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Riding the faces of giants

Big wave art on exhibit in Oceanside

California Surf Museum’s Going Big exhibit opened this week
  • California Surf Museum’s Going Big exhibit opened this week

Big-wave surfing was born in the minds of Southern California surfers in 1953, when a photo of George Downing and Buzzy Trent riding a 15-foot wave at Makaha, Hawaii, appeared in Life magazine and National Geographic. Downing had moved to Oahu to study the break on the reef after the Second World War.

In 1950, he designed a ten-foot board with a skeg that was stable and solid that allowed him to tackle the powerful waves at Makaha and pioneer what was to become an extreme sport. The longer board was needed to paddle into the larger wave successfully, but anything over 20 feet was nearly impossible to drop in on. In 1992, Laird Hamilton and Darrick Doerner first used a jet ski to tow each other into waves up to 30 feet tall. This technique allowed them to use a seven-foot board. By the turn of the century, big-wave surfers were riding faces over 50 feet high.

California Surf Museum

312 Pier View Way, Oceanside

For an in-depth look at the history of big-wave riding and competition, Oceanside’s California Surf Museum is hosting the exhibit Going Big: A History Of Big Wave Surfing Around the World, December 1st through the 31st.

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