Why hasn’t anybody died in recent big waves?

Why hasn’t anybody died in recent big waves?

Why hasn’t anybody died in recent big waves?

Things moved from extremely positive to extremely negative — and they went from extremely positive to extremely negative very quickly. Peaches and cream first, then doom and gloom, then peaches and cream again



It was a classic example of a great day. It was simply insane how well the North Shore waves were performing. The sun was shining brightly, and Pipeline was glistening. “It was the largest and greatest Pipe of the year on that particular day,” said Dave Wassell, a long-time North Shore lifeguard. “It was one of those days that we look forward to every year in Hawaii.”




Pipeline expert and past O’Neill Wave of the Winter winner Mikey “Redd” O’Shaughnessy snagged a rail on a set wave a little after lunchtime and was knocked out cold. Hard. The surfer, despite being wearing a helmet, struck his head on the reef, was knocked unconscious, and was then trapped under for at least two waves.





Everyone was whistling, recalls Wassell, and that was the first thing he noticed. If someone is gravely hurt on the North Shore, and particularly on Pipeline, everyone begins whistling in celebration. 



When everyone begins whistling at the same moment and the sound reverberates, it’s perhaps the most haunting sound you’ll ever hear in your life. “It’s a terrifying experience.”




When a small group of surfers in the water and on the beach came to Redd’s aid, they managed to keep him above the surface of the water while they made their way to the shore.


 Wassell arrived on the scene on a jet ski and jumped in to help. CPR was started as soon as the victim was brought to the shore. Redd felt certain that he would make it.



Mikey Redd is still Mikey Redd, not Mikey Blue, according to Wassell, who believes this is a significant improvement. While it may be intended as a joke, “this is something I take incredibly seriously.”

Listen to Mikey Redd’s appearance on ‘The Late Drop’ podcast here.

Safety has been a top priority for the whole big-wave community, which has increased dramatically over the last several years. 


There’s a macabre underbelly to the majesty of riding gigantic surf – the accomplishment of mastering some of nature’s most frightening waves – and that’s the fact that some of big-wave surfing’s brightest and finest have perished while doing what they love most. 



For example, from Sion Milosky (Maverick’s, 2016) to Donnie Solomon (Kahului, 1995), Mark Foo (Maverick’s, 1994), and Todd Chesser (North Shore, 1997), there have been several near-death experiences.




But, happily, despite the fact that the bounds of advancement are being pushed to the limit, there are seeming to be fewer and fewer disasters in recent years. And it raises the unpleasant but vital issue of why no one has died while riding large waves in recent years.




View: Two Near-Death Experiences Lead to the Formation of a New Nazaré Safety Crew

Several key figures in surf safety (including Wassell) were interviewed, as were famed lifeguard, surfer, and safety pioneer Brian Keaulana; photographer and long-time Maverick’s safety operator Frank Quirarte; and Maui watermen Shaun and DK Walsh, among others. And, as a result of those discussions, a few recurring themes emerged:

The growth of big-wave surfing, as well as its emphasis on safety, has occurred rather spontaneously, as has been the case with everything that is given enough time to develop. The surfers and safety staff have learnt from their previous blunders and have made the necessary adjustments to their techniques.




“I see a lot more caution in the water,” Keaulana observed. The men would come up to me and tell me they felt comfortable when they were around me when I used to surf a lot.” But then I take a glance around and think to myself, “Who’s going to save me?” 



Everyone is now on the lookout for one another and attempting to assist one another. A surfer today is not simply a surfer; he’s more of an engineer, which is kind of amusing. More in the manner of a strategist. When you have ultimate understanding, you have no need to be afraid.”

What Is Mason Ho Riding, Anyway

Why hasn't anybody died in recent big waves?

The more you practice something and, in turn, the more times you fail, the better you will become. A natural progression stemming from years of expertise is what we are seeing. The same thing is occurring in the big surf at the moment.




In the previous five years, Quirarte believes that the situation has improved significantly, maybe more than before. In terms of what we were doing, there were bits and pieces here and there, but I believe myself, and for a number of other guys on the Mavericks squad, we’ve learnt a lot from the WSL Big Wave Tour and other events on which we’re now competing. “




 On an average surf day at Maverick’s, on a normal session, we’re going to apply this theory. As a result of training the other men who are there, even those who are not on tour, they become a part of the initiative. 




Since the past couple of years, we’ve been holding safety briefings before the season to ensure that everyone is on the same page. This is something we’ve never done before.”





The need of communicating in huge waves was repeatedly brought up in discussions with the safety tacticians, whether it was before a significant swell occurrence, during it in the water, or even after it had occurred as a type of post-game assessment.




