bill, as these
guys know, is the sometimes contentious, always entertaining, director of the Billabong XXL
Big Wave Awards. Bill and Sam George, who was director of the film Riding Giants some
of you guys may have seen. Bill and Sam and Flame eyeballed this spot off the California
coast — way off the California coast. You can see this is southern California right
here. San Clemente. Catalina, San Nicholas. Then I’m going to zoom and show you the Cortes
and Tanner Banks. These are really strange underwater features. They’re essentially sunken
Channel Islands. They’re not little sea mounts. They’re really big. If you were to measure
Cortes from here to here the shoal stretch it’s about 15 miles long and the waters off
of Cortes drop off to 1,000 fathoms or 6,000 feet. What that translates into for a surfer
is a spot that’s capable of taking wave energy and focusing it almost like a lens
— like sunlight through a magnifying glass on a very shallow pinnacle here called Bishop
Rock. Which is various depending on the tides on the shallowest point of Bishop Rock comes
to 12 to 15 feet from the surface. Even further complicating things, they saw on the map a
fathom, a half fathom of water over one spot. And that was — that looked like a wreck.
A shipwreck. So there’s a shipwreck that’s covered by three feet of water out there.
They didn’t know what that meant. All they knew was that could generate a wave. The first
person that they asked about, the first person that Flame actually asked about the potential
for there to be waves was a gentleman named Phillip “Flippy” Hoffman. Some of you may
have heard of Christian and Nathan Fletcher. This is Christian and Nathan Fletcher’s great
uncle; he passed away this past year. And he was a renowned big wave surfer. One of
the first people to surf a frightening wave off a westernmost point of Oahu called Kaena
Point. Flippy used to fish of the Cortes Bank in the 50s for abalone. He would join a number
of other big wave surfers. They could get 6 dollars or so per abalone so they were pulling
in pretty good money because you could pull in 50 or 60 dozen abalone in a day. Flippy
described the bank “It was a very rough place to try to sleep at night. Cups and plates
would fly across the galley. I knew sometimes it would get really big out there.” But he
never surfed it. So they weren’t able to confirm with anybody, had anybody ever actually surfed
out there. This is what Flippy described to them though. He described this beautiful place
of cerulean water. Massive schools of sardine and Menhaden, kelp forest. And bat rays. Huge
bat rays swimming along on the bottom. And then urchins and abalone just littering the
sea floor. A real underwater Eden. But also a place, obviously, of real considerable danger.
These photos were taken by a a guy named Terry Moss who’s spearfishes out there a great deal.
He’s actually set a few world records at top the bank spear fishing. This is what they’re
fishing for abalone, these huge shellfish that are very tasty. The other person that
Flippy had talked to almost sort of independently of Flame, at least early on, was a guy named
Sean Collins and Sean is generally considered surfing’s one true media mogul these days.
He runs a big surf-forecasting site called SurfLine.com. And Sean also talked to Flippy
and Flippy basically described the same thing. And Sean had also talked to some other fishermen
out there. Another fisherman, in particular, who said he actually seen a good surfable-looking
wave out there. Well, Sean developed a real insatiable need to find out where waves came
from, how they worked why they came in sets. Why the sets had different spacings and what
the different angles were. And he turned that eventually into very successful surf forecasting
business. Because if you talk to Sean he’s still today completely obsessed with understanding
the propagation of waves across the ocean. This is a chart he drew early on where he
was trying to — it was just a hand drawn chart that looked at the chart guide where
he was actually looking at the bathymetry — the underwater topography figuring out,
“Okay. What happens when a wave comes across the Cortes Bank ?” Ideal direction? Should
it be a swell that comes from a storm way up to the north? Should it be a storm to the
south? Should it be a storm right off the California coast? And he kind of keeps the
best of these angles a secret. Eventually, Flame, Bill Sharp, Sam George and a pro from
Laguna named George Hulse road out on an incredibly secret mission. They didn’t tell anybody.
And this is George Hulse’ first paddle in wave atop the Cortes Bay. There was no such
thing as what’s known as tow surfing today back in 1990 when they road these waves. But
you can imagine they’re 100 miles out in the ocean. There’s no land anywhere. All there
is is this shallow sea mount. And they’re in the middle of the open ocean. It’s very
difficult to even catch a wave out there much less try to predict where the next one is
going to come from. As you can imagine they also got steam-rolled by several sets. This
is generally considered as small as Cortes is able to break. This is maybe 8 feet. What
surfers would consider 8 feet from top to bottom. If it’s any smaller than this the
waves just sort of generally pass over the bank and don’t even break. They just continue
on to California. Sam George described it as “one of the most fantastic feelings. We
had found Flame’s Moby Dick.” In researching the history of the bank, I think it was a
geologist or an archaeologist, I can’t remember which who actually pointed out to me that
Cortes was actually an island not very long ago. As recently as 10,000 years ago, it was
a big island. It was about 14 miles long. And it’s very likely that it would have been
walked upon hunted upon by the native Americans who lived on San Clemente island 40 miles
away. They regularly paddled these huge distances between all the Channel Islands. And so, it
wouldn’t have been a stretch at all for them to paddle along Tanner Island and Cortes Island.
And here we see a map that shows us the contours of the coast, 10 and 12,000 years ago. 12,000
years ago, all of the northern Channel Islands — Santa Rosa, Santa Cruz, the ones off of
Santa Barbara were a single island inhabited by a tribe of woolly mammoths that swam over
there at some point in history. And then, this shows — the black is 10,000 years ago.
The gray is 12,000 years ago. There was even a tiny island that they called North Cortes
12,000 years ago. But 10,000 or so years ago was when native Americans would have first
gone out there. They would have — you know, they lived on San Clemente. And this is the
western shoreline of San Clemente. And it shows these million-year-old plus wave-scoured
of San Clemente. This kind of gives you what the wave topography off of Cortes
looks like. The varying sea levels through the millennia have created these stair steps.
And each of these flat stair step spots is a spot where the sea level remained fairly
constant for awhile and it scoured out these ridges. They would have gotten there on what
are called tomol or tiat plank canoes. And these folks were as solid a seafarers as you
could hope to find. Surely as much so as Hawaiians and there’s even — I’ve even read some thought
there’s cross-pollination between Polynesian and Californian culture. When they went out
to Tanner Banks, which is the near of the islands, this is essentially what they would
have seen. This is provided to me by Rick Gavitak California State University Monterey
Bay. They would have seen a hilltop about 100 foot high bluff in red. Then 75 to 100-foot
high ring around a beautiful lagoon that would have just been a paradisaical place to fish.
