Stab Magazine | Anatomy Of A Killer: Tombstones

Anatomy Of A Killer: Tombstones

This may just be the least user-friendly left in the world.

Words by stab

It’s known for some of the roundest, longest tubes in the world. And yet, Tombstones, in the far north-west of Australia, remains firmly off the itinerary of most travelling surfers. Why? Because it’s fucking death. A point that was brought tragically into focus recently by the death of a 55-year-old man at the wave. If the wave doesn’t get you, the drive in and out might. It’s a one to two hour sandy, corrugated nightmare that you don’t wanna be doing with a snapped femur or shattered collarbone. We asked three men who’d know – Taj Burrow, Paul ‘Antman’ Patterson and Jay Davies – what exactly makes Tombstones one of the heaviest paddle waves on the planet.

TB MG 4379

“It’s hard to get into, it’s a gnarly drop, and obviously it doesn’t break properly until it’s six foot-plus, so whenever it’s surfable, it’s terrifying,” says Taj. “It’s always heavy.” TB still handles the place real well.

Photography

Jamie Scott

Taj Burrow:

I don’t know if you could call it the heaviest wave in the world but it’s quite evil. It’s really intimidating with the steps in the wave, for sure. It’s hard to get into, it’s a gnarly drop, and obviously it doesn’t break properly until it’s six foot-plus, so whenever it’s surfable, it’s terrifying. It’s always heavy. It doesn’t have fun days out there because it doesn’t link up properly if it’s only five foot. It’s really psycho. I’m so surprised there’s not more injuries out there because obviously the reef is super shallow for it to ledge out like that, but it’s like there’s a shallow finger of reef running down the line and it’s deep on the other side so a lot of people who eat it fall into that deep hole. But obviously there’s been a few cases where people have hit the shallow bit, and yeah, there’s been some really heavy accidents there. That finger of reef that gurgles and bubbles and ledges is terrifying. Falling on that bit, it’s one of the heaviest waves for sure. I’ve had heaps of good stacks but touch wood haven’t hit the bottom too hard. Just touched it.

AntIMG 4352

Antman Paterson is one of the all-time greats at this wave. And that is no cakewalk.

Photography

Jamie Scott

Antman:

It’s ledgier and nowhere near perfect like Teahupoo is. I find it the most challenging lefthander in the world for me. Moreso than Teahupoo or Fiji or anywhere like that. Those waves get big, but they’re perfect. On that particular day (of the recent fatality), the period of the swell really opened up to 20 seconds during the day. The problem with Tombies is, it gets really scary on big period swells. It draws all the water off the reef, making it more dangerous than it normally is. It’s dangerous enough on a big swell but up north in that area you get ‘King Waves’ and it really does catch people out. Two fisherman went missing further up at Coral Bay that same day. Their boat capsized, bits and pieces of the boat were found, but not the guys. In that area you get one random swell every now and then that might be six foot bigger than what it already is. We get em in the deep south and we get them up north. It might already be a 10 to 12 foot day, but then you’ll get this set out of nowhere that’s 15 to 18 foot, and it’ll just clean everyone up. Big period King Waves draw so much water off the reef that even if the tide is high, if you get pitched on a big set you’re gonna hit the reef. That’s what you’ve gotta be careful of. It’s one of the most dangerous lefts in the world. It’s not called Tombstones for nothing, and Antman suggests avoiding it on big swells ‘cause you’re gonna get hurt.

empty tomb056

Catch Jay in the image up top. This one here, nothin’ to play with.

Photography

Mike Riley

Jay Davies:

Is the heaviest in the world? Yeah, it could be true. It’s definitely one of the scariest waves in the world, if not the heaviest and most raw piece of reef on the planet. Especially on the west coast, there’s a lot of evil death slabs, but that is a freight train. There’s a lot of different boils and the evil bottom, so yeah, it’s definitely up there with one of the heaviest waves in Australia, if not the world. 
Touch wood, I’ve never been properly hurt, I’ve just hit hard on the bottom. And luckily it wasn’t a coral head. I just got compressed against it, bruised all my hip, but it was yeah super lucky. I could have been one of the unlucky guys up there, a lot of my friends have been hurt. I’ve been lucky, real lucky. Kerby Brown is a freak out there, one of the better guys out there, if not the best, but becoming that good is gonna take its toll on you. He took a big hit to his head a couple years ago.

ScaleWidthWyIxMjAwIl0 MR Empty Gnarloo

Looks fun, right? Nope.

Photography

Mike Riley

Comments

Comments are a Stab Premium feature. Gotta join to talk shop.

Already a member? Sign In

Want to join? Sign Up

Advertisement

Most Recent

Do The Olympics Change Your Life And Make You Rich?

An interview with 2016 BMX Gold Medalist Connor Fields.

Jun 23, 2021

John Florence And Kolohe Andino Are Surfing Again

Slater maps out qualification strategy for 2024 Olympic Games

Jun 23, 2021

Dylan Graves Explores How We Can be Better Allies To LGBTQ+ Surfers

“The only way to grow and learn is to talk about it.”

Jun 22, 2021

The Most Boring Contest Brought Forth The Most Interesting Equipment

What were surfers riding at the Ranch?

Jun 22, 2021

Surfboard Prices Will Soon Make You Tremble While Pulling Out Your Credit Card And Buying One Anyway

Yeah, it’ll outpace inflation. Here’s what we know.

Jun 22, 2021

Do Surf Brands Still Dream Big?

With more people surfing than ever, let’s contemplate the path to the stratosphere.

Jun 21, 2021

Mikey Feb Guides His Twin Pin Through Spotless Indonesian Glass

A vigorous yet poetic display of aquatic dance.

Jun 21, 2021

Filipe Toledo And Johanne Defay Win 2021 Jeep Surf Ranch Pro

The arduous construction of a moment.

Jun 20, 2021

How To Steal A Surfboard

The Misc: It’s an art.

Jun 20, 2021

What I l Learned From 23.5 Hours In Lemoore

Notes from in and around a sweaty ranch made for surfing.

Jun 20, 2021

Does The Stab In The Dark Winner Work For The Everyman?

Joyride: Testing Sharpeye's Inferno72 in a range of waves

Jun 19, 2021

Remarks On Some Big-Ish Surfing In 115 Degree Desert Heat

Day 1 at the Surf Ranch Pro.

Jun 19, 2021

Coco Ho And The Lost Art Of Footwork

A first-hand glimpse into the benefits of some extra wiggle room.

Jun 19, 2021

The New WSL Finals Format Is The Perfect Addition To The Most Chaotic Season In Modern Pro Surfing

Yes, it’s unfair—and we should all be very happy about that.

Jun 19, 2021

Stab Podcast: “There Is A Shit Load Of Hero Worship In The Surfing Community”

Jed Smith analyzes the bizarre social matrix inside of a surf town.

Jun 18, 2021

Stab’s Psychic Pick To Win The Surf Ranch Is…

Here’s what our metaphysical consultant had to say.

Jun 18, 2021

Episode 2: The Electric Acid Surfboard Test Starring Mason and Coco Ho

Brace yourselves, a swell is on the horizon.

Jun 18, 2021

Stab Podcast: Is Kelly’s Pool a Legitimate CT Venue?

Or is it a chlorinated charade?

Jun 18, 2021
Advertisement