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Surfers Ride Record-Breaking 50-Foot Waves off the Irish Coast

Matt Gibson —  November 17, 2010 — 2 Comments

Last week a group of surfers had the most intense rides of their lives on waves over 50-feet tall off the coast of Ireland, Galding reported yesterday. The waves were the biggest to recorded in Irish waters since 2005.  The surfers rode the waves far from shore, presumably over a deep-ocean reef. Although there are a few surf spots around Ireland, nobody knows where the waves actually occurred, and the surfers, not surprisingly, aren’t telling anybody–they want to keep them to themselves.

The waves were apparently caused by a low-pressure system over Iceland that sent them barelling nearly 600 miles to Ireland.  Scientists say that this system only occurs about once every five years, so, you can bet that the surfers will be back in 2015 for another go, kind of like Patrick Swayze in Point Break waiting for the 50-year storm (except not as handsome and without Keanu Reeves chasing them while making witty remarks in his trademark monotone).

So, if nobody else saw the waves, and nobody knows where they were, then how do we know they weren’t lying?  Video of course.  Check it out.

I noticed in this video that one of the surfers wiped out. I also surf and I’ve found that a wave just eight feet high will toss me around under the water like a child swinging a doll by the leg. Surfing waves this size is no joke.  They are five stories of water crashing down right behind, and, if you’re not fast enough, on top of you.  They have enough force to hold you under water for long periods of time, and push you down to depths of uncomfortable pressure.  According to renowned big wave surfer James Williams a wave of that size has the ability to dislocate limbs, and even kill, by the sheer magnitude of the force of the water. Hear more about big wave wipeouts in the video below.

Surviving a Big Wave Wipeout

Although the waves that the surfers in Ireland surfed were big, they were far from the biggest.  The waves they rode were 55 feet tall at the most.  The biggest wave in history, by contrast, was a tsunami that hit Litya Bay, Alaska in 1958, which was more than 1780 feet high. The biggest waves ever surfed were said to be over 75 feet high, and were ridden by a group of surfers on a reef 105 kilometers of the coast of Southern California. The video below is said to be of one of those rides.

Most big-wave surfers, like those who caught the waves last weekend in Ireland, need to be pulled into big waves by jet-skis because they cannot paddle fast enough to catch the wave. The record set for the biggest wave ever paddled into was set by Shawn Dollars this year at the Billabong Global XXL Big Wave Awards for catching a 55+ foot wave.  Below is the highlight video from the contest, featuring some enormous waves spectacular wipeouts.  Enjoy!

About Matt Gibson

Matt Gibson is three-time Canadian expat now living in Salt Lake City, Utah, where he works as a blog and social media manager, writes the About.com Snowboarding Guide, and writes about the outdoors and adventure travel on this blog.

2 responses to Surfers Ride Record-Breaking 50-Foot Waves off the Irish Coast

  1. None of the Irish waves appear to be more than 30 foot maximum if that. A waves height is mearured from the water level behind it up to the crest and not from the water level in front up to the crest. Nice waves though.

  2. I’m pretty new to surfing, so I don’t know too much about wave height. But from what I’ve read people in different places measure waves differently: some measure from back to crest, and some measure the face.

    http://askville.amazon.com/surfers-measure-wave-heights-back-front-face-ride/AnswerViewer.do?requestId=512154

    http://www.yosurfer.com/content/meteorology_and_oceanography/how_to_measure_wave_size.htm

    I guess in Ireland they use the latter method.

    Either way, those waves are ridiculous. I doubt I’ll ever get up on anything like that!

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