There would have just been incredible sea life in that lagoon. And then this would have
been looking from North Cortes to South Cortes. And you can see how quickly the sea floor
drops off. Interestingly, this is the western plank of Cortes where the big swells approach
from — here you see some blank spots in the map. That’s because when Mr. Gavitak was mapping
the sea floor, he actually had a whale flip off his sonar sounder, so he wasn’t able to
get there the whole way. I, obviously, was interested in the history of who discovered
the Cortes Bank. When was — why is it named what it is, etc. The general truth that’s
accepted is that a ship called a Cortes, a side-wheel steamer that passed along the coast
in the 1850s carrying 49ers to San Francisco, was the first ship to ever seen waves atop
the bank. This is an ad actually from the New York Times in 1853. The captain of the
ship on this actual passage that’s advertised on this very ship right here reported seeing
— as he passed this bank — he said the waters were in violent convulsion, throwing up suddenly
into columns at regular intervals of four to five minutes. Because of that, that would
have represented a big shipping hazard. You were seeing thousands of people ferried every
week to San Francisco to head into the mountains to look for gold. So officers of the United
States Coast Survey would have been dispatched out there to the middle of the ocean with
basically a sink-line with lead on the end of it to go and try find this thing. They
would have given him a rough idea of it probably would have. But it would have been difficult
to actually find this place out in the middle of the ocean. But it was found by the officers
of the Coast Survey in 1853. And this is the first map. Interestingly enough though, they
missed the spot that is surfed today — the spot called the Bishop Rock. And that was
reportedly found by a clipper ship called the SS Bishop. And this is an advertisement
that appeared in the Daily Alta advertising passage on the Bishop around Cape Horn to
New York City. This ship still holds the record for the fastest sailing trip from the East
to West Coast and you could have booked it in California Street in San Francisco. This
is the Bishop. Now, the legend has it that the Bishop struck a rock out in the middle
of the ocean. Back it up one. The Bishop struck a rock out in the middle of the ocean. That
this was the Bishop Rock. And it somehow went back to San Francisco battered and torn. But
I’ve been able to find no verification of that. And I actually had a guy named Steve
Lawson, who’s a pretty well known treasure hunter in Orange County who’s looked at a
lot of ships basically say, “I don’t see any record of a ship actually hitting it.” And
so, what we have hypothesized was that a ship actually probably saw waves out there and
the story became conflated over time that it actually hit the rock. So then the question
came to me, “Okay. So was there any earlier record?” And interestingly enough a guy named
James Alden, who was a commander with the Coast Survey, a real world traveler. He had
visited — he traveled all over the world aboard the U.S.S. Constitution. When the Mexican
American War started in the 1840s, Alden was aboard the USS Constitution and it sailed
from Hawaii to Monterey and on — I believe it was January fifth of 1846 –as they left
Monterey Bay and sailed south, they discovered breakers bearing northeast about ten miles
distant. And this would have been a time that you would have seen big waves on the Cortes
Bank. So I kind of postulate that the bank should actually be called the Constitution
Bank, because it was discovered by Old Ironsides, which is still afloat in Philadelphia today.
The other real interesting story, at least to me, was, “Okay. If the Bishop didn’t actually
hit the rock, then maybe it should be named after the guy who actually discovered the
rock in 1855.” This was the father. I wasn’t able to find the picture of the guy who actually
discovered the rock, but this was his father who was a general in the Confederacy from
Wilmington, North Carolina. And the guy’s name was Archibald MacRae. And on November
3 of 1855, a story appeared in the New York Times “Dangerous rock off the coast of California.”
MacRae spent a couple of miserable weeks off the coast of California and he finally found
this 12 foot deep rock. And then, two weeks later, he blew his brains out in San Francisco
Bay. And the story is pretty tragic. And I was pretty shocked when I found that out.
All of his letters home are at Duke University. And they’re pretty wrenching — his letters
home during his whole military career including his suicide note. “My soul I give to God,
and I hope he will make better use of it than I have.” Whether or not he is buried in Wilmington
actually remains a mystery. He had been buried in Yerba Buena which no longer a cemetery.
So moving forward in time. Okay. Who else went to the Cortes Bank? What are some other
stories? There were several stories in the Los Angeles Times during the 20s and 30s about
coast surveyors and fishermen who really started discovering the waters off the bank. But then
in 1957, Mel Fisher, who some of you guys may know is the discoverer of the richest
treasure on the sea floor off of Florida. He launched his first major treasure hunting
expedition off to Cortes. And I was actually able to locate the reporter who went out with
him on that journey and we talked about it. And it turned into just a complete fiasco.
Their boat almost sank on several occasions. And they basically didn’t find any treasure.
But this was the start of Mel Fisher’s career. And his first mission was Cortes Bank. I thought
this was a funny picture. This was provided to me by Jimmy Buffet, graciously. This is
Mel Fisher on July 20, 1985, sitting atop gold and silver bars at the Atocha. While
Jimmy sings “A Pirate looks at 40”. [laughter] And that was actually on the day that he found
the treasure. So, I wanted to know, “Who was the first person to surf out there?” Who was
actually the first person to catch a wave off the Cortes bank? I’m not going to say
definitively that the gentleman in the center of this photo is the guy who discovered, who
first surfed out there, but I think it’s very possible. His name is Harrison Ealey, and
he is an absolute hoot. He lives in Oceanside; he is a real adventurer who spent his early
years sailing between Mexico, Hawaii, and California, and hardly anybody’s ever heard
of him. I was put on to him by a guy named Mickey Munoz, who was a well-known surfer
in his 70s. And he still charges every day in San Clemente. In this photograph are another
big wave surfer named Wayne Schafer. And this is Phil Edwards, who is the first guy to have
ever been documented surfing pipeline. And there riding on Phillip “Flippy” Hoffman’s
catamaran be built taking it down to trestles. So, Mickey put me on to Harrison. Harrison
showed me this picture of him surfing Waimea in perfect form dropping inside a Waimea legend
named Buzzy Trent in 1963. Well, Harrison, in 1961, actually carried Phil Edwards to
Hawaii for the north shore winner. And a week or two later, Phil — that’s when Phil Edwards
was documented surfing the pipeline. So Harrison actually carried Phil Edwards to his date
with fame at the Bonsai Pipeline. On the way back from Hawaii, on this very same trip,
Harrison sailed past the Cortes Bank. It was during the summer. There was a big south swell
in the water. And the weather was very calm. And he saw this wave breaking out in the middle
of the ocean. And he said, “Whoa, I want to go check that out.” And so, they pulled the
boat up close, anchored it in shallow water. And this is Harrison basically said, “I’ve
been surfing Makaha and Waimea, so it didn’t look scary. But then it wasn’t 50 feet either.
I watched it and watched it before I tried to catch one.” And eventually he did. He caught
a few waves. Then, when the tide started to stir the current, things got a a little breezy,
he just pulled up anchor and sailed back to California. There were a number of other stories
about the bank that I found. None of them were sort of more scary than that of this
gentleman named Ilima Kalama. Ilima is the father of Dave Kalama. And Ilima is a well-known
big wave pioneer in his own right. Ilima used to abalone fish in the late 60s and early
70s. And around 1971, I’m pretty sure is what he said, he and a buddy named Larry Doyle
were off the coast of Cortes and they had a huge take of abalone. And they knew that
the weather was going downhill and all of the other fishing boats pulled off of the
bank and headed back to shore. But Ilima basically said, “I got greedy.” And he went out and
they decided to stay. Well, in the middle of the night, the weather got rough, the waves
got huge and the boat kind of sank out from beneath them. And left he and Larry basically
swimming in the middle of the ocean in pitch black dark. And there was — the water was
about 49 degrees. As you can imagine they would have frozen to death very quickly had,
a few minutes later, not their wet suits popped to the surface like the coffin in Moby Dick.
They climbed into their wet suits and I’ll let you guys read the rest of the story. If
you believe in miracles, the fact that he survived is an absolute one. So, in moving
forward in time, in 1985, there was — and I have a feeling I can’t confirm this, but
I think part of the reason Flame became fixed on the waves of the Cortes bank was because
there had been a report of a ship striking a reef 100 miles off the coast of California
in the LA Times. And the story didn’t get a whole lot of play. There were only a few
mentions of it. But essentially I was lucky enough to find the commander Robert Leuschner
and he told me about what happened. Basically the USS Enterprise slammed into the spot very
near where the guys surf today and it was nearly sunk. And it would be a very different
place today, you know, a radioactive waste dump for one thing, had that actually happened.
