New Year’s Trends: Big-Wave Surfing

Ian Walsh rides big waves at Jaws, off Maui, HI, USA, on 9 October 2012.
© Fred Pompermayer/Red Bull Content Pool

Signs from 2013 that the surf world is in a paradigm shift toward the big stuff.

Five years ago, the majority of surf mags and websites were featuring the “it-kids.” Kids hucking stalefish air-reverses and blowing off ‘QS events for a part in a Kai Neville flick. It was carefree and fun and cool…But not entirely real.

Not entirely complete.

It seems that in the last five years, and really climaxing into the now, that a truly complete surfer likes the rush of a giant paddle-in wave as much or more than a rampy section.

Ask John John Florence, or Jamie O’Brien, or Ian Walsh. All those young bucks are waxing up their 10’6”s as we speak. (Somewhere, an Outer Reef is calling.) They, along with the rest of the big-wave devotees are opening up their brave new world to the fans.

Because big-wave surfing isn’t just 30+ anymore. It isn’t all baggy-pants and Nor-Cal hooded-sweatshirts. Yes, it’s serious, dangerous stuff-- but that’s exactly why it’s cool. It has nothing to do with skateboard tricks and hipster-board art. Rather, it’s challenging and exhilarating and radder than ever.

The following list is evidence from 2013 that a paradigm shift is in place. That a bigger, bolder craving is what surfers now desire.

1. Red Bull’s Peaking: A Big-Wave Surfer’s Perspective

Peaking,” the first of its kind, is an intimate, beautiful, impeccably produced online film series about professional big-wave surfers. Profile based, having already featured Jamie Sterling, Carlos Burle and Ramon Navarro, the viewer literally enters the environment, psyche and world of these extraordinary men.

From following Burle to Tahiti, or Navarro to southern Chile, the cinematography is unparalleled and the access, honesty and insight we get from the surfers is mind-blowing. And, of course, the action footage of the boys in their element, is RED epic crème de la crème.

Carlos Burle, Gone© Onda

2. The Big Wave World Tour

The Top 34 has their’s, the women do, too. The Juniors got a tour and hell, every coast on each American shore’s got their amateur association. It was only a matter of time before the big-wave guys would have their turn. Thanks to Big Wave World Tour founder and legendary surfer, Gary Linden, for the past few years, the BWWT has been growing and thriving.

With a Top 12 ‘CT-style elite tour, wildcards, alternates and qualifiers, the BWWT has around 6 events a year with all the big names a part of it from Greg Long to Carlos Burle to Peter Mel to Ramon Navarro to Twiggy Baker and more. Not only that, but the events are held at new and exotic sites from the Basque Country to Chile to Mexico and beyond.

Congrats to Grant Twiggy Baker that just won the Punta Galea Challenge!

3. Surfing Magazine’s Big Wave Issue

There have been big-wave features in the past, but never a whole issue solely devoted to the art and act and feeling behind it all. The boys over at SURFING mag decided it was time. This past month the Feb 2014 issue was an actual “Portrait of modern big-wave surfing” with interviews, essays, quotes and stories from the world’s big wave elite. Like, every, single one of them.

Laird Hamilton Weighs In On The Nazaré Session

4. Stab’s What (So-and-so) Thinks About Big Wave Surfing

A fascinating online interview series, What XXX Thinks About… is a conversation with modern legends from Shane Dorian to Laird Hamilton, in true Stab fashion. In other words, the questions everyone else is afraid to ask.

Like: Is tow surfing for wussies? Is Nazare soft? Will the Big Wave World Tour work? Candid and without regard, the subjects give their two sense on uber-relative topics that anyone may be wondering about this mysterious big-wave world.