Ghost Wave: The Discovery of Cortes Bank and the Biggest Wave on Earth
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Rising from the depths of the North Pacific lies a fabled island, now submerged just 15 feet below the surface of the ocean. Rumors and warnings about Cortes Bank abound, but among big wave surfers, this legendary rock is famous for one simple (and massive) reason: this is the home of the biggest rideable wave on the face of the earth. In this dramatic work of narrative non-fiction, journalist Chris Dixon unlocks the secrets of Cortes Bank and pulls readers into the harrowing world of big wave surfing and high seas adventure above the most enigmatic and dangerous rock in the sea. The true story of this Everest of the sea will thrill anyone with an abiding curiosity of and respect for mother ocean.
look, we set up a plan…You know the exact RPMs of the engine and the speed of the boat. That’s how you know where you’re going.” As Houtz explained later, “It had been made clear on an earlier trip—this is my boat. I’m the captain. Stay out of the way.” An hour or so later, one engine emitted an earsplitting clatter. A flabbergasted Houtz ordered it shut down. He wanted to yell I told you so to Kirkwood, but bit his lip. The decision to make the run had, after all, been his. They would continue
stripped off his shirt and prepared to leap in for a rescue. “Are you crazy?” a crewman asked. Ribeiro had spent his entire fisherman’s life throwing lines. He instead heaved one out to Kirkwood with a skill Captain Miller compared to a big- league pitcher. “No matter what you do, don’t let go,” Ribeiro yelled to Kirkwood, just before he was buried by another nightmarish wave. That guy is one tough son of a bitch, Ribeiro remembered thinking. “I was flagging and knew I couldn’t hang on any
basis for an entire culture. In around 1859, a brilliant Hawaiian writer and cultural anthropologist named Kepelino Keauokalani used the recollections of his elders to capture the cultural zeitgeist of precontact surfing in terms that any dedicated wave rider could recognize today: “Expert surfers going upland to farm, if part way up perhaps they look back and see the rollers combing the beach, will leave their work…then hurrying away home, they will pick up the board and go. All thought of work
disarm his competitors with charm while plunging in the competitive knife. He was so damned nice, and possessed such a savant’s devotion to surfing, that he became one of the most popular guys on the tour. When an Australian surf magazine dared question whether Parsons was a future world champion, the normally nationalistic Aussie pros threatened the writer’s life. “They were like, ‘Fuck you, dude’—totally protective of him,” Mauro says. “That’s in part because Mike was never like Ken Bradshaw,
real—a peeling wave 100 feet high. Fifty feet of pure groundswell—perhaps a once-in-a-century event at these southerly latitudes—might create a 200-foot wave. If you could generate enough swell, a reeling, Malibu-style wave 1,000 feet high was theoretically possible. To date, this is a combination of factors that exists at no other big wave spot yet revealed. Waimea, Maverick’s, Todos Santos, Outer Log Cabins, Jaws—all seem to have upper limits between 50 and 100 feet. Above that, a swell would