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Monday, September 18, 2006

Surfers ride watery giants

I guess in the good old bygone days, daily life usually starts with opening the morning newspaper. Well, time has changed completely, I don’t know how wide spread, instead of opening the newspaper nowadays where important news may be hid in page 23, I tend to turn on the internet to find out what’s going on in the world overnight from all kinds of online newspapers to choose -- befitting the internet era we are in. It’s not the same as opening a newspaper, but internet has more things in store and sometimes unexpected amusements can brighten up an otherwise dreary morning. That’s what happened this morning when I came upon this article from News.scotsman.com entitled “Surfers ride watery giants, chasing 100 ft waves,” a title would certainly wake up someone like me from a half sleeping morning trance real quick.

At any rate, this article, by Michael Perry of Reuters, is a superbly written work, well researched and very informative about the world’s most elite surfers and their quest for “gargantuan ocean waves.” That's quite different from my perspectives. All the research studies of freaque waves are aiming at understanding them in order to avoid encountering with those gargantuan ocean waves. But these surfers, on the other hand, are seeking to confront the monster waves head on. One such experience by a 25 year old Australian surfer Alex Carter surfing in 40-50 feet waves, as described by the reporter:

“. . . the ocean also swallowed him up and tried to tear him apart as if he was a rag doll.

“After being mowed down by a wall of water Cater was hit by three massive waves and dragged 200 metres (yards), or more than a football field, underwater. One wave pushed him so deep he was forced to equalise his ears twice.

“‘The impact is full-on. You get rag-dolled, you do cartwheels and ripped around violently. You just have to relax and try and enjoy it,’ says a laughing Cater. ‘As soon as you fight it, that's when you start to loose your breath and panic.’”

Well, I lost my breath and panic just in reading it. I was once interviewed on the phone by a young writer for a surfing magazine who asked me if freaque waves can be catchable for surfing. Being totally ignorant of what real surfing is all about, I remember my comment was about the fact that we don’t know where or when a freaque will occur, even if we do, I did not know how a surfer can catch it. Little did I know there’s such thing now called “tow-in surfing” as described in this article and the agony and ecstasy when a surfer is actually “whipped by jet ski into giant waves bigger than most tsunamis.” Here are some related facts :

“Amazingly there have been no tow-in deaths.

“But there have been near drownings as surfers looking like fleas fly down giant waves, feet strapped to tiny boards, with a flotation vest to counter the tonnes of crashing water that will hit them if they wipe-out.

“Injuries range from broken ribs and legs to torn muscles to ruptured blood vessels which leave surfers coughing up blood.”

That’s certainly not an appetizing picture one would relish. But what I find surprising is this:

“Advancements in surf forecasting has also fuelled extreme big wave surfing, with surfers using the Internet and satellites to track storms and forecast when a giant swell will hit a reef.”

Again I always know satellites are used to track storms and freaque waves as part of a ship routing process to steer ships away from the possibility of encountering them. This is the first time I ever heard that surfers are also satellite user and they are really trying to go for the encounter with freaque waves. I am not too clear in my mind at this moment if I should regard those surfers as fearless or reckless.

1 comment:

Christina Liu said...

"I am not too clear in my mind at this moment if I should regard those surfers as fearless or reckless."

The answer is YES to both!