Who Pioneered Big Wave Surfing?

Who Pioneered Big Wave Surfing?

Laird Hamilton, Shane Dorian, and Eddie Aikau are some of the surfers who have topped the world of big wave surfing. However, if an individual is to pick only one surfer who they think is the greatest, the answer may vary from person to person.

Who pioneered big wave surfing?

Ocean waves come in different shapes and sizes. And it’s quite hard to compare surfers as they have different strengths and weaknesses.

Also, it gets harder to compare all the big wave surfers in the world as not everyone has had the chance to surf all the big wave surfing spots in the world.

However, there are a few who stood out the most, even after so many years in the industry. Some of them are Laird Hamilton, Shane Dorian, Greg Noll, Pat Curren, and Eddie Aikau. 

Do note, though, that lists like this usually depend on personal opinion and even popularity. But, today, we’re looking at the level of experience, skills, as well as courage of some of the well-known big wave surfers.

Without further ado, here are some more details on what made them the pioneers of the sport.

Laird Hamilton

In just four months, Laird Hamilton is set to turn 58 years old. But, his name remains one of the biggest in the world of big wave surfing. This is because of his contribution to the surfing world, the records he broke, and, basically, his excellent surfing skills.

For starters, he co-invented tow-in surfing. This is a technique used in surfing that utilizes artificial assistance, which helps surfers to catch faster-moving waves.

Apart from that, Hamilton is also known for breaking records. One of them is surfing the longest wave in the world and the heaviest wave ever ridden successfully — the Millenium Wave of Teahupo’o in 2000.

Shane Dorian

Shane Dorian is also one of the pros who pioneered big wave surfing. He’s known for catching the largest wave at Waimea Beach. He is also famous for surfing the best wave of all time at Jaws.

Plus, he conquered the towering waves of Nazare and the Mavericks.  Dorian also braved the Todos Santos, Teahupo’o, and the Cortes Bank.

Additionally, his major achievements include ranking 4th on the World Championship Tour Surfing in 2000. He was also awarded by the Surf Industry Manufacturers Association as the “Waterman of the Year.”

Greg Noll

Also known as “Da Bull,” Greg Noll made his name in the surfing industry in the late 1950s and early 1960s. He carved his reputation for riding the biggest waves at Waimea, which has kept surfers out of the line for more than a decade.

Back then, Waimea was feared by many, even the pro surfers, after it claimed several lives over the past years. It was only Greg Noll who was able to symbolically break the Waimea Taboo, which eventually opened a new chapter in the history of the place and the big wave surfing history itself.

Aside from that, many surfers looked up to him more after he proved that it was viable to tame the waves of Pipeline. Hence, he got the monicker “Da Bull,” which Phil Edwards gave him afterward.

Since then, his surfing career flourished, which also helped him pave his way to open a surfboard building facility.

Unfortunately, Noll died Monday of June this year. Still, his achievements will remain an inspiration to many big wave surfers.

Pat Curren

Like Noll, Pat Curren is also a big wave surfer who rose to fame in the 1950s and 1960s. Hence, he’s probably often compared to Noll. However, Curren and Noll are opposites despite being two of the best in the surfing industry.

Noll is known to be more assertive and brash. On the other hand, Curren is the opposite. They’re like the yin and yang of the big wave surfing industry in their prime years.

He conquered several huge waves around different big wave surfing spots in the world. But, one that stands out the most is his performance at the Waimea Beach as he is one of the first big waves surfers to brave the gigantic waves of Waimea.

Apart from being an inspiration to aspiring big wave surfers back in the day, he also made a huge contribution to the big wave surfing industry by helping make surfboards that helped surfers conquer bigger waves.

Further, he’s the father of Tom Curren, who is now a three-time world champion in surfing.

Eddie Aikau

Eddie Aikau is also considered a pioneer in this sport. Back in the 1970s, he was one of the hard-chargers at the Waimea Bay despite the gigantic waves that reach up to 40 feet.

Aside from big wave surfing, Aikau also became more famous for being a dedicated lifesaver. Thanks to his life-saving efforts in the said location, he made about 500 successful rescues during his career as a lifeguard.

Aikau risked his life many times. He demonstrated immaculate courage, as well as unparalleled dedication. Hence, even after his death in 1978 during a rescue attempt, many still recognize him as one of the greatest big wave surfers and lifesavers of all time.

Even after decades have already passed, his contribution to the surfing world remains unparalleled and it’s also the reason why he earned a spot on this list.

Who was the first true big wave surfer?

Who was the first true big wave surfer?

