The Unsung Heroes of Big Wave Surfing: Jet Ski Drivers and the Team Behind the Scenes
Big wave surfing is a high-adrenaline sport that captivates audiences worldwide. While the spotlight often focuses on the surfers who ride these monstrous waves, there is an entire team of unsung heroes working tirelessly behind the scenes to ensure the safety and success of these daring athletes. Among them, jet ski drivers play a pivotal role in big wave surfing, along with a host of other vital team members who contribute to the overall experience.
Jet ski drivers are responsible for ensuring the surfers' safety during their adrenaline-pumping rides. These skilled drivers maneuver through massive waves, positioning themselves at the right place and the right time to retrieve surfers after their rides or to rescue them in dangerous situations. Their expertise in navigating treacherous waters and their ability to make split-second decisions are critical for protecting surfers from harm. Often surfers will also take on the role of jet ski driver and work in a team with another big wave surfer. We see this mainly play out at iconic big wave spot Nazare. The men and women on the ski need to be just as knowledgeable about the wave as the ones who are riding them. Trust is key here.
The Team Behind the Scenes The success and safety of big wave surfers depend on much more than the individual on the board, and much more even than the individual on the ski. A dedicated team works together to prepare for and execute a successful big wave surfing session:
Spotters: These experts analyze waves from the shore. Many big wave zones will have building sets so far outside that the surfer wouldn't even see them until they are in the impact zone. This is where the spotter comes in. Keen awareness of their surroundings and communication are key skills for a good spotter.
Shapers: Crafting specialized big wave surfboards requires immense skill and knowledge. If 1 in every 100 people in the general public are great surfboard shapers, 1 in every 100 shapers will be great big wave shapers. Shapers work closely with surfers to create boards designed specifically for the conditions and waves they will face, and in big wave surfing that varies a ton. Weight and shape of a board are very important here.
Safety Crew: This team is responsible for ensuring that all safety equipment is in place and functioning properly. They coordinate with the jet ski drivers, monitor the surfers, and are ready to respond in case of an emergency. While safety equipment for big wave surfing has come a long way there are always dangers when going up against these mountains of water. Safety crews spend many days and nights making sure that they are as prepared as possible for whatever could happen because sometimes it does.
Photographers and Videographers: These professionals capture the awe-inspiring moments of big wave surfing, sharing the surfers' feats with audiences around the world. This may seem like an odd addition to the list, but without those who capture the moments there is no big wave surfing. Funding comes from eyeballs, and these photographers risk their lives every day hoping in the water to capture these behemoths.
All of these elements, and more, need to come together to make big wave surfing possible. It's not something that you can just go out and do. We are thankful for the professionals and safety crew who risk it all chasing that biggest wave.