But Mr. Leuschner attributed his Savior to divine intervention as well. The strangest
story that I came upon in all of this and one that still has resonance with the surfers
today is a chapter I call “The Kings of Abalonia.” In 1966, a story appeared in the Pasadena
Independent that was quoted a gentleman named Bruce. I think, well, his last name is Taggard,
I don’t remember his first name. He says, “It sounds fantastic but we’ve consulted experts
in international law. They say there’s nothing to prevent us from starting our own country
if we want to. The Cortes Bank is in international waters on the shelf and beyond the U.S. or
Mexican jurisdiction.” So essentially the idea was
they were going to take a bunch of rocks out and sink them until Cortes Bank was again
an island for the first time in thousands of years, plant a flag on it and declare territorial
waters all the way around the Cortes Bank, which would give them potentially huge lucrative
fishing rights because it’s one of the most prolific fisheries in the Pacific. So the
guy who actually hatched this plan was an actor named Joe Kirkwood. He was sort of a
B movie actor who played a boxer Joe Palooka back in the 50s and 60s. And he was very well
known at this time because he also played in five masters golf tournaments. I tried
really, really hard to find anybody who’d been attached to this project and was just
banging my head against the desk. I couldn’t find anybody. And then one day this package
comes in the mail anonymously to me that contained a 60-page account that Kirkwood had written
of his role in this fiasco. And it even included some really interesting film that I’m going
to show you guys in a second. But we see that Kirkwood wrote, “The newspapers called it
Abalonia, although I wanted to call it Lumeria for Lumeria is to the Pacific what Atlantis
is to the Atlantic.” I thought it was fitting. The country I was going to build would be
deserving of a better name than Abalonia.” That was Joe Kirkwood writing in ’67. He submitted
this story interestingly to Sports Illustrated. As I said, he was a well-known golfer at the
time. And why they didn’t at least publish it I have no idea. In ’50 — I actually found
a photo of Kirkwood that was taken in 1952 in Wilmington, North Carolina, coincidentally,
which is where Archibald MacRae who discovered Kirkwood’s nation-building site was from.
And this photo is of him and his wife actress Cathy Downs, who is the azalea queen that
year. This photo is actually taken by Archibald MacRae’s great, great nephew. And had it not
been for Google, that knowledge would never ever have come to life. [laughter] The person
that Kirkwood hit up to help him plan this mission was one of the best-known divers in
California in the 1960s. And the reason was that he had been diving Devil’s Hole which
is this gash. This little tiny gash that leads almost to an underground sea beneath Death
Valley. And this gentleman — this is him diving in Devil’s Hole. He had set a world
record by diving 300 feet deep in Devil’s Hole on nothing but compressed air. No mixture
or anything. And he was the right man for the job. He was a Navy demolitions expert.
He was an expert fisherman. He had been to the Cortes Bank a lot fishing. And so, Kirkwood
went to him and basically said, “I want to build a nation out there. What do you think?”
And Houtz said the idea really got the wheels spinning. It was like, “Okay. I got a project
here. What will it take to do it?” Houtz came up with a very interesting, radical idea.
There was this ship in the moth ball fleet in San Francisco — in Oakland actually — that
had been badged the Jalisco and it had come from Mexico. It was built of concrete in the
1940s in Tampa as a World War II freighter. It had been badged the Richard Lewis Humphrey
in America. And then disappeared to Mexico and then turned back up into moth ball fleet.
They bought this ship for 80,000 dollars. Salvaged most of the parts off of it. And
this is actually footage of it being towed to the Cortes Bank beneath the Bay Bridge.
So there’s some interesting San Francisco connections to this story that has absolutely
nothing to do with surfing at all. This was actually it being carried down. And you can
see the concrete hull. And this is the tug that carried it all the way down there over
300 miles. When they got there, everything was going according to plan, but then there
were several communication snafus and miscues and they got the ship sort of positioned atop
the Bishop rock. And then things started to go haywire. And the reason it did was because
this was, of course, November and Houtz had noticed a big storm brewing off the coast
of Japan but it looked like it was days and days out. What he failed to calculate was
the face that swells from these storms propagate way ahead of these storms and they run way
way way faster. And so, as they got the ships into position. Seas were calm as a lake. Within
about an hour and a half, they were battling waves 50-feet high atop the bank. They came
in out of nowhere. This is Joe Kirkwood perched on the bow of his great ship of state as it
is about to be submerged. He said, “There was enormous wall of blue-green water rising
45 feet or more and the fish were plainly visible.” This superstructure is four stories
tall. So what you’re looking at is the back of a breaking wave. Kirkwood is looking up
at a wave 30 to 40 feet high and it’s getting ready to take him out. Now, the boys who surf
out there didn’t realize that this ship was there. They knew there was a ship there, but
they didn’t realize exactly where it was. This is Kirkwood after he’s been liberated
from the ship. He was in the water. Jim Houtz, the gentleman in the other photo, is standing
behind the superstructure here. He had been trying to get Joe to let go of the mast and
come back there with him. And the fact that these guys survived again is like, it’s unbelievable.
I’m just — I’m astonished that nobody that I found has actually died atop the bank. This
wave is even bigger. As you can see, it’s bearing the entire superstructure of the ship
and several of these guys — actually all of these guys are intimately familiar with
this exact spot. This is later, and you can see the superstructure has blown off the spot
by the waves. And this is a breaking wave on the shallow spot at Bishop rock. Today
— this was a couple years afterwards — these guys went diving in the hull of the Jalisco,
which is as I said, known for now is lots of big, big lobsters. So, I’m sure you guys
are now, –because I’ve been dragging this story out– interested. “Okay. So where do
these waves come from?” The waves that sweep over Mavericks, Cortes Bank, Todos Santos,
Pescadero Point and Carmel also known as Ghost Street are — they come from massive storms
that generally sweep off of Siberia and get pulled up into the warm waters of the Japan
current and sort of go nuclear as they — the mixture between the cold and the warm ocean
currents causes huge storms to spin up. In 1933, this gentleman — it says James White
Marsh. It’s actually R.P. White Marsh. That’s a typo on my part. Went into the middle of
one of these storms about a ship called the Ramapo that you saw in the previous picture
and went over a wave that is still the biggest ever recorded in the open ocean. A wave of
112 feet high. And I actually found his daughter living in Honolulu. She’s 88. And she really
helped me kind of spin the story of incredible guy. He was t the guy who actually sunk the
Japanese mini sub in the hours before the attack. And had been an officer on a ship
in World War II that had been sunk from beneath him. He led just an incredible life. So what
White Marsh basically experienced and some other engineers in here. So hopefully you
can get your heads around this graphic. When you have a long long fetch of wind across
the water, you can see it when winds at San Francisco Bay. You can see these tiny little
ripples start to form. The longer that wind blows, the bigger those ripples get until
by the time you’re 25 miles offshore, you can have a 10-foot wave that takes — if you
were standing — if you were on a boat in a single spot, that wave would take seven
seconds to pass you by. As those waves get bigger and bigger, they get faster and faster.
Their periods, or wavelengths, increase dramatically until by the time you’re about five miles
offshore with a 40 knot continual wind, you’d be looking at a wave that would take 15 seconds
to pass you that would have — that would be 15 feet high and would go down below the
surface of the ocean. Its energy column 575 feet. As you get longer and longer stretches,
the waves just get bigger and bigger until at the end of 2000 miles, that wave would
be 37 feet high with a 20 second period and it would go down to 1,000 feet below the surface
of the ocean. That doesn’t mean it would be as powerful here as it is here. But you would
have an energy column that far down. Now, you know, how could 112-foot wave happen?
