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Half Moon Bay, California, or have chased giant winter swells at Cortes Bank.
The March 7 storm described above was cooperating nicely with the competition. Monterey was about 165 nautical miles closer to the storm and faced directly into the waves, not sheltered behind Point Conception as was Ventura. By March 9, waves with faces of 60 feet or more were crashing on the shoreline with such violence that golfers on the nearby golf course stopped to watch. By the end of the day, the score was Ghost Tree 2, surfers 2. One surfer sustained a shoulder injury, and he and his rescuer had to be rescued; another broke his leg in four places. Two men managed to ride the largest waves and made it to the group of five prize money finalists. However, the winner turned out to be Dan Moore, credited with riding a 68-foot-high wave at Jaws (Pe’ahi, Maui). (See Plate 1.) The previous winner was Pete Cabrinha, who received $70,000 for his world record ride on a 70-foot-high wave in 2004.
When I spoke with Dan, I asked him how it felt to ride a fiberglass board 6 feet long weighing about 10 pounds in the presence of huge waves that were known to break the backs of supertankers and container ships built of steel and weighing thousands of tons. He described it as exhilarating, an adrenaline rush.
“It is a remarkable experience, just entering the wave; it is an entirely new environment that nothing can quite prepare you for—the wind blowing, hurling salt spray in your face, partially blinded, being hammered by jets of water. Just negotiating the chop to get into position you take a beating, a lot of shock absorption. It looks easy, but the average person, without training and conditioning, could not deal with this. Then the release, and you are racing down the face. It looks smooth, but it is actually a bumpy, jarring ride, until you get to the trough; there it smooths out.
“While it seems longer, the entire ride is over in about 45 seconds.
“You really have to rely on your partner to get you into the wave and then get you out. Mark Anderson drove for me at Jaws. He has years of judgment, of being on the water watching waves, and is able to anticipate what the wave will do. You have to know where the wave is going, know how the wave runner is traveling at 20 to 30 miles per