It’s also dangerous as hell.
There are few reminders of that as poignant as the below—a quick collection of a few of the absolute worst wipeouts the surfing world has given us in the past few years. Witness the fury of Mother Nature—and the stalwart spirit of today’s daredevils—through these videos:
Born in Maui but ultimately a product of Italy (could ya guess from the name?), a young Niccolo Porcella convinced his parents to roll back to Maui when he was 12-years-old. The plan? A professional career in kite surfing, although soon, Porcella would turn to skydiving, cliff diving and, of course, tow surfing.
While his extreme-sports adoration could be predicted from an early age, what happened above in Teahupoo, Tahiti on July 22, 2015 could not. Here’s how Porcella discusses the terrifying moment in an interview with Surfer:
“I smacked the water really hard but thought I had penetrated and was going to pop out the back. I took a stroke toward the surface, thinking "this is too good to be true," then realized one hand was surrounded by water and the other surrounded by air. At this point, I realized I was getting sucked over. The beating that followed was the most violent thing I have ever felt in my life. It instantly tore apart my wetsuit and life vest. I hit the reef five times, got held under for a bit, popped up, and fought for a breath before the next wave landed on top of me. That second wave sent me straight into the reef on my back. Then there were two or three more before I finally washed into the lagoon.”
Here’s the full interview with Surfer.
What do you do when you know things are about to go real, real bad? You accept your fate and try to mitigate the damage as much as you can.
That’s the position Tom Lowe found himself in at Puerto Escondido in Mexico on May 3, 2015. He bailed out on a gnarly wave, adopting a “pencil dropping” maneuver to shoot himself as far under the wave as possible—a move he called “the longest free fall he’s ever had.”
The El Nino winter really had Jaws extra ferocious in early 2017—something Tom Dosland was counting on when he took to the surf on Jan. 26 in Maui. He wasn’t counting on this, though—the monster impact of a 40-foot wave.
With the audio of this one, you can almost feel the impact—although as the guy that actually did experience it, Santa Cruz’s Wilem Banks would probably take offense at such a statement.
On January 26, 2017, Banks was at Maverick’s when—in a split-second—everything changed from happy-go-lucky to holy-shi**-what. It seems to be a bone-crushing moment that could alter the trajectory of a career, but as Wilem says in an interview with Rip Curl, "My love for surfing will die when I die."
And now for the actually bone-crushing.
We’re wrapping this list with something temporally fresh and astoundingly violent— Andrew Cotton’s “levitation,” as it’s been called, in Praia Do Norte, Nazare, Portugal on Nov. 8, 2017. This may appear to be a garden-variety wipeout until you see that Cotton gets launched friggin’ 20 feet into the air, crashing back down moments later and literally breaking his back. You gotta hope we don’t see anything like this again anytime soon.
Fortunately, Cotton is in the process of recovering and took his first steps following the incident back in November.