Basically as I understand it. I’m not the oceanographer, but as it was explained to
me — these waves, they don’t sort of follow tidy laws of physics. One wave might be — you
might have a 37-foot wave actually run over the top of a 15-foot wave. And when that happens,
you could get what you would consider a rogue wave. A wave that’s temporary but that builds
up far, far bigger than its brothers and sisters. And if you’re at the wrong place at the wrong
time, as Sean Collins the forecaster, explained to me, you could end up with a perfect storm
scenario. It’s just that not a lot of boats are there to actually see that happen. And
when they do, the results can be catastrophic. But it happens all the time. You think that
this must be a rare occurrence. At any one time there was — I believe it was a European
space agency study that found there were seven or eight waves like this coursing through
the oceans on an average day at any one time. So that gives you somewhat of an idea. And
then, this is a famous photo that’s just on the Internet thanks to Google of a ship facing
a wave that’s maybe 80 feet behind him. So you can imagine what 112-footer must have
looked like. But it swept beneath him and the ship surfed down it for awhile and then
it kept going. And then so what happens when a wave like that hits the Cortes Bank? This
was a graphic provided to me courtesy of Sean Collins in surf line. Here we see the Bishop
Rock. And the way that it sort of sticks up out here. But then you see this abyssal drop
off of the Cortes bank. It goes — it drops down as I said to 6,000 feet. So a wave that
comes up has nowhere to go up but up because it’s been coursing through the ocean at 1,000
feet depth. And it climbs these stair steps off Bishop Rock and can become essentially
what is generally recognized now as the biggest, rideable, surfable, perfect wave on the face
of the earth. In 1990, Flame — the photographer — flew over the Cortes Bank with his buddy,
Mike Castillo and in the days right before the — right before they made their first
surf mission. And they took these photos from an airplane. They were actually looking at
the sea waves looking way way up at these waves. And Sean Collins went and backtracked
these swells and said these waves 80 or 90 feet high. Because they didn’t have any point
of reference, because they didn’t have any point of reference, they didn’t know how big
they actually were but Sean reckons these were 80 or 90-foot waves. And as you can see
Mike Castillo told Flame, “if anyone tries to surf out there, they better bring the “blanking”
Pope along to pray for them.” And, of course, eventually guys did. Here’s a shot from the
air of one of Flame’s 17 or 18 flyovers at various times at Cortes Bank on swells. He
became just obsessed, just fixated trying to figure out when the Cortes Bank broke the
best. What were the best conditions? As the surfers in this crowd would agree, these are
not ideal conditions for Cortes bank. This is actually not a huge swell by Cortes standards.
And it’s pretty windy and choppy out there, but you can see the right-handed wave just
peeling off in the distance. And that’s what these guys are after out there. You see two
waves following each other in succession. That’s what they became obsessed with. In
the late 1990s, tow surfing really started taking off. For those of you who have seen
it, it’s pretty darn spectacular. It was among the first people to do it at all were generally
regarded to be the Hawaiians Laird Hamilton, Dave Kalama, Derek Doerner. Some of their
friends. And the waves that they road at spot off the coast of Maui and also a spot off
called Log Cabins off Oahu were generally just considered a quantum leap. And it wasn’t
long before guys like these boys in front, Jeff Clark, and “Skinny” in particular, took
up that mantle to see if you could do that at Mavericks. And of course they realized
in short order it was quite possible. One of Rob Brown — a photographer here — one
of his good friends growing up was this little skinny ripper named Mike Parsons. Rob described
him as this skinny, red-headed, stepchild with freckles, with his perfect wetsuit and
his sponsor’s logo air brushed on it and he pulled these perfect “off the lips”. We tried
to buy him but he outsurfed us so bad that it just didn’t matter. Well, in 2001, after
several aborted missions, the conditions finally came together for Mike and the boys to maybe
go out to Cortes Bank. And Mike had just been obsessed big wave surfer. This is him at Todos
Santos this is one of the first bona fide big waves that it realized existed off the
California coast. Of course Mavericks would soon follow. Mike was enemies with this guy,
Brad Gerlach. [laughter] Mike was sort of your Richie Cunningham of surfing and Brad
was this flashy punk. I kind of compare him to Corey Haim in “The Lost Boys”. I don’t
know if you guys ever seen that movie. He was just this brash, outrageous, hilarious
and Brad said to me, “I’d see him and just be like Parsons — like, this guy’s going
to beat me.” Well, eventually after they quit competitive surfing, they became best friends.
And they took up tow surfing. And here was a — this was a story that Jeff Clark was
gracious enough to grant me an interview for way back in the day I wrote for the New York
times in 2002, when the sport first really started to come on. And as a lot of you guys
realize there’s been this controversy over jet skis in the water around Mavericks and
off the California coast ever since. This is Skindog who is here in the audience and
Peter Mel, a well-known Mavericks surfer and Josh Loya, also. Well, in 2001 — back that
up — in 2001, Flame contacted Skindog, Peter Mel, Parsons and Gerlach and said, “hey, I
see something on the charts here. You guys need to get down. We’re going to go to this
spot in the ocean.” And you can imagine Skinny’s wife was a little apprehensive and he had
a pretty funny discussion that appears in the book. But this is what they found. This
was an aerial shot by Flame. We can see Rob Brown ‘s boat. One of the jet skis. And then,
the other boat that was being — that had been rented by film maker Dana Brown for the
film “Step into Liquid”. This was a photo I took of Rob up on the deck of
his boat. This is Parsons, also known as Parsnips or Snips. And Gerlach. And — now, these two
guys right here. This is Evan Slater and John Walla, they actually tried to paddle in on
this day. Evan was an editor at Surfing magazine. He wasn’t sure what he thought about tow surfing.
And as these guys will attest, Evan’s a lunatic. He will try to paddle into anything. And this
is John Walla on the right who actually took Greg along on his first trip to Cortes Todos
Santos. And Johnny is one of these guys like Harrison Ealey. If you’re a big wave surfer,
you knew who he was. If you weren’t, you didn’t have a clue who he was. Johnny actually scared
the bejesus out of Skinny and Pete, because he was what? Only 19 years old and he was
captain of the boat. And then, he tried to paddle in out here. And so, here’s a picture
of John trying to punch through a wave out there. And Evan Slater is about a hundred
yards to the side of him about to wear this wave on the head. Eventually Mike and Brad
traded places and this is Mike’s first ever ride at Cortes. [laughter] Let me back up
to what Rob Brown told me about this, because it’s pretty funny. “I was just sitting there
click click click watching the counter go down frame by frame telling myself, “Relax,
Mike is going to die right here right now but you’re going to do your job.” [laughter].