Safety personnel on jet skis are communicating with the boats, and the boats are communicating with cliff-spotting crews, etc. Rescues have become more efficient as a result of improved communication. Post-wipeout in Mexico, Jamie Mitchell reflects on her experiences. Billy Watts provided the photograph.




According to DK Walsh, “Communication is a major one.” “We have spotters on the cliff, who are calling where individuals are going down and where they are popping up; we have radio connection with helicopters; we have radio communication with the boat. “



 Everyone’s communication has become more clearer as time has passed. Apart from that, pre-planning has become quite important. To get everyone on the same page, we take a day or two and sit together as a group.




With regard to communication, Quirarte said, “we’ve improved tenfold.” “In every situation, effective communication will provide excellent outcomes.”


On Super Swell Saturday in January ’21, crews are preparing for a monster Jaws wave. Jeremiah Klein provided the photograph.



A safety training was given before to the second round of XXL swell at hit Mav’s in December; read the entire story here. Powerlines Productions provided the photograph.



And what happens when the enormous surges pass over you?

According to Keaulana, “we must assume responsibility.” The events of that day transpired as they did without any planning or forethought. It is possible to learn from such occurrences, but we must do so without erecting walls, hurdles, or making excuses. 



Otherwise, we are not taking responsibility for ourselves. When it comes to debriefing, the key question is how do we accept responsibility for our errors and for our failures. 



We may use it to educate not just ourselves but also one another, much as a town, a group, or a tactical team might. So the next time something like this happens, these are the men you want to be around because they won’t do it again.”






A major aspect of safety that has seen significant advancements throughout the years is that of safety equipment. There’s also the inflating vest, which is more specific.



 Shane Dorian was inspired to create the first CO2-powered inflatable wetsuit after the sad drowning of Sion Milosky at Maverick’s in 2011, as well as a near-drowning of his own while at Mav’s. After a decade in the business, they’ve earned a spot on every big-wave lineup in the world.



Survival experts and surfers alike will tell you that inflatable vests are not the be-all and end-all answer to surviving in the water.




Shaun Walsh, DK’s twin brother and safety partner, claimed that when the vest is put on, some of the men feel like Superman putting on his suit. Men such as Ian Walsh and Greg Long, on the other hand, do nothing but train,” says Walsh. In order to be more prepared and not depend on the vest, they are always working to enhance their physical and mental well-being. 




To be prepared for the massive surge, Ian trains all year, every day. Knowing in my mind that he takes his training so seriously is a tremendous comfort for me right now. As a result, it is more convenient for everyone.




More information may be found at What It’s Like to Fall at Giant Maverick’s (with Ian Walsh).

These days, it’s more than simply a pair of boardies and a rifle…

The most important thing these days is equipment. Jaws has had another near call this season, and here is Mikey Redd to show you what happened. Jeremiah Klein provided the photograph.




Because of a fault with the vest or the difficulty to reach the pull tabs during a wipeout — big-wave beatings are sometimes likened to automobile collisions – inflation isn’t always a possibility in these situations.



 And what happens if the surfer passes out while riding the wave? The training you’ve received and the other persons in the water will determine whether or not you’ll be able to swim.




As Keaulana said, “the inflated vests are only an additional layer of protection.” “Literally. However, you must make an investment in your own interior. When it comes to preparing your body and mind to resist these kind of events, preparation is key. 



Put on the vest as an additional layer of protection after that to ensure your safety. It’s not possible to rely on it, though. If they fail, you’ll be left with nothing but yourself.




Within the current big-wave scene, training, as well as additional safety equipment, are all required elements. A surfer can no longer just turn up on the day of the swell – it now requires months and months of preparation just to catch a single wave in this day and age.




“It used to be that men would ride a massive wave, come out, and light up a cigarette,” Quirarte said. Alternatively, you could drink a beer. As a result, these men are putting in the necessary preparation; they are professional athletes, and they are training accordingly. 



Those were the days when you could simply toss your board in the trunk of your vehicle and paddle off. It’s past time for such days. The situation has changed because the dangers are now too present.




Take waves like these on the chin requires a lot of preparation. Nazaré is a city that has gone unidentified. Jeremiah Klein provided the photograph.

Being physically healthy and depending only on your own abilities and equipment, on the other hand, is not a foolproof method of remaining safe. Among the things Wassell recalled:




During my time in the military, Todd Chesser was the only man that took the physical side of things seriously. He worked out like a lunatic to prepare for the competition. And you were there to see what occurred. It occurred despite the fact that that individual was unstoppable. 




Individuals have learned that not only do they want to get the appropriate physical training, but they also want to make plans on top of plans. The whole thing goes horribly wrong. When it comes to pushing the boundaries, it is exactly what you should do.”




Having buddies is beneficial in this situation.


