The Anatomy of a Wave: The Killer Wave

Trying to ride a tsunami is not only dangerous, but it’s a foolish idea. There are plenty of big wave surfers that claim to have ridden a tsunami. There are even videos on YouTube with titles like “Stuck in a Tsunami” and “Surfing a Tsunami” that suggests surfers have ridden those giant killer waves. The University of Hawaii Hilo says that those videos are very misleading because the anatomy of the wave makes it impossible to surf.

A tsunami, or sometimes referred to as tidal waves, are very different from ocean waves which are caused by the wind or tides. A tsunami is the displacement of water usually from significant disturbances above or below the water. They look nothing like ocean waves but instead look like giant walls of whitewater because their wavelengths are hundreds of miles long.

Nothing about the tsunami suggests control. If you’re a surfer and you still think you can tame the wave, you’re sadly mistaken. There are countless reasons why tsunami waves are unsurfable. Reason one, tsunamis can travel at insane speeds. The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center has recorded tsunami speeds equal to a commercial jet plane (500 mph). Another reason tsunamis are unsurfable is because they are uncontrollable. Every surfer knows that it’s hard to control your board on whitewater and that’s the entire makeup of a tsunami.

The tsunami also has no face which makes it hard for the surfboard to grip on anything. Not only is the wave unable to be controlled or unable to be surfed, it also can carry large amounts of debris from the ocean floor and other garbage making the water very unclean, and that’s not something you want to be caught swimming in.

A tsunami is a dangerous force of nature and must be respected. Big Wave surfers that claim to have surfed the “big one” are just trying to get more hits on YouTube.