Rob’s job was to capture Mike’s first ever world record ride at Cortes Bank. This was
the aerial photo of that same wave. You can see this tiny little speck . And that’s Mike
Parsons. I believe Skinny you had a ring side seat to this wave, yeah? This is Mike’s proud
mama. [laughter] This is some footage That was provided to me courtesy of Dana Brown
who was director of the film “Step into Liquid”, [soft music begins] who was able to at the
last minute charter the ship and he went out. I highly encourage any of you guys to rent
this film. It’s a really interesting look at surfing during the time that tow surfing
was first starting to blow up. And this was obviously a coup for Dana to get out and capture
this. And you could see how they’re whipping each other into the waves with the help of
the skis. And then we see John Walla trying to punch the wave right there. [audience chuckles]
That’s not even something that’s even mentioned on the film but that’s the scariest moment
of both of their lives. That’s Brad Gerlach . And this is Mike’s wave. I remember — yeah,
he was telling me I was just thinking, “This thing’s going to drop forever.” He was just
thinking it’s going to keep going never let him off. [music ends] Rob, is that your boat
in the foreground? Yeah, it’s your old one. So, as you guys can imagine, after this footage
came out and Jaws was being ripped and torn by Laird Hamilton and his buddies and Jeff
Clark and Skinny and the other boys tow surfing really took off. In 2003 Mike Parsons and
brad tapped Greg Long and his brother Rusty to go out to Cortes on a sort of similar size
swell but on a day that was even glassier and cleaner literally a surreal day when the
ocean was just calm as a mirror and Rob Brown was fortunate to get the call to haul him
out there. This is Rob’s photo that also became Greg’s first cover shot on Surfer magazine
ever. And he’s had a few since. This is actually video footage that was shot by Rob’s good
friend of that wave. And it’s been seen very few times until now. [vocal rock music] And
you see Greg’s kind of happy. [laughter] I told Greg I think my head would explode if
I rode a wave like that. Now, during the time that tow surfing was, of course, really coming
on, Mike Parsons and Brad Gerlach decided they were going to surf Jaws. They got on
a way too small jet ski and headed down in the dark. And, when they got there, this is
what they found. And Mike and Brad gave me a hilarious accounting of this in the book.
Mike said, “when I saw it bend at me ahead, I just figured, ‘Well, you’re really done.
You’ve just got to go as far as you can go.'”. Filming this was — this was being filmed
for this contest — the Tow In the World Cup as Bill Sharp told me when he actually saw
the footage, he realized it was the best piece of footage of big wave surfing ever. And he
put it in his film Billabong Odyssey. I tried to count up all the iterations that this video
has been watched on YouTube from the film Billabong Odyssey. And one version of it called
“Struck in Tsunami” has s been viewed 37 million times and it’s probably in 60 or so other
iterations across YouTube. Therefore I would easily say this is the most downloaded surf
film on the Internet. And you’re — oops, let me back it up so you can see why. Who’s
not seen this — raise your hands. OK, you’re in for a treat. This is not photo-shopped. This is Mike’s second ever wave at Jaws. First
one happened moments earlier. See? He almost wipes out right there. Manages to pull it
together. [sounds of surf crashing] Eventually they did get rag dolled by then the wave had
expended so much of his energy he was able to live to surf again. Moving forward in time,
in — you guys may remember in January of 2008 and even before there was in 2007 — late
2007 — there was a massive storm that provided some of the biggest waves ever seen off the
California coast at Mavericks and Pescadero Point also known as Ghost Street and then
later at Todos Santos but a month later even bigger storm roared in. This storm actually
left more people without power in San Francisco than any storm ever. And it was strongest
storm reported off the Pacific coast. Somehow Greg Long and Mike Parsons were able to convince
Rob Brown to take his boat out into the teeth of that storm in gale force winds in the hope
that they would be able to get a brief window of calm weather out atop the Cortes Bank.
The data buoys offshore had recorded the biggest swell ever hitting them. Greg and the boys
— Greg and Mike and Brad and Greg’s best friend Twiggy Baker had to see it and Rob
Brown was scared to death. But he went for it. This is what they found.
This is sitting off the side of Bishop Rock looking at the wave perhaps 80 feet high.
And I like this quote from Archibald MacRae. This is him looking into the Caldera at Kilauea.
“When foolhardiness would urge me to go and peep into some yawning chasm, my conscience
would appear to say to me, “Stop! You are trifling with the Almighty!””. That’s when
I think it’s arguable that these guys did. This is Gerlach. You can see the seasickness
patch on his neck. He was really battling it. And he had a rough ride out there. And
even rougher ride was had by the videographer, Matt Wybenga, who, his footage was essentially
almost unusable. I’ve been fortunate enough to see it and it’s terrifying but it would
make you seasick just looking at it. Matt threw up 30 or 40 times in this mission as
I understand it. This is Greg and Mike trying to figure out what exactly they’re gonna do.
Mike said, “The only time I’ve ever really been nearly as scared to ride a wave was at
Jaws. But this — the consequences were just so heavy. It was ominous and overwhelming.”
This is Brad after getting towed into his first wave. [laughter] “I was going yes, no,
yes, no, yes, noooooo!” So he still regrets not going for this wave, but Greg has pointed
out to him had he wiped out he probably would have died and the chances of a wipe out were
pretty high. This is Brad on a later wave. This is — Greg help me out here. This is
Mike Parsons. This is Greg on a huge wave. This is Mike again. And you can see the conditions
just became blue burg at least for a short amount of time and then eventually the storm
roared back in but not before. This iconic moment was captured by Rob Brown of Mike Parsons
on what is regarded as the biggest wave ever ridden ever documented. Usually you don’t
see this wave pulled all the way back. White water eruption is absolutely gigantic. And
here’s the shot of Twiggy that’s on the cover. And Greg and Twig were basically describing
a sensation a condition where they were so amped on adrenaline that their bodies were
essentially overdosing every single time they’d ride a wave. Greg rode a wave that everyone
agrees was actually bigger than the one that Mike is photographed on after he rode it he
threw up because he was just so jacked up. Twiggy threw up on every single wave he rode
. [laughter] And he described it “As far as the eye could see, it was just a huge square
of white water. If you lost your guy in there, he was just gone. He would have been lost
in that expanse and you’d never find him. It was just so scary”. So the book ends with
that mission chapter wise. As some of you guys know. Some of you guys look like surfers
out here. Tow surfing is spawned another revolution in surfing and it’s almost a regressive revolution
in surfing, if you will, because what it’s taught the guys is, they can survive beat
downs harder than they ever could with the help of skis in particular, they could perhaps
paddle into waves that were thought to be unpaddlable. At sizes where the waves move
so fast, they thought they couldn’t get into them. So Greg is one of the guys who has really
been leading that charge along with Skindog out at Mavericks and recently at Cortes Bank.
And I was fortunate to go with Greg and a crew that included Mark Healey, Peter Mel
of Mavericks, Greg’s brother, Rusty, and Grant Twiggy Baker, on this ridiculous yacht the
day after Christmas in 2009. And it was going to be a paddle surfing mission. The conditions
were set to be just gorgeous and glassy and calm. Photographer Jason Murray was out there
and these are some of the images he captured. I just can’t stress to you enough how difficult.
I got to go out on a ski and watch this happening. The waters were so shifty and there was so
much current. And the waves come — at a spot like Mavericks — these guys can explain it
better, but a spot like Mavericks the waves tend to break at a very set spot. At Cortes,
they can break 100 yards farther down the reef and absolutely just leave these guys
scratching for the horizon and bailing their boards as you can see here. I think we have
Greg either here or here getting ready to get obliterated and Peter Mel paddling for
the shoulder. And I want to thank Jason who is here for these shots. This is Rusty Long
on a bomb and I thought this was a gorgeous one. This is some footage that was provided
to me courtesy of Bill Sharp who runs the double XLs. [music begins] This is video footage
of that day. Greg, of course, rode the first wave out there — paddled in.
This is Kelly Slater that ten almost eleven
time world champion. This is Greg’s brother Russ on a bomb. And he paid. [laughter] And
I would point out, you know, these guys are surfing over the hull of the Jalisco. So that
ship provides a hazard kind of unlike most other surf spots I’ve ever seen anywhere.
