Any surfer who has spent even three years out in the ocean blue has become frustrated by how to measure the waves just ridden. Should they be in Stathams, based upon the height of action film star Jason Statham? In Surflines, inflated twice over unless advertising an upcoming World Surf League event then expanded by thrice x twice? Hawaiian, where the back of the wave is measured down to one foot? Calling everything 2 – 3 unless death is imminent then calling it 4 – 6?
A troubling stew we all wade through.
For now we know there is a completely accurate way to measure waves, a formula that will never fail, and that is the German male’s lower leg.
Just this morning, it was revealed that Sebastian Steudtner had, officially, bagged the world’s largest wave.
The standard (Adam) Fincham and his colleagues from Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California San Diego and the Kelly Slater Wave Company settled on this year was Steudtner’s lower leg, from his heel to his kneecap.
“That distance does not change since you can’t bend your lower leg,” Fincham said.
All so clear, now.
Surfers are notorious for not being able to see the forest for the trees, as we are out in the ocean blue, but… son of a gun. How did we miss this?
How did we not know?
Please share the biggest wave you’ve ever surfed, on the German male lower leg scale of course.
Harrowing scenes as surf instructor saves French couple caught in “killer riptide” at once iconic surf spot, “Panicked, the young man uses the girl like a buoy to keep from drowning!”
A little lesson in the wiles of panic and how the spectre of death can push a man into survival-at-all-costs mode, the consequences be damned.
In this shortish clip, taken at the surf spot La Barre yesterday, a joint once famous for a world-class left before a groyne/jetty was built shielding it from all but six-foot plus swells, we see a couple of teenagers caught in the rip that runs alongside the jetty.
The rescuer, Pierre-Oliver Coutant, writes,
“A young girl as well as another young man, they don’t know each other, are caught by the same current. Panicked the young man uses the girl as a buoy so as not to drown. It’s the survival instinct.”
A few weeks back, I was surfing with a pal of mine, a lifeguard, when a gal needed help. Stronger than usual, she damn near took him down; he had to belt her in the chops to release her death grip.
The thing is, and as I taught my kids when they were four, even Michael Phelps can’t swim against a rip, so roll onto your back, enjoy the free ride, and when it runs out of gas, swim parallel to the beach and come back through the waves.
Society, however, has determined the best way to teach non-oceangoers about rips is to cast ‘em as death sentences, “Rips Kill” etc. And, it’s true, they kill, but they kill because as soon as someone feels their legs disappear from under ’em and they’re heading to the horizon, the instinct is to panic, thrash, scream, followed by gulps of water, lungs shut off, sink.
Two days later, the body, bloated, floats to the surface.
World Surf League Head of Competition jubilant as toxic powerhouses U.S., Australia, Brazil undone at just-wrapped Sydney Pro: “I truly believe that surfing is a global sport and that our next generation will come from all over (strong arm emoji).”
Now, describing the United States of America, Australia and Brazil as “toxic” may be unfair but is it unjust? Likely, though the three countries have completely dominated professional surfing at the highest level for decades upon decades and anywhere we see complete domination for decades upon decades we also see unfair power balances i.e. toxicity.
Well, the sludge might just be draining away as a surfer from Indonesia and a surfer from Portugal bested all-comers at the just-wrapped Great Wall Motors Sydney Pro presented by Rip Curl, the second stop of the freshly minted Challenger Series.
Rio Waida (Indonesia) and Teresa Bonvalot (Portugal) took the wins for men and women in an exciting final’s day.
Waida (above) beat “Headless Horseman” Ryan Callinan and Bonvalot out-dueled Nikki Van Dijk in fine enough conditions causing the World Surf League’s Senior Vice President of Competition, Head of Tours Jessi Miley-Dyer to jubilate in an almost antiquated, much-missed, globalist way.
Per Instagram, Miley-Dyer wrote, “Incredible to see some new faces and flags on the top of our podium here at the Challenger series in Manly. I truly believe that surfing is a global sport, and that our next generation will come from all over.”
She emphasized the post with a strong arm emoji, the Indonesian flag and the Portuguese flag.
While there has been much talk of the mythical 100-foot wave over the years, an HBO series even named The 100-Foot Wave, none has ever been surfed, or at least none surfed and documented. Measuring waves, you see, is a difficult business. One man’s trough is another man’s… something that rhymes with trough but isn’t trough.
