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July 27, 2018 11:20 AM   Subscribe

U.S. surfer's epic ride of nearly a mile on wave is captured on video. "Perched precariously on his surfboard, the 23-year-old from Hawaii rode a wave off the coast of Namibia, on the western shore of Africa, for 120 straight seconds. He stayed upright for nearly a mile (1.5 kilometers) as he traveled through an unheard-of eight barrels -- the hollow formed by the curve of the wave as it breaks over the rider's head." POV video. Drone video.
posted by Lyme Drop (40 comments total) 75 users marked this as a favorite
It's one thing to know they're coming, quite another to get to where the action is, and Smith is more than willing to drop everything in search of the perfect wave.

"He can be in one place one day, and you call him and he says, 'I'm taking off for Africa tomorrow,'.

Also, he’s in a crew of lovable bandits like Point Break.
posted by Burhanistan at 11:25 AM on July 27 [7 favorites]

that video is just incredible. having surfed exactly once i dont feel qualified to make any additional comment at all, but just wow.
posted by Exceptional_Hubris at 11:30 AM on July 27 [5 favorites]

even before i read the article describing how remote the beach is, my first thought was "man that's gonna be a long walk back to the car"
posted by poffin boffin at 11:34 AM on July 27 [21 favorites]

I'm sure the walk back is a welcome price to pay for a ride like that!
posted by Greg_Ace at 11:41 AM on July 27 [1 favorite]

Although I grew up on Florida's east coast I've never been inclined to learn to surf. Even so, for some reason I'm endlessly fascinated by surfing videos.
posted by Greg_Ace at 11:44 AM on July 27 [3 favorites]

Coincidentally, I just showed this video to someone for the first time ever the other day:

Just get pitted, so pitted. It totally holds up.
posted by Rock Steady at 11:46 AM on July 27 [6 favorites]

Eddie would go.
posted by delfin at 11:59 AM on July 27 [8 favorites]

Also, he’s in a crew of lovable bandits like Point Break.

At press time, it was unclear whether Smith had ever fired a gun into the air while yelling.
posted by tobascodagama at 12:00 PM on July 27 [5 favorites]

45 seconds is insane. Just madness. There are only a handful of waves in the world, on good conditions, that provide a rideable wave that long. Rincon maybe, St Francis in South Africa before it got washed out, some random spot in west Africa no one can get to, maybe Bells in Australia, sometimes Malibu...
posted by cgc373 at 12:08 PM on July 27 [11 favorites]

Man, I get exhausted just watching this.

Some perspective: You generally get tubed only once per wave, and it usually lasts about a whole second or two. Actually, many surfers never get tubed. You can go all day, all week or all summer and not have it line up.

Most point breaks I've been to have - at best - maybe a 20 second ride. It's over really quickly as the wave moved inland towards the beach. This is why point breaks are so favored by surfers. As the prevailing swell meets the point of land and wraps around it, it creates longer rides and more defined, predictable faces, shoulders and tubes in the wave structures.

So riding for almost two minutes is just insane. Twenty seconds on a good wave already feels like forever. 120 seconds would feel like so much time, and you'd be exhausted by the end of the ride.

The effort required for even 15-20 second rides is intense. Think about it, you're balancing on a sliver of fiberglass and foam in a boiling, choppy ocean. Ever stand on a balance board, or try to stand on a bowling ball or basketball? It's like that and uses all those muscles, and it uses them in hard-fast twitch mode. Now do it on water that... inverts itself.

When I hear the word "point break" I don't think of that ridiculous movie, and more than once I've been trying to tell a surfing story only to have it go to pieces when those words were spoken and people lose their shit about that dumb movie.

I think of huge 10-15 foot waves with walls of water so clear you can see through them. I think of the times I've been chewed up by huge tubes, or what it sounds like in the "glass house" when you're way back in a good tube surrounded by a vortex of smoothly swirling, rolling water that collectively tells gravity to go get bent.

The sound is unlike anything on this planet. You don't really hear the churn and hiss of the white water raging outside, because it's acoustically sealed outside by the thick wall of water falling in front of you.. You can hear echoes of the splashes caused by you and your board. Sometimes for a split second you can hear your own voice or even your own breath being reflected back at you.

