Surfing a Tsunami

Rogier sez: "Most people would do anything to get out of the way of a tsunami. But daredevils with a death wish would like to RIDE one, and they're keeping their surf boards ready. Officials in Hawaii are still a bit freaked out by the memory of 400-plus surf enthusiasts showing up on the beaches of Oahu ten years ago, trying to catch a killer wave. To prevent a repeat, a public-safety DVD has been distributed through Hawaiian surf shops this fall.

"The message is sure to get lost on this guy, who was caught on film riding a monster wave that would give mere mortals heart attacks (though from the looks of it, it isn't nearly on the magnitude of the walls of waters that wiped out tens of thousands of people in South East Asia yesterday). Link

UPDATE: Peter Orosz sez: "Professional big wave surfers can ride waves that are taller than normal tsunami waves (the biggest wave ever ridden was in Hawaii on January 28, 1998, when Ken Bradshaw rode a wave with an 85-foot face on the North Shore of Oahu at Outside Log Cabins). Natural big wave spots like Waimea Bay in Hawaii, Teahupoo in Tahiti or Mavericks in California can produce waves 50-80 feet high, while yesterday's tsunamis were no higher than 30 feet (as far as I recall from CNN's report). The destructive power of tsunamis result from the immense amount of water in motion: the earthquake sets the entire ocean moving. In many places, a tsunami is not an actual wave but a rapidly rising tide that surges inland.

"Apparently, it's quite difficult to measure waves and there are several methods. According to Surfline, Bradshaw's 1998 wave was "a 45-foot wave with an 85-foot face", whatever that means. Billabong has a contest called XXL with a cash award going to the person who rides the biggest wave of the season, and according to their site, the world record holder is Pete Cabrinha with a 70-foot wave ridden at Peahi/Jaws on Maui this April. This page gives a guide to estimating wave height and describes the different methods used."

Nick sez: "I think (though I'm not 100%) that this is referring to the fact that waves have both crests and troughs. The "height" of a wave should be defined as how high the crest reaches above the standard ocean level, while the "face" of a wave should be what one sees when one looks directly at it, namely the entire distance from trough to crest. If ocean waves were shaped like perfect sine waves then one would expect the trough to be as deep as the crest is high, so a 45-foot wave would have a 90-foot face. Of course they're not but a 45-foot wave with 85-foot face would seem to make sense."

Christian Anthony (Video Editor, Surfline) sez: "The link you have under the 'Surfing a Tsunami' story to the big wave video is misleading.

"It's labeled as 'Surfing Hurricane Ivan Waves' but Hurricane Ivan was on the East Coast and did not produce waves of that height, nor are there spots on the East Coast that break like that. That video on the site has been ripped off from the Billabong Odyssey movie and is from Hawaii, specifically a break called Peahi (or Jaws).

"Last week there was a really big swell that hit Peahi and all the professional big wave riders were on it. You can see the video here."

Alberto sez: "You know about Laird Hamilton, cross-board virtuoso? He's invented the foilboard, which he uses to surf the huge swells that cross the oceans for miles. Although at the reported 450 mph of the Sumatra 2004 tsunami, I'm not too sure even he'd be able to catch-up. (He also surfs monster waves once they break on shore, but with a more-conventional surfboard.) He has a bare-bones website that offers a couple of DVDs of his jaw-dropping exploits (Flash interface alert, with and unkillable soundtrack of wave sounds)."