“Besides, you’re constantly alone yourself out in the wilderness.” No one else except yourself should be your only source of support. Wednesday is a big day for Bear.



While the comment from the fictitious character of Bear above is somewhat accurate, and surfers should be physically and psychologically prepared for any eventuality that may arise, big-wave surfing is no longer a solitary activity. 



These people who surf are members of a crew, a team, and a community. And everyone contributes to the smooth running of the session by performing their respective duties.




According to DK, “we approach it like a NASCAR team.” “You’ve got the man who drives the automobile, but you’ve also got the guy who does nothing but replace the tires, or the guy who puts petrol in the car. 



All of us are responsible for something. It is no longer simply the person who shows up to perform the surfing. Boat captains, video crews, and even a radio operator perched on the rock face are all there to see the spectacle. 



A great deal goes into it, and many of the individuals who contribute to it go unnoticed. Now it’s a team sport rather than simply an individual one.”

It’s advantageous to have companions while surfing in large waves. Billy Watts provided the photograph.




This part of large wave surfing is unique in that it requires a team of people to be successful. The sport of surfing, in general, may still be a very solitary activity; yet, when it comes to significant waves, the days of Jeff Clark riding Maverick’s on his own are long gone.




In today’s world, big-wave surfing is no longer a selfish sport, according to Shaun. In order to attempt to catch the largest wave on the planet, you definitely have to be insane.” In California, though, I believe that paddling out at a two-foot beachbreak is a matter of personal preference.



 When compared to big-wave surfing, which is more of a communal experience, that’s more of a self-contained sensation to be had. Others don’t even bother to surf. 



They just do safety checks and nothing else.. Alternatively, a group of men are there to document the event. You, on the other hand, are all experiencing the same sensation. I don’t even want to go out and surf most of the time. Seeing my brothers ride the biggest waves of their life, knowing that I was a part of it, makes me as happy as can be. 


As long as everyone gets home safely, I couldn’t be happier. In the event that someone waves, it’s fantastic! Nevertheless, the sensation I am experiencing is still really positive.





It is possible that information will prove to be the most significant advance in the growth of big-wave safety in the future. A number of groups, including as the Big Wave Risk Assessment Group (BWRAG), which just launched an online course, have contributed to the spread of lifesaving skills. BWRAG is devoted to educating surfers and safety workers on the right process to follow when the sh*t hits the fan.

According to Keaulana, “what we do with BWRAG is because Kohl [Christensen] and Danilo [Cuoto] decided to take action when Sion Milosky went away.” Kohl Christensen and Danilo Cuoto are the two men behind BWRAG. 




For them and for us all, it was a tragedy, and they wished to avoid such tragedies in the future. For me, it was Mark Foo who stood out. Originally, I was scheduled to travel down for the same wave as Darrick [Doerner], but Darrick and I had been surfing all day the day before. 




We weren’t going to be able to show adequate respect to the water if we were exhausted when we left. It was these occurrences that brought us all together. The phenomenon has spread beyond the local level; it has gone viral, affecting people all around the globe. I usually emphasize, “We aren’t separated by geography.” “We’re linked together through water.”



When anything horrible occurs to a surfer, he or she can no longer depend on others for assistance. Sometimes there isn’t enough time to wait for the specialists to arrive – they must possess the necessary abilities. “Once you’re on shore, there are first responders who can assist you,” Keaulana said further.



 “However, we’re attempting to create surf responders. That is exactly what we are attempting to do through BWRAG and the coming together of this community. Many times, they are the first ones to arrive on the scene. “You can’t afford to wait for the lifeguards or paramedics to arrive.”

But, when it comes down to it, the age-old, often-cliched adage “If in question, don’t paddle out” still rings true: “If in doubt, don’t paddle out.” When it comes to massive waves, it’s not a question of if, but when. 




As Keaulana points out, sometimes the damage has already been done: “It’s difficult to cure dumb.” “It’s difficult to convince someone that they’re making a mistake unless they’re put in a dangerous scenario.”





And if you’re not prepared to withstand the battering you’ll take when the waves grow heavy, how can you expect to effectively ride waves of that quality in the future? If you don’t, you’re just endangering yourself and everyone else around you. That is the current state of affairs.





In Quirarte’s words, “you don’t want your family’s fun surfing day to turn into a tragedy because you weren’t prepared.” “Risk management and understanding one’s own limits are two things we aim to educate our students. We say that all the time, but it is true.



 People are dying on our beach on a regular basis because they have traveled from a place where they have never seen the water. They come out on a very windy day and jump into the water, where they are pulled below and drown. 



Although it is not on the same level, you should consider whether or not you are prepared for any situation. Will you be able to withstand three Maverick’s waves to the head? “You really have to think about it when you’re lying in bed the night before.”