Summer’s here and, man, wouldn’t it be cool to get on a surfboard and let ‘er rip? Think about it. There’s something indisputably awesome about slicing through raging waves while crowds watch from onshore and think, “that surfer has got it goin’ on.” Like the iconic image of a zinc-nosed lifeguard, spinning his whistle with sunglasses perched upside down on the back of his sun-kissed head, surfing is synonymous with low-key, beach cool. As long as you stay on the board, that is. Successful surfs, however, often end in ocean tumbles, not straight-to-shore cruise-ins. Even more often than that, they end in total wipeouts. On that note, here are the most intense oceanic falls of all time. They’re a reminder to us all that as cool as it is, big wave surfing’s about as extreme, and dangerous, a summer sport as you can take up.
The Big Crescendo
Until the 0:20 mark, this video looks a lot more like a highlight reel than a vicious wipeout. Oh, but then, we learn the truth. The tape slows and the mood becomes grave. As surfer Danielo Couto rides this monstrous Puerto Escondido, Mexico swell, he very noticeably enters some very shallow territory. Territory that looks like it would be brutal to fall in. Then… he does just that, cascading into what has to be less than three feet of water, mere moments before a cresting behemoth pile drives him into the sand. The footage is pretty intense. Now, we know that surfers don’t love talking about the times they’ve wiped out, and we don’t want to make a bad situation worse, but, after watching, we’ve got one question for Danielo. Just how much water did you get up your nose exactly?
The “Get Back, Son”
A trip to Teahupoo, Tahiti, in French Polynesia, is supposed to entail taking it easy and relaxing. It’s not supposed to entail slamming into a wave so hard that it feels like you’re hitting a slab of concrete. Unfortunately, that’s how it looks like it felt for surfing legend, Raimana Van Bastolaer. Van Bastolaer appears to have it all under control until he loses his footing and lands backwards into the snarling white of a relentless swell. Now, let us tell you, dear reader, as novice watersportsmen, we at The Adrenalist fall quite a bit. We know as well as anyone that hitting the ocean at speeds of any more than 10-mph or so hurts. It hurts a lot. It’s safe to say Van Bastolaer was moving at a faster pace than that, so it’s also safe to say, he got a good jostling. Let it be a reminder to all aqua-sport lovers, beginner or expert: the ocean stops for no one, no matter how talented.
A contender for the Verizon Wipeout of the Year at the 2012 Billabong XXL Global Big Wave Awards, this video shows reported schoolteacher, James McKean, taking a nasty spill at Tasmania’s Shipstern Bluff. We don’t know for sure, but we’re betting he had to extend his spring break a couple days after taking a fall like this. The way McKean’s body contorts before he even hits the ocean looks like it could cause some serious morning-after soreness. Then, of course, the inimitable hydro-smash in the face. That’s gotta hurt. At the end of the day, this excursion to Tasmania became a week-long, back-aching reminder that teaching Algebra is plenty adventurous for McKean. With moves like his, we’re a little dubious that he doesn’t have some serious surfing experience in his past. Everyone falls, but few look this poised before doing so. Still though, ouch. At least he’ll have a cool story for his students.
We don’t know who this man is, but we wish we did, because we’d send him a “get well” card if given even the slightest clue. Despite the lack of a description, this carnal piece surely merits honorable mention. At this point in our journey, we’ve been exposed to tumbles, push-backs and sidewinding teachers, but there are very few substitutes for crashing so hard you flip over. Yes, very few substitutes indeed. Except, of course, flipping over and landing on one’s head, as this mystery man accomplishes. The flip is so startling that, after watching this clip for the fortieth time, cringing in anticipation more and more with each new view, we question whether this surfer was a human at all, and not some wetsuit-wearing ragdoll.
The last four wipeouts have been serious, no doubt, but this one’s in a league all its own. While the others hinted at the threat of injury, they were more slapstick in their unfolding. This, our finale, is anything but. After a hard-to-watch crash at Maui’s Jaws Beach, famous for hosting some of the most tumultuous waves in the world, one surfer endures a fall more terrifying than any we’ve seen before. A timer on the video shows that he’s submerged for nearly a minute, getting pounded by wave after wave, before breaking the surface. When he finally rises, the rescue team deployed to transport him back to shore can’t locate him and he must summon the last bits of energy to tread until his ultimate and lucky rescue. The blooper reels of the sea, wipeouts are often fun to watch provided all parties involved come out with little more than some seashell scrapes and noses full of water. Watching this clip, we’re given pause and reminded of just how powerful the water can be and how every time we set out to enjoy its fruits, we must also be mindful of its thundering fists.