[music] Peter Mel from Mavericks on
a beauty. This is Chilean, Ramon Navarro. He had just surfed Eddie Aikau contest that
Greg had actually won a few weeks earlier. And Ramon was a real crowd favorite. This
is Nathan Fletcher. Flippy Hoffman’s great, great nephew. And Nathan is generally regarded
as the best in the business today. And then, we had November 2, 2010. Initially this swell
was looking like a carbon copy of the 2008 swell, but it lost some of its push between
Hawaii and California, but it was still going to be really big. This is Rob Brown’s boat
pulling up to a boat called the Condor. I got to go out on the Condor at a very slow
pace and I was just having awful nightmares. I mean, as I was asleep, I was having these
awful nightmares of being in a tsunami and a earthquake at the same time. And Greg and
the boys had surfed the Mavericks the day before so they wanted to see if it was possible
to surf Mavericks and then make it down to Cortes. And they proved that indeed it was.
These are some shots that Jason took. This is of course, you know, all bow, this is Jeff
Clark, Maverick’s founding father who was out there not only surfing but running rescue
for the boys. I might point out Rob Brown and Jason Murray are both kind of lunatics
in their own right. This is Jason with his camera perched in his lap. He goes out there
to take the shot and you’re sitting there on the Rob’s boat at Cortes too, thinking,
“oh my gosh, I hope he knows what he’s doing.” This is Shane Dorian who has recently been
captured along with Greg and some of the boys paddling in the waves at Jaws which is of
course largely considered to be unpaddlable. This is him at Cortes. This is video I shot.
This just gives you an idea rolling towards the waves on Rob’s boat. [voices in the background]
This was a tow surfing wave. They tow surfed the first part of the day. So I think that
was Parsons. And everything is moving around out there as you guys can see. It’s not like
anywhere else I’ve been. And it’s just so surreal seeing the wave breaking out in the
middle of the ocean like that. And then a few more photos and then I’ll finally let
you guys alone. This is Mark Healey, Greg’s good friend from Hawaii tucking into a barrel.
And this is Jason shooting in the foreground. And this is Shane Dorian. He’s thinking twice
on this one and it’s probably a good thing he did. [chuckles] We could see Jason perched
down there. And this is– Shane broke his favorite board out there. And this is Jeff
Clark who was running rescue. Jeff and Mike decided to run rescue for the boys who were
paddling. And basically Greg, you know, sort of said if we hadn’t had Jeff and Mike out
there running life guard for us I don’t think it
would have been very wise thing to do. Now, again the engineers in the crowd would find
this very interesting. Two years ago Jeff when — was it two years ago that Shane had
his hull down at Mavericks. Two years ago Shane nearly drowned at Mavericks. And he’s
a dad with at least one kid — two kids. Down at the bottom of the ocean, he kind of said
to himself, “something’s got to change.” And so, Shane actually thought to the idea when
you go on an airplane and you see the life jackets you pull the thing and it hits the
CO 2 cartridge. He had the guys at Billabong rig him up a suit with the rip cord on it.
So Shane went down on a huge wave and got rag-dolled and while he was 30 or 40 feet
under he pulled the cord and rocketed up to the surface. I think it’s arguable you will
see this more and more as the guys are trying to paddle into waves that are bigger and bigger.
As Skindog has pointed out unless you’re knocked out cold, this could really be a great life
saving invention. This is Mark Healey from Maui — not Mark Healey– Ian Walsh from Maui.
He’s an absolute charger. And you can see how blue the waves. They almost seem inviting,
but not to me. [laughter] This is the same wave. And you can see sometimes the wave just
hit. I don’t know what it’s hitting but they hit these perturbations, these features under
the water. And they just erupt into the air. And off into the distance, you can see another
wave that nobody surfs because there’s just kind of no escape from it. And this is Greg
on a wave that looks kind of like a claw behind him. We have one more photo. And this is Greg
sitting by himself in the middle of the ocean 100 miles from shore. And he said to me, “when
you’re paddling all alone out there, when you really look at the place and feel its
immensity, – it should be you can’t just help but feel that there’s something much greater
so much more significant at work than you” . And this is me and Mike Parsons and the
King of Abalonia, Jim Houtz and Greg Long. Jim actually went with us on that mission.
He really had a great time. It was his first time going back to Cortes since he nearly
died aboard his great ship. So I hope you guys will enjoy the book. I hope you enjoyed
this. [Applause]>>Chris: And do we have time for these guys
to come up and take some questions? I’d be honored if you guys would take the bench and
maybe if you guys have any questions for me, these are the guys my primary sources of information.>>Female: Introduce them so we know who they
are.>>Thank you. For policing me, I appreciate
it. Greg Long. Ken Skindog Collins. Photographer Jason Murray. Jeff Clark. Photographer Rob
Brown. And thank you guys for everything.>>Male #1: So, I’m not a surfer really but
I went to Mavericks out on the ocean a couple years ago and I was struck by how close the
break is. You know, like if you’re 100 yards away or 200 yards away, the swells are way
way smaller than the waves you’re surfing. It looks like this is different. The breaks
are different, waves are bigger wider. Is that right?>>Greg: That’s what really separates I mean
every big wave is kind of unique unto itself the bathymetry the bottom contours which in
turn direct the swell. As in Mavericks it’s a very consistent kind of reef bottom not
over an expansive area so the waves are consistently in the same place relatively speaking whereas
Cortes bank it’s an underwater sea mountain island that’s been sunk in and waves can break
in in an expanse of 12 to 15 miles. And actually the shallowest part of the reef extends about
a mile long. At Mavericks, actually reef breaking over the course of maybe 25 yards as far as.>>Jeff: Yeah, Mavericks comes up much more
abruptly where it’s gradually comes up at Cortes bank. Mavericks because it comes up
so abruptly, when he talks about the swell slamming into the reef, it is so abrupt, which
is why Mavericks is so hard to ride in a different way than Cortes. It hits the reef and then
jumps out of the ocean to where it whips the top of the wave over. And Cortes bank it comes
up smoother. So the breaking area — if a wave — it comes up smoother to that final
break point. But that lends itself to being a much bigger playing field in and out by
100 yards. And you can kind of be in no man’s land. So when we were caddying for Greg and
Healey and Shane and Parsons, it was over a football field or more of area. It was fun
trying to use our instinct to go, “maybe he’s in too far. Maybe I should get him pull out.”
It was exciting though.>>Skindog: Yeah, I was going to say that on
the coast of California, the swells hit the continental shelf. It really slows them down
whereas Cortes bank, there’s no continental shelf. It hits them directly. So one thing
you’ll notice right off the bat is the wave’s faster, way faster. And the fact these guys
went out and tried to paddle it is border line crazy. So it comes in it feels like you’re
flying twice as fast. It’s like no other thing. You know trying to track it down is that much
more difficult all through California swells hit the continental shelf. In some places
it’s not as far but it totally slows it down to a way more manageable speed.>>Chris: I might point out some of you guys
might wonder how fast those waves are going. I can’t say this definitively but when a big
wave sweeping over Cortes has been slowed a bit, but it’s — the wave itself is probably
moving between 45, 50 miles an hour if not faster and that’s a big one like the 2008
swell. And then you take the surfers are moving 25 to 30 miles an hour over that. So they’re
moving at the speed of a super G skier basically going down these waves. And so, that introduces
a whole new set of hydrodynamic issues.>>Male #2: Just curious the big waves. [inaudible]
Do they affect. Seems like.>>Chris: You saw Greg.>>Greg: Yeah again, every wave is unique
unto itself. There’s no two waves that are ever the same. No two swells — it has to
do with the laws of the wind, the current. Like Mavericks water to a real abrupt shallow
shelf and you’ll get a consistent barreling wave where other, you know, waves it just
fends on the bottom contours whereas we mentioned Cortes, it’s just a gentle sloping shelf.
