Surfing Waves: Mutants Unmasked

What doesn’t kill you…

Riding waves, whether it be standing, knee, or prone, carries an inherent amount of risk and injury to those who practice extreme ocean sports on a regular basis.  Knowing and facing these risks remains an essential part of the extreme ocean sport experience. What doesn’t kill you  will only make you stronger. And this is very much the case for watermen around the world, surfing waves at their local beach break, perhaps no taller than their waist, or those that take the sport to the very extreme, riding giants and mutants around the world. It is this last type of wave I wish to address in this post.

But first, a “pinch” of Oceanography…

Below are surfing waves which I have categorized, from lowest to highest intensity and danger. It’s important to note that the wave’s power and energy is determined, in large measure, by its swell period. The longer the swell period, the more energy the wave will receive via wind transfer. There are two types of swells: Long period swells are affected by the ocean floor’s bathymetry; they are also called ground swells. Short period swells are usually created by local winds and travel much shorter distances than long period swells: less distance traveled means less accomulated energy.

Wind Waves – Waist high or lower.

Waist High Waves – Longer swell period intervals are aprox. 3-6 seconds.

Head High Waves – Swell event originates from ocean storms. Swell period intervals are aprox. 6-10 seconds.


Ok, so now we get into the heavy weights…

These waves are sought out by some of the best surfing pros and experienced, amateur surfers out there. The energy they pack is tremendous since they originate deep in the Pacific and Atlantic Ocean, traveling for thousands of miles before discharging all their energy on surf breaks around the world.

Swell period interval: 12+ seconds.
Surfing waves of this size and power demmand a healthy amount of respect even from the most seasoned surfers.
Swell period interval: 18+ seconds.
Into the rabbit hole…

Incredibly, wave categories do continue after this point. We enter the realm of the bizarre. Surf breaks on steroids; mutants and ocean abnormalities which have gained notoriety as being some of the heaviest waves in the planet. These waves are best seen and appreciated in full motion. Witness below all their strange, mind-bending beauty. Though I only mention three here, like exotic singularities,  many more remain to be discovered. Enjoy the videos!


In Tahitian, it means “The End of The Road”. In 2000, legendary big wave charger, Laird Hamilton, surfed the “Millenium Wave”, considered to be the heaviest wave of all time. Huge accomplishment considering that Teahupoo’s bottom is mostly made up of very sharp reef. This session set the standard for future big wave riders.

Shipsterns Bluff (Tazmania).

Also known as “Devil’s Point” or “Shippies”. This is Teahupoo’s weird, twisted cousin. You be the judge:

And finally, the strange aussie kid from next door, known simply as “The Right”. Upredictable and dangerous…

Is there anything beyond the bizarre?

Well, consider this: 71% of our world is covered by water. The Atlantic Ocean is huge, and even grander in scale is the Pacific Ocean. Somewhere out there, abnormalities are being engendered…nature’s way of showing us her twisted sense of humor. These places must exist. And they are there for  the taking, but only by the boldest and the bravest…the pioneering. Beyond this…yes: Cortez Bank, Nazare, Ghost Trees…and beyond that…who knows.

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