I've always wondered what it sounded like in there without a human surfing the wave and disturbing the surface and vortex of the breaker. I suspect it sounds oddly quiet and a bit windy, with a bit of a strange wooshing sound as the tube and vortex collapses continuously along the length of the wave.
posted by loquacious at 12:19 PM on July 27 [119 favorites]

So riding for almost two minutes is just insane. Twenty seconds on a good wave already feels like forever. 120 seconds would feel like so much time

There is very clearly a moment on the drone video, maybe 2/3rd of the way through, where he seems to think his ride is done and he kind of pumps his arms in an obvious "EFF YEAH!" gesture . . . and then the wave builds and he rides for another 30 seconds?
posted by Exceptional_Hubris at 12:22 PM on July 27 [3 favorites]

He talks about it in the article: "There was a point where I was at four barrels and I was already like, 'This is amazing.' It looked like the wave was over, but it formed again. I figured, the drone's there, I might as well stay on. And I was like, 'Whoa!' This went from a good wave to like a life-changing wave."
posted by The Tensor at 12:32 PM on July 27 [10 favorites]

In response to an ASMR AskMe a few days ago I was going to post people riding this wave, but I wasn't sure if it would actually produce tingles.
posted by clawsoon at 12:35 PM on July 27 [4 favorites]

When I hear the word "point break" I don't think of that ridiculous movie, and more than once I've been trying to tell a surfing story only to have it go to pieces when those words were spoken and people lose their shit about that dumb movie.

welcome to "slappa da bass" world
posted by thelonius at 12:37 PM on July 27 [1 favorite]

I've never surfed before, but wow does this video make me want to learn!
posted by the thought-fox at 12:47 PM on July 27

If you're curious what the geography is like there: Google Maps.
posted by whatnotever at 12:54 PM on July 27 [3 favorites]

PORN PORN PORN PORN..................PORN
PORN PORN ....................................PORN
PORN PORN ...................................PO
PORN PORN ..................................p
PORN PORN PORN PORN..................
posted by lalochezia at 1:36 PM on July 27 [1 favorite]

One of the most amazing things that I have ever seen.
posted by 4ster at 1:43 PM on July 27 [2 favorites]

An article about this particular break.
posted by Nelson at 1:44 PM on July 27 [4 favorites]

A clip from The Endless Summer (1966). Trailer.

"the rides were so long, I couldn't get most of them on one piece of film."
posted by jjj606 at 1:47 PM on July 27 [4 favorites]

There was a ridiculously cheesy comic book back in the 70s called The Witching Hour that 9-year-old me loved to read. It was a basically a precursor to Tales from the Crypt sort of horror stories. One story in it featured a witch who gave a surfer a magic (cursed) surfboard. When he rode it, the board took him out to sea on a neverending wave.

Watching that surfer’s extraordinary POV video made me think of that story for the first time in 40 years.
posted by darkstar at 1:59 PM on July 27 [6 favorites]

That POV video. Chills. I haven’t surfed in 10 years and I’ve gotta get back out there. Never going to be 10000000th of the surfer this kid is, but anyone can have a hell of a lot of fun.
posted by gryphonlover at 2:11 PM on July 27

Holy crap.
posted by egypturnash at 3:11 PM on July 27 [1 favorite]

If you ever need video evidence to disprove some flat-earther, this is it. Because he surfs and surfs and surfs and never falls off the edge of the earth.
posted by chavenet at 3:34 PM on July 27 [1 favorite]

Oh man, that Witching Hour story I remembered is called “The Perfect Surf”, and it’s from the first edition of the comic book series, back in December 1968. Now I just feel old.
posted by darkstar at 3:41 PM on July 27 [2 favorites]

I like the way he just rode it, making the wave the spectacle, without all the gyrations and tricks and agro-moves above and apart from the water and the whole point which is the powerfully elegant majesty of THE WAVE.
posted by ecourbanist at 3:47 PM on July 27 [4 favorites]

There's also Alan Dean Foster's short story "Surfeit", which is about a surfing endurance contest on a planet with HUGE waves that go on for days.
posted by The Tensor at 4:00 PM on July 27 [2 favorites]

These videos remind me of just how much I envy surfers. Growing up in Georgia, I became very much at home and at peace in the woods, and wouldn’t trade the experience. But it’s always struck me that kids that grew up in California, where they could spend their weekends and summers surfing, had it pretty good, too.

Although, I also had fair skin that never tanned and would begin to burn within 10 minutes, didn’t care for getting sand everywhere, and was always a bean pole of a kid, so the few times our family did go to a beach in Florida, I learned to have mixed feelings about the experiences. But still, surfing seems like a total blast and this post makes me realize how much I regret never getting to do it.
posted by darkstar at 4:18 PM on July 27

didn’t care for getting sand everywhere

It is coarse and rough and irritating.
posted by The Tensor at 4:20 PM on July 27 [8 favorites]

Appropriately enough, the music in the drone video is built from samples of Popol Vuh's "Wo Bist Du, Der Du Überwunden Hast?"