But nothing is too tough for our World Surf League and, with the help of the Guinness Book of World Records and science, it was just revealed that German ace, and one-time Christian Fletcher punching bag, Christian Steudtner now officially holds the title of “biggest wave ever ridden,” a whopping 86-foot Nazare bomb.
The standard (Adam) Fincham and his colleagues from Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California San Diego and the Kelly Slater Wave Company settled on this year was Steudtner’s lower leg, from his heel to his kneecap. “That distance does not change since you can’t bend your lower leg,” Fincham said.
The team asked Steudtner to measure that length, which effectively gave them a ruler for the image of the surfer’s ride. The experts must study the image closely, accounting for distortions that might misrepresent the wave’s size. Different angles and cameras lenses could muddle the process.
To account for how to correct the images, Fincham traveled to Nazaré and stood at the locations where photos and videos of Steudtner’s ride were captured, calculating the camera angles and the distance of the camera to the wave face. He also interviewed the two photographers whose imagery was used to analyze the wave, learning more about the equipment they used and how they leveled their cameras.
With this information in hand, the analysis team used 3D modeling software to geometrically correct the photos and convert pixels to inches. Using the lower leg standard, they could begin to measure the wave from trough to crest.
You must recall Adam Fincham as the inventor of Kelly Slater’s wave pool technology.
Something we can all agree upon.
Pulitzer Prize-winning Bill Finnegan profiles tycoon-friendly Kai Lenny for the New Yorker, “(His) most elaborate billionaire bromance has been with Mark Zuckerberg. They went foiling together on Kauai, and the paparazzi caught Zuckerberg looking extra silly.”
And, among other revelations, Kai says, "The big-wave tour sucks" and "I want to surf like Ethan Ewing."
Seven years ago, Bill Finnegan’s Pulitzer Prize-winning memoir Barbarian Days threw me under the bus of a two-day obsessive read.
I’d dived into Finnegan’s work in the New Yorker before, including an excerpt from the book about his time as a kid in Hawaii (read here) and figured the memoir would be gently entertaining but not especially adventurous.
I imagined a writer with a loosely knotted bow-tie and a drooping moustache. A delicate New York gentleman, a flabby enthusiast.
I’d only penetrated three chapters into the book when we suddenly camping on Maui waiting for Honolua Bay to break and, shortly after, camping on the empty beach at Tavarua for a week and surfing a new discovery called Restaurants.
Finnegan entered my heart a little later when, via email, I asked how surfing could be reported better.
“What I do read is way too advertiser-friendly. BeachGrit seems to be an exception… Surfing is an unusual journalism niche because the interests of the surf industry, which very largely finances the surf media, are fundamentally at odds with the interests of most surfers… They want to ‘grow’ the sport. We’d like it to shrink, reducing crowds.”
Did you not ask about the business plan Bill? It really comes across like you were too busy admiring Kelly the “beautiful boy” whose looks have not deserted him.
Sorry Bill, your book was fab but the essay blew goats. Too much Slater Kool-Aid, not enough fact checking.
Anyway, in the latest issue of the New Yorker Finnegan examines the life of Kai Lenny, the daring twenty-nine-year-old multi-discipline surfer from Maui.
We learn that his wife Molly is the sister of Dusty Payne, who was dismissive of the relationship with the SUP-riding Lenny, that he believes the big-wave tour is a joke, takes vitamins via an intravenous drip, he’d like to surf like Australian Ethan Ewing and he counts the world’s richest men as pals.
Kai is discreet about his thing with tycoons. They want to be around him, tech titans especially. Sergey Brin, one of the founders of Google, wants to come out on Kai’s support boat at Mavericks? Sure. “He’s supercool,” Kai says. In 2019, he spent some time on Richard Branson’s private island in the Caribbean, where he taught Sir Richard to kitefoil—we know that mostly because Branson posted video on Facebook of the two of them. But Kai’s most elaborate billionaire bromance has been with Mark Zuckerberg. They went foiling together on Kauai, and the paparazzi caught Zuckerberg looking extra silly. Zuckerberg later described Kai as “magical,” and then introduced his big metaverse gaming play with, among other things, a cringeworthy virtual-reality skit about foiling with Kai. Even so, Kai has nothing uncharitable to say about him.