So where are the top big wave spots in the world, I asked? Eric mentioned a handful of locations where big waves occur:

  • Maui, Pe’ahi—Jaws

  • Northern California—Mavericks

  • Mexico—Todos Santos

  • Southern California outer waters—Cortes Banks

  • California central coast—Channel Islands

  • Northern California, Monterey—Ghost Trees

  • Tahiti—Teahupoo

  • Oregon—Nelscott Reef

  • Australia—Shipsterns Bluff

  • France—Belherra Reef

  • Chile

  • Canada

  • Africa—Dungeons

I also asked Eric if there is an ultimate limit in the sport—if he thought that surfing a 100-foot-high wave is possible.

“Of course,” he said. “Someone will do it. It is just a matter of finding the wave, being in the right place at the right time. If they can’t get towed in, they’ll drop from a helicopter or find another way, but someone will do it. Just like Mount Everest—once you knew it was there, someone had to climb it, even though you might get killed in the process.”


The ability of swell to travel long distances was demonstrated dramatically to me in September 2005. Around September 8 or 9 an extratropical storm developed near New Zealand. I heard of this from my friend Ray Holdsworth, who had just returned from a cruise in Tahiti. During a stop in Bora Bora, he learned that on the night of Saturday, September 10, a large wave or waves had washed over the reef and damaged some resort buildings, resulting in an evacuation of guests in the early morning hours. A few days later the swell reached Hawaii and

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