Authors@Google: Chris Dixon, Ghost Wave: The Discovery of Cortes Bank and the Biggest Wave on Earth

Uploaded by AtGoogleTalks on 28.10.2011

>> 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 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.
>> 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 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.
>> 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.
>>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
>> Jeff: Tell me that after this winter. [laughter]
>> Female #1: So what do you need to start surfing the big waves? Like. [inaudible]
>> 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
>>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
>> 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.
>> Thanks Pat.