It will topple over at the top and then sort of roll over itself. So it just depends on
the bottom contours. But there are some waves another one I’m sure you have heard of called
Jaws, called Pe’ahi over in Maui where that is a perfect reef and it’s a 60, 70 foot barrel
down the entire length of the reef. So it just depends on the bottom contours. That
shape the form of the wave.>>Chris: And Cortes does barrel. Sometimes
it’s generally more on the inside. As you saw on the wave that Greg rode . The wave
will come into the inside slam certain parts of the shelf and just throw out.>>Male #2: I just moved here from Hawaii
months ago. I remember watching the [inaudible] Barreled offshore. What’s Waimea like compared
to these places?>>Jeff: What is Waimea compared to Cortes
or Mavericks? [Male #2 responds inaudibly] Well, yeah. When Waimea is big it seems like
if the swell’s just right you can get waves close to as big as Mavericks or Cortes, but
Cortes and Mavericks — there’s no limit to how big. You know, Waimea is in a small bay
and you know these open ocean waves have much greater opportunity for a much bigger swell
to be good.>>Greg: Actually having scientific calculations
as far as how deep the channel is to the side of the reef which in turn will dictate how
big a wave will hold its shape and be surfable before it closes out becomes just one successive
whitewater. You know where Waimea anything over about 50 feet on the face it starts to
close out the bay and basically become an unsurfable wave. Whereas Cortes Bank right
off the side starts to drop off thousands of feet of water. Mavericks I think it’s close
to 100 feet right off the side which in turn there’s been a couple you have surf documentaries
that explain all this. Mavericks can hold close to 100 foot wave. Cortes Bank hypothetically
would never close out. It could hold wave up to 300, 400 feet high. The reality to get
waves to significant wave heights to make it that big is not realistic. But Cortes,
Jaws, and Mavericks are the three kind of prominent big waves that have the potential
to hold 100 feet wave.>>Jeff: Yeah, since we’re talking 300, 400
foot waves, I think Cortes might be too shallow. [laughter]>>Jeff: The wave would just buckle.>>Male #3: What was that wave called off
the coast of France? , [inaudible]>>Male #4: Belharra
>>Chris: Yeah that’s Belharra.>>Male #3: Huge, it was kind of like this.
Is that still a place to be –>>Chris: The question was about this wave
Belharra which is off the coast of France. Maybe I’ll let Jeff or Skinny take that question,
because it is a huge wave.>>Skindog: In reality, there are going to
be more waves discovered because this is a fairly new support. Now we’re looking for
the biggest waves. Right now actually Garrett McNamara is in Portugal. And he’s on a project.
They’re pretty confident they’re going to find one of the biggest waves in the world
there. When the reef is at a certain level of depth it won’t stand up as straight like
a building. Mavericks is pretty much straight as a building. You can be at the bottom and
look up straight on it. Cortes a little more sloped but still super strong. France it’s
not that, like seriously? It’s dangerous. But it just doesn’t have the impact of a building
that Mavericks has.>>Jason: It’s gaining respect among big wave
aficionados. Yeah, because it’s so slopey.>>Jeff: And all that takes is a bigger wave,
because a bigger wave would drag more of that energy and stop it and you’d have more going
over the top to actually make it break like a real wave, but we haven’t seen that 200
foot swell.>>Skindog: We’re looking for those giants
storms from the 40s or 60s whatnot.>>Jeff: It’s probably just too deep. Reef
is probably 20 to 35 foot deep so the wave actually never grounds enough to stop the
base and topple over.>>Chris: He had a question.>>Male #5: Yeah, I was going to ask how you
go about measuring these waves. [inaudible]>>Chris: The question was how do you go about
measuring these waves and that is a contentious issue. Jason?>>Jason: It is a contentious issue and it’s
a pretty inexact science too. You’d be surprised. It’s a bunch of guys in a room with some calipers.
>>Chris: And beer and pizza.>>Jason: And beer and pizza, going okay. Let’s
try and identify the base of the wave judging from the photographic evidence. They say here’s
the base and then we’ll look at the crest of the wave and we’ll measure by using the
human scale in the photo and kind of calculate from that. But it’s not the most scientific.
And you’ll have different angles produce different size. Photos of different sized looking waves.
If you were to take this particular photo here on the cover and you shot it more from
head on, the wave could look 30 percent larger versus shooting something from the air it
might flatten out the photo. So there’s quite a bit subjectivity. And then it also depends
on the angles where it was shot from and such.>>Chris: How many beers they guys have and
ow small the guy looks.>>Jason: If he’s crouching down. If he’s
in a squat.>>Skindog: He’s about 6 foot tall. You start
at the bottom going 1, 2, 3, 4 so it’s not 100 percent accurate.>>Chris: That’s literally how it’s judged
for the XXLs.>>Male #6: So you guys are big wave surfers,
what’s your favorite wave though? Are there waves I have as much fun doing that or is
it just big wave is so much different it’s better you’d rather have that? So good shape
versus huge wave.>>Greg: I personally like surfing every single
day doesn’t matter how small how big. I can find a challenge even on a windy 2 foot day
if you go out there with the right mind set and just being in the ocean is what brings
me my satisfaction, my passion in life. Granted I love surfing big waves more obviously. The
excitement, the exhilaration, the gratification that comes from that surpasses that of small
waves. We only get, you know, a handful of days big waves a year. So if you only dedicated
or said I’m only going to surf big waves you’d be missing out on a lot of fun opportunities
to be in the water otherwise.>>Skindog: That was so vague [laughter].
Here’s the deal, big wave surfing is — it’s spiritual too. You get a lot of like serious
satisfaction out of riding a big wave. Tow surfing, not so much. You can tow into anything.
And everybody knows it’s just luck. You get towed in. I found out halfway through it’s
kind of like not satisfying. All right. I did another one. I did another one.>>Jeff: But it’s really fun. [laughter]>>Skindog: Nothing wrong with it and you
can get barreled. But grabbing your surfboard and paddling out to a spot and catching it
with your bare hands is way more satisfying than anything I’ve ever experienced in my
life. . I kind of gave up to tow surfing and just went back to paddling with my hands.
You know, you catch a 50 foot wave on a jet ski, all right, that’s cool. You catch a 15
foot wave on a board, your heart is in your throat. It’s scary.>>Jeff: And you remember every little thing
about catching that wave with your hands. It’s like branded into your brain. You’ll
never forget any part of it.>>Chris: Jeff do you want to tell him why
we have these two boards what the differences are. We have two of these huge boards. One
is Greg’s paddle surfing board. The other is tow toe surfing board. They might be interested
to know why these boards look so different.>>Jeff: One’s the wake board. No, it’s a
toe surfing board. It’s shaped to go really fast, ride big waves. The paddle in surfboard.