(Link to original song)
posted by lefty lucky cat at 4:33 PM on July 27 [3 favorites]

First of all, that's amazing!
Second of all, the water off the coast of Namibia really.does.look.that.color!
posted by bluesky43 at 4:48 PM on July 27 [2 favorites]

Plus that video is amazing
posted by glasseyes at 5:07 PM on July 27 [1 favorite]

I'm a prairie boy. A bit of a water-phobe. The closest we get to surfing is riding a road bike with the wind down a long straight road. This 2015 New Yorker article, Surfing into Adolescence, is as close as I've come to wishing I'd tried it. It's a connection to the natural world that is, well, so natural. Thanks for this waking dream.
posted by kneecapped at 6:23 PM on July 27 [3 favorites]

Surfing is easy. Carry out your $19 boogie board you got at Ron Jon's about 30 feet, then wait for the interference pattern for two waves to line up. Right before the peak hits you, jump in the direction of the beach. Repeat a couple of times until 4 PM when they have 1/2 price wells.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 6:46 PM on July 27 [4 favorites]

Huh. A quick google suggests that there are some reasonably priced, 5-day, surf camp vacation packages in Southern California that cater to all skill levels, including beginners.

Now that there’s 100 SPF water-resistant sunscreen, I may have just found my next vacation...
posted by darkstar at 7:03 PM on July 27 [4 favorites]

Just for the record "Surfing with Doc" by William Finnegan (author of an acclaimed memoir) is the finest piece of writing on surfing that I've ever encountered. (Previously.)
posted by Lyme Drop at 7:20 PM on July 27 [6 favorites]

And not to thread-sit but yes, you should try surfing. The glide is an incomparable feeling. Proficiency requires serious time commitment, but you'll be rewarded with seriously incomparable experiences.
posted by Lyme Drop at 7:24 PM on July 27 [1 favorite]

I wasn't sure if it would actually produce tingles

Oh, it does. This is amazing. I have to learn to surf.
posted by limeonaire at 10:19 PM on July 27 [1 favorite]

There's also surfing the big wave in Lucifer's Hammer. I don't care what the text implies. I want to believe the surfer survived.
posted by Nancy Lebovitz at 6:36 AM on July 28 [5 favorites]

Regarding learning to surf: Do it!

Here's some tips for maximum satisfaction with least effort and time:

Don't focus on stand up short board riding. You're not going to be getting tubed or doing snapback carves like the pros in a summer vacation lesson. If anyone tries to teach you short board before longboard, run, especially if they're taking your money. I spent most of my life in the water as a kid and that stuff was still hard, and there's a reason why pros win prizes for it.

Start with body surfing. Invest in good body surfing kick fins that fit your feet and a good wetsuit for comfort and floatation. To be perfectly honest, body surfing is really where it's at and even good stand up surfers will acknowledge this, and almost every board surfer I've ever met still loves body surfing. There's nothing like getting up on a plane on your hands and body in a curling wave and it's the most intimate way to surf.

When I have dreams about surfing - and I often have dreams about surfing - I mainly dream of body surfing and feeling the wave moving beneath my bare hands. Body surfing feels like flying, but you get to do it in real life.

Try body boarding and don't turn your nose up at it. Most surfers today start here. Most of my surfing experience is some form of body boarding, whether it's smaller body surfing "hand guns" and kick boards or modern full sized body boards. A good body board and fins and some good waves is 70-90% of the fun of surfing. You can get tubed easier, it's easier to learn and control and it's all around cheaper. You can catch smaller waves and even get tubed in them.

Body surfing is also way less dangerous because the board isn't hard glass strapped to your leg by a surf leash. Getting tumbled with a glass shortboard strapped to you can be extremely unpleasant.

When/if you want to try stand up surfing, start with longboards in fairly mild surf. You're looking for 3-5 foot rollers with mild faces on a nice, flat sandy beach with no rocks, not peaky point breaks or tropical reef breaks. Practice paddling from both a prone and an upright kneeling position in flat water. Work on your lateral balance. Ride waves on your stomach or knees first, learn board control and carving, then work on the paddling-in-then-standing movement.

Going from paddling to standing on a stand up board is one of the hardest things to learn, which is why completely new surfers can often manage to stand and carve on, say, a wave machine or wakeboard behind a ski boat but can't surf a live wave as easily.

What you're doing is paddling into a wave to gain momentum and planing speed, and then you sort of use falling and gravity as you begin dropping down the face of the wave to get your legs and feet under you and to stand in one smooth motion. You can't really force the transition to standing before you have the speed to plane because you just fall over.

Paddle, paddle, push the nose of the board down and away down the face of the wave in a useful direction, stand and float as it falls, plant your feet and stance, hopefully begin a balanced plane, and set that plane with carve as you gain speed and momentum down the face.

This all happens in the space of about a breath, and once you get it it's just magical. Once people learn how to do this part, the rest is pretty natural because carving is fun.
posted by loquacious at 9:37 AM on July 30 [3 favorites]

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