The Wave: In Pursuit of the Rogues, Freaks, and Giants of the Ocean

Cover of "The Wave: In Pursuit of the Rog...
Cover via Amazon

The Wave: In Pursuit of the Rogues, Freaks, and Giants of the Ocean by Susan Casey was a great book. Below is a story from the book about a surfer.

…friend Shawn Alladio, a water-safety expert who had encountered a series of surreal waves outside Mavericks on November 21, 2001, a day that became known as “Hundred-Foot Wednesday.”

The day had started out imposingly enough, but it intensified dramatically as multiple storms moved in. Patrolling on Jet Skis, Alladio and her colleague Jonathan Cahill spent the morning gathering lost boards, helping stranded surfers, and performing rescues. By early afternoon the conditions had become too nuts for anyone to be out, and even the tow surfers went back to shore. About four hundred yards beyond where Mavericks usually broke, Alladio and Cahill noticed an odd gray bank on the horizon, like a wall of low-lying clouds or a storm front. It was only when the horizon started feathering at the top, white spray spuming in the air, that they realized: This is a wave. Whatever size it was, it dwarfed the sixty- and seventy-footers they’d been dodging all day. There was a split second of terror and confusion and then Alladio motioned desperately to Cahill: they couldn’t outrun the wave, so their only hope was to race straight at it and make it over the top before it broke. They managed that, barely, and were rewarded with a fifty-foot free fall on the backside, dropping into the steep trough. Plunging that far on a half-ton machine was as bone-jarring as jumping out a third-story window. But worse, in front of them, bearing down like hell’s freight train, was another colossal wave. This one was even bigger.

Again they gunned for the peak, squeaking over the top before the crest started its avalanche, and once again they air-dropped into the trough. But they had to keep going; Alladio could see at least three more waves in the set. By the time they had faced down the last one they were miles offshore, the land behind them obscured by a white scrim of spray.


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