The 5 heaviest spots to get caught inside
According to Greg Long and Grant “Twiggy” Baker.
Words by Morgan Williamson
We’ve all had our lickings. Getting caught inside on a day with some juice can be relentless. You put your head down, fight through the side aches, shortness of breathe and depending on where you are, the brain freeze. Scraping under then up and watching lines loom far out the back’s never a good place to be but you got to wear it. Most of us have no idea what it’s like to be assaulted by 20 foot plus waves slabbing down into deep water, or onto rock reef. So, I chatted with a few gents who know all too well how it feels to be on the wrong side of a set at the premiere big wave spots; Greg Long and Grant “Twig” Baker. “Well, there’s nowhere that you want to get caught inside,” laughs Twiggy.
Right place, wrong line. Photo: Tom Servais
“The easiest place to get caught inside and the worst is Jaws,” says Mr Long. “Where you surf on the typical 20-25 foot day is further inside than where the bigger sets break. So you’ll be sitting in the spot and as soon as that bigger set comes through it breaks 50 yards outside of you. The hard part is a lot of the waves that look like they’re going to break on the outside will hold off. So you end up keeping on that inside line. Each session out there, there’s always that set that doesn’t back off and catches everyone inside. When you come over the back of the first wave, all the sprays blows over and you can’t see. You wait for it to clear and realise you’re in this hopeless situation. All you’re thinking is don’t let you heart rate get too fast and keep breathing as you scratch towards the channel. When it stands up out there, there’s no making it over. It’s one of those moments where you contemplate why your sitting there, why your doing this and expecting the absolute worst.”
“You don’t have the courtesy of taking a few waves on the head and being pushed out of it,” Greg continues. “That cliff’s looming right above you and you get pushed in closer to it way faster than you’d think. Those rocks you want to avoid at all cost. No matter where you fall at Jaws all the energy forces you back into the middle of the peak. It’s pretty relentless, sometimes the second or third wave will hit you harder than the first one. I’ve seen people get caught inside and pushed all the way in. The only way out is scrambling up the rocks and over the cove there. Jaws is in a league of its own.”
John John Florence causally teasing the S&M layer. Photo: Allan van Gysen
Dungeons, South Africa:
“Dungeons is one of those places you get continually caught inside,” says Twig. “It’s the nature of the wave, the playing field’s so wide and the peaks are random. You get washed into deep water the flipped out into the channel. You end up getting washed over to seal island, which is a place we call the channel of death. It’s where all the great whites hang out, so the consequences are pretty heavy but at that point your not scared of drowning. In the old days, when we used to just tow, it would take your partner over five minutes to come around on the ski. You’d just have to sit there knowing you’re bait until he could come pick you up. That was never a fun experience.”
Twigs on a beast that’ll snap much more than that. Photo: Frank Quirart
“If you happen to get caught inside at Mavericks it’s horrendous,” says Mr Baker. “The bowl right in the apex of where it slabs out is probably the heaviest place to get caught in big wave surfing. Luckily it’s pretty difficult to get caught there. If you do get stuck you’re going to get put into the abyss, which is the deep spot right after the bowl. It’s the worst place you can end up, we’ve lost a few people in there. If you make a mistake there and get caught at the apex, the lip’s going to land a few feet in front of you and push you into the abyss which is deep enough to burst your ear drums and keep you down for two or three waves. If you get washed out of the abyss then you’re heading straight into the rocks because you’re too deep to get around. But that’s worst case scenario.”
“Mavericks is such a predictable lineup,” Greg tells us, “you have to be naive on where you’re sitting to get caught inside there, but if it does happens there’s serious consequences with the rocks on the inside.”
Josh Kerr whipping into a demon at Todos, for the seagull. Photo: Damea Dorsey
Todos Santos, Mexico:
“Todos is a series of ledges,” says Greg. “It will continue to break farther and farther out. That’s a spot that when you paddle out on a giant day it’s not if you’re going to get caught inside, it’s when. You get that same feeling whenever you come over the top of one and the next’s already way out the back. You know you have zero chance of making it to the channel or getting under it. You have to just give up, conserve your energy, your breath and get ready for the freight train of white water to roll over you.”
Cortes Bank, 100 miles off the California coast:
“Cortes is so shifty with rogue waves breaking all over the place,” says Mr Long. “You know you’re going to get steam rolled at some point during the session. The bottom’s uneven, there’s a lot of ocean moving but you know you’ll eventually get washed into deep water. You take a few on the head, the energy subsides and pushes you into a spot where someone can get you out easy. It’s similar to Todos. That’s what separates Jaws from the others.”
The men you want on the ski at Pe’ahi: Greg Long, Shane Dorian and Ian Walsh.
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