Surfing involves many record-breaking attempts — the first to surf the longest wave, the first to conquer the strongest wave, the first to catch the tallest wave, etc. But, who among these firsts is or are the first true big wave surfer?

Apparently, big wave surfing wasn’t a thing until the 1940s and 50s when George Downing, Wally Froiseth, Woody Brown, Buzzy Trent, to name a few, made it possible. These guys paved the way to big wave surfing by creating the first surfboard that’s meant for big wave surfing.

Of course, they’re the first ones who tried their invention. Hence, they’re considered the first true big wave surfers.

Because of this contribution to the surfing industry, bigger waves have become more accessible for surfers. After that, everything and everyone followed.

Who is the world’s best big wave surfer?

Who is the world's best big wave surfer?

If you’re going to ask someone who is the best big wave surfer in the world, the answers may vary. This is because, of course, everyone has their own views and opinions.

People base their judgments on different factors. Hence, one might say big wave surfer A is better than big wave surfer B while there are others that may not agree.

But, if we’re going to compare the iconic big wave surfers, Laird Hamilton will probably top the list. From his confidence, courage, achievements, and, needless to say, skills, he is likely the most deserving one to be named as the best big wave surfer in the world.

However, this is more than just an opinion. It turns out, even surfing historians themselves believe that Hamilton should be crowned as the best big wave surfer in the world. This is because he has displayed his expertise in numerous disciplines.

But, it seems as though there is a new Laird Hamilton on the rise — Kai Jenny. At just 28 years old, Lenny has already achieved so much despite being relatively new to the scene compared to Hamilton and other legends on this list.

Just recently, he won the 2019-2020 WSL Big Wave Award for men’s best overall performance. He also holds a title for the 2020 XXL Biggest Wave Award for surfing one of Nazare’s humongous waves.

On top of that, he is the youngest person ever to be inducted into the Surfer’s Hall of Fame.

Since he gained recognition in 2012, he has already shown great potential to become one of the legendary big wave surfers. He is one promising big wave surfer that everyone should keep an eye on.

Who is the oldest big wave surfer?

At first glance, it can be easy to say that Hamilton is the oldest big wave surfer since he hasn’t retired from his surfing career yet even at 57. But, he actually isn’t.

Apparently, there is still one surfer who’s older than him — Gary Linden. He was already 65 when he rode his first big wave at Jaws. Hence, this makes him the oldest big wave surfer.

Has Laird Hamilton surfed nazare?

The waves in Nazare, Portugal can sometimes get as high as 100 feet. And this is due to the canyon hidden underwater, which causes the swells to double and stack up against each other, resulting in waves that are as tall as a 10-story building.

Nazare, Portugal is probably one of the biggest fears of many surfers. It even scares the hell out of some seasoned big wave surfers. This is because the place is known to house some of the biggest waves on the planet.

However, Hamilton is quite different. Despite being a little scared inside (probably, because who wouldn’t be?), he still managed to successfully and safely ride some of the scariest waves on the planet.

Is Laird Hamilton the best big wave surfer?

There are many big wave surfers out there. However, there are only a few who stand out. One of them is Laird Hamilton.

While he did some occasional fashion and action-sports stints throughout his career, Hamilton is more known for his surfing skills that probably no one can equal. Just by the age of 17, he is already prepared to pursue a career in surfing by joining the World Championship Tour.

However, Hamilton was never into competitive surfing. Yet, he never stopped surfing. Despite not joining surfing competitions, Hamilton still managed to make a name for himself in the world of big wave surfing with his amazing skills and courage. Hamilton never hesitated to test his limits.

In the 1990s, he and his friends were even dubbed the Strapped Crew as they strap their feet to their boards, trying to push their limits.

He also made a huge contribution in big wave surfing by co-inventing tow-in surfing. Thanks to him and his co-inventor, it has become even more possible to surf fast and huge waves.

Throughout his prime, he surfed numerous big wave spots — even the most dangerous ones — successfully, which inspired numerous aspiring big wave surfers and even caught the attention of the experts.

For that, he has been awarded several titles throughout his surfing career, including being billed as the sport’s “most complete surfer.” And his latest achievement despite his age: surfing the heaviest wave at Teahupo’o.

And there’s probably more to come as Hamilton plans to never stop surfing. Hence, we’ll probably see more awards, titles, and other achievements under his name in the coming years.

The world has many great big wave surfers. Each of them has their own strengths and weaknesses, which make them excel in their own way.

About Carla Mesina

I'm a journalist passionate about extreme sports. I love writing and reading stories about those brave people that are going beyond the limit of their physical capabilities.

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