This is Greg’s board. Is this like the one you won the maverick’s contest on? Yeah. This
board is built to be large enough to get your paddling speed up
to catch that wave and make the drop before you get thrown to the beach. You need to find
that perfect mix for you that is the right size and once you catch the wave, have the
maneuverability. The little boards are much more maneuverable but you can’t catch a wave
with them. And with the Mavericks being probably the premier paddle in surf spot in the world,
we were really refining what we’re building for the guys to ride the waves.>>Skindog: Perfect example — that’s Greg
Long’s board. That’s my board. Greg long has a supermodel, super sexy, super thin. I got
a big fat chick over here. I find out they feel way better and I catch way more waves
on a big board. And I’m seeing a whole new trend of boards being — I know, that’s bad
huh? [laughter] But his board is probably under three inches. That one is almost five
inches thick. I just got to the point where I don’t care what it looks like. I want to
catch these waves. No matter how good a shape you’re in or how fast you are, you’re running
into. Even on that board I’m paddling for waves maybe not catching it. Boards will get
smaller but you’ll see boards get bigger, thicker. And find that ceiling. They found
the ceiling how thin you can go. You can’t go thinner than 2 and a half. They haven’t
found the ceiling on other boards. And I’ve seen guys on stand up paddle boards actually
catch waves at Mavericks. Oh my God, if he can ride a wave on that long board that has
no design and technology whatsoever what can I do on a board that actually has some technology
and that girth. So that’s what we’re seeing.>>Jeff: And that’s why I got this board I
built for myself because I’m doing a lot of stand up paddling riding big waves on stand
up paddle boards. And I’m thinking, you know, what my big stand up paddle board turns really
well on a big wave. So I’m going to use what I learned in shaping guns, transfer it to
the volume of a stand up paddle board and you know with what Kenny wants to do and what
all the big wave guys want to do is paddle into the biggest bomb they can find. So volume,
speed, and then incorporate the maneuverability you need to survive — make that take off,
set your line, do what you — be maneuverable enough to escape. [chuckles]>>Skindog: Hang on — with that said, I would
love to challenge you guys who are engineers take a look at these boards and possibly give
us some more feedback. [laughter] Because I don’t think the smartest people in the world
are making these boards, no offense. [laughter] Really good craftsmanship but I would really
love to see what your brains could come up with.>>Jeff: Tell me that after this winter. [laughter]>>Female #1: So what do you need to start
surfing the big waves? Like. [inaudible] [laughter]>>Female #1: How do you go about [inaudible]>>Chris: The question was how did these guys
get into surfing these big waves like this.>>Jeff: For me it was — as I started little,
it just became a natural progression to go to the next size to the next size to the next
size and pretty soon I was surf surfing by myself.>>Chris: Rob should have a big input because
rob is not a big wave surfer.>>Rob: They’re mental cases. It’s natural
though. I used to surf and the only reason I started photographing the big waves was
because I knew I couldn’t survive it. And I had so much respect for it. These guys definitely
they start and next thing you know it’s not enough for them. There’s kind of no limit.
And they have to keep growing and get to that point. But definitely — it’s not so much
a screw loose. It’s just different. They just are comfortable amongst it and they just grow
and get bigger and bigger and next thing you know they’re at the level they’re at now.
But you have to really, really want it bad.>>Chris: I think some people would argue
— Greg might agree if Jason — Jason has surfed Mavericks I might point out; Rob is
more sane like me. I’ve seen Rob on his boat do things that leave Greg kind of slack jawed.
And so, it’s the same sort of thing. Rob is really comfortable with his boat and Jason
is really comfortable with doing photos and running rescue on the ski. There is a level
of comfort that you get. It is different as Rob said.>>Greg: I guess what I think it really comes
down to is anything that you really love or are passionate about in life, there’s that
constant pursuit to challenge yourself. There’s a time as you’re saying shoulder high waist
high wave. I was peeing myself too. Obviously I grew up in the water from a young age and
it was when I was about 9, ten years old. You do anything for long enough But you do
anything for long enough you learn kind of how to figure out to become comfortable. Always
want to continue to improve. And you know I’m sure Skinny, Jeff can attest as you continue
to sort of push yourself it becomes this sort of obsession to actually see physically and
mentally what it is you’re actually capable of. That’s led us to this constant pursuit.
Now as we’re spending more time surfing big waves and had this whole tow surfing revolution
refining our equipment we’re realizing we really haven’t tapped into our fullest potential.
We only get so many days of big waves a year. It’s kind of a slow progression. We’re still
learning a significant amount every single year.>>Skindog: Well, you know I have a kid now.
I have a couple. And I personally think it’s genes. [laughter] You ever go to the park.
You ever see the kids at the park. You see the one kid climbing on top of the monkey
gym jumping off? That’s a candidate for Mavericks surfer or any big wave surfer.
>>Chris: That’s your kid right?>>Skindog: Same thing with snow boarding,
you ever see a little kid, “oh my God that kid is not scared to go down the black diamond?”
That same gene pool.>>Jeff: Also, the more your relationship
grows with the ocean, you know, the better you get, it becomes kind of a — you have
goals that you silently set for yourself, “wow, I pulled that off. I want to do it again.”
And then surfing bigger waves. And then, just the, you know, whether it’s 2 foot or 20 foot
just being in the ocean — I mean, that’s my favorite place to watch a sunset is in
the water. And I’m — it becomes just, you know, part of your world. And you’ll take
it any way you can get it.>>Male #6:
>>Chris: The question was has anybody ever tried Shane Dorian’s inflatable wet suit.>>Skindog: On order.>>Chris: Skinny said they’re on order
>>Greg: We’re still waiting to get all of ours. I was kind of doing the research and
development with him with the wet suit. It was an idea we’d all been talking about for
years. It really isn’t, you know, rocket science technology. But it just actually took somebody
being pushed to that limit and finally saying, “it’s time that we do this because it will
in fact save lives in the future. In recent years we’ve all lost couple of our closest
friends something of that sort could have easily saved their lives. It’s something that
will be implemented on a regular basis on the big days in the future.
[inaudible comments]>>Someone had one at [inaudible] Rob was
asking.>>Skindog: Another thing that’s going on
too we’re implementing — there’s a canister it’s called Xtreme Air. It’s from kayakers
and it’s a can of air with 15 breaths of compressed air and you can put it on your chest. It’s
pretty amazing. And I fell with the pool. With air you can actually go to some place
like Cortes and survive something you normally wouldn’t survive with that equipment.>>Jeff: One of the things we really need to
get changed as well is the PWC ban because they’re the cleanest craft in the ocean and
this NOAA law that banned them is just wrong. And they have — they made their mind up before
they ever had the hearings to hear us and when they heard us they said thank you and
passed the law anyway. And now we have one guy that made it and then last year we lost
a guy because we were afraid of ticketing and didn’t have our rescue skis in the line
up where they should have been.>>Chris: And I might point out that if Jacob
is that the guy that was rescued? Jacob who was rescued was rescued with the help of ski.>>Skindog: My ski. I’m going out there with
the ski regardless. I’ll take the ticket. I just told myself I’ll have the ticket. I
just told myself I want to have a rescue team supporting me. To answer the question how
that happened. Some guys didn’t like the fact that guy was tow surfing Mavericks. There
was a bit of an argument between two groups of surfers — paddle groups and tow surfing.
At this point, it’s gone. We don’t want to tow surf Mavericks anymore, we just want the
jet skis there to survive for rescue. A couple guys that knew the Surfrider Foundation chimed
in, made it happen. This thing got railroaded through no problem. Without any kind of scientific
proof that they’re bad for the environment, bad for the animals. Annoying towards people.
That’s basically what it was. It was just annoying people.>>Jeff: I saw an article just recently and
they were using data from 15 years ago. All that’s changed and it’s no more two strokes.
I mean.>>Skindog: They’re also using data too from
Lake Havasu. There’s 50,000 accidents in the lakes. Well, they’re not banned in the lakes.
They’re banning the oceans where there’s maybe probably 20 or 30 jet skis on the whole coast
of California that want to go out and support guys surfing. In all life guard situations,
Hawaii, everyone has a jet ski. It’s the ultimate water safety rescue operation. If a boat goes
down in the ocean, they send in a jet ski with a rescue sled on a back with a 2 man
team to save the people that are in danger. There’s not a better water safety craft in
the world right now.>>Female Presenter: With that, thank-you.>>Chris: Thanks, Pat. Yeah. [Applause]>>Thanks Pat.

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