di Erika Scafuro
Who did give start to the big wave surfing tradition? Conventionally it is customary to declare the birth of this surfing speciality with a sad episode that happened in 1943.
It was winter, a day of December, when two hawaiian boys named Woody Brown and Dickie Cross decided to fight boredom from surf in Waikiki by paddling out a 20 feet swell at Waimea Bay in the North Shore of Hawaii, where surfing was rarely practiced due to the dangerous waves.
Brown lately told that once in the water with their “hot curl” surfboards with narrower tails and V-hulled, the waves were grewing more and more as the time between one set and the next was shortened.
When it became clear that those big waves were becoming dangerous they tried to return back to the bay, to no avail. In the meantime the swell was growing in intensity and strength, and Woody said he saw Dickie’s surfboards fly in the air and break down on the other side and instead of go deep into the wave, Dickie tried to do bodysurf on the big wave. While Woody managed to return exhausted to the shore, Dickie’s body was never found again, he was only 17 age.
After this tragedy, for years, nobody rode the huge waves with dangerous currents and water channels of North Shore. But then, the giant waves continued to attract surfers eager to ride them.
In 1953 Woody Brown came back to be the simbol of big wave surfing culture when Thomas Tsuzuki took a shot of him surfing a 15 feet wave in Makaha, Hawaii, together with the surfers Buzzy Trent and George Downing.
While time later, in 1957, despite the bad reputation of Waimea Bay where Cross lost his life, the American surfer Greg Noll set his sights higher in his challenge against giant waves. Surfing in Waimea Bay Noll won the title of the first to surf these waves so feared even by the locals.
Over the years big wave surfing has grown in popularity, today there are special WSL championships.
Brave surfers are always looking for giant waves around the world: from North Shore in Hawaii to Mavericks in California, from Teahupo’o in Tahiti to Nazaré in Portugal, from South Africa to Australia there are a lot of spot where fearless surfers can challenge the power of the ocean.