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The Right Has Become A Tow Circus

Up to 30 jet-skis a session are turning out to play Russian Roulette at one of the heaviest waves in the world, putting lives at risk, say locals and photographers.

“There’s no pecking order or any etiquette,” says underground West Australian charger, Chris Ross, of The Right. “Everyone is just out to get waves really.”

The wave is one of the heaviest and most obscure in the world. Located half a kilometre off the coast of West Australia, it mobilises tonnage of raw Indian ocean, unloading it onto a radically elevated rock ledge before disappearing off the other side into a deep “abyss.” The margin for error is razor thin and the wave has injured, maimed and nearly killed dozens of times in the past. More recently, it has become one of the most congested line-ups in the world with up to 30 skis in the water every swell, putting lives at risk.

“Everyone just tries to go, whoever just lucks into in the right position goes,” says Chris. “There’s people coming in from the inside at such a fine line they can’t really read what the wave is doing. We try to come in at 45 degrees, they’re coming in at 10 degrees, so they can’t really read what the wave’s doing as well. They sorta do the snake thing to get on the inside but then they can’t really read the wave so there’s some good floggings going down like that.”

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Chris Ross, snagging one away from the expanding population. Photo: Russ Ord

“Also crew trying to cut down from the shoulder and block the other guy driving the ski across,” he continues. “Because of the rope he had to turn the ski off to go over some guy’s rope just to get off the wave because he tried to block us in and he (Rossy’s driver) nearly went over in the wave. There’s been crew driving straight down the wave, it’s getting quite wild.”

There’s been fist fights and stern words exchanged between photographers and surfers alike.

“It’s nuts, it’s full on,” says photographer Russell Ord, who’s been shooting the wave for several years now.

Ordy puts the crowds, and the lack of etiquette, down to publicity-hungry surfers. The Right has come to be seen as a launching pad for worldwide media attention, after the wave decided several Big Wave Awards.

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As if it wasn't dangerous enough without 30 skis in the water. Photo: Russ Ord

“There’s not many guys that surf it without a photographer – it must be the photos and the coverage you get from it (that brings them),” Ordy says, adding that he won’t shoot surfers who “won’t surf it without a camera.”

“If there’s no camera there, they don’t take off so it kind of contradicts it,” he says. “It’s not for the love of surfing, there’s only a few of them who love to do it and those guys don’t need a video camera or camera to catch every moment.”

So chaotic has the lineup become Ordy has given up shooting it for the most part. “There should still be respect for the locals wherever you are… It’s a real tough one, ‘cos there’s only a select few waves. I think you need to just respect for everyone really.”

Chris Ross hasn’t quite had his fill yet, however:

“There’s nothing you can do really, just bare with it and if you’re still enjoying it out there and getting a couple it’s still worth it,” he says. “But the waves are definitely getting fewer and further between.”

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