Buzz Aldrin in the Sea of Tranquility. Photo taken by Neil Armstrong. Credit: NASA
No waves here. Buzz Aldrin in the Sea of Tranquility. Photo taken by Neil Armstrong. Credit: NASA

On July 20, 1969, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin touched the Eagle down in the Sea of Tranquility on the lunar surface, forever changing the path of humanity. Eventually, humans are sure to extend footprints further into the solar system and out into the galaxy. But as we leave Earth, exploring and starting colonies on other worlds, what are future bodysurfers to do with a lack of liquid water and breaking waves? The Universe is a phenomenally dynamic place. While we may never find a planet as idyllic as Earth, the potential exists for waves elsewhere.  Waves are generated by wind blowing over fluid, as our knowledge of alien worlds increases, we find no lack of wind or fluids. Let’s take a look at some possibilities for waves in Space.

Saturn’s Moon Titan. Credit: NASA

The most intriguing candidate in our solar system is Saturn’s moon Titan. Discovered in 1655 and visited by a robot in 2005. Titan is the only other object in our solar system to have stable liquid on its surface. It also has a thick atmosphere, rain, rocky ground, plate tectonics and polar winds. Appears similar to Earth, except for the -290F average surface temperature and seas filled with liquid methane. In 2004, while studying Saturn, the NASA/ESA spacecraft Cassini, deployed a small robotic lander names Huygens to the surface of Titan. On its way through the atmosphere, Huygens took photos of what appear to be watersheds and coastlines along large bodies of liquid. Is that the whitewater of breaking waves along the shore?

Coastlines on Titan. Are those waves? Credit: NASA
Coastlines on Titan. Are those waves? Credit: NASA

In 2014, astronomers announced the discovery of waves on the surface of these Oceans of liquid methane. Planetary scientist, John Barnes stated, “This discovery represents the first sea-surface waves known outside of Earth.” Kraken Mare is the largest sea in the north polar region and is most likely to have fetch for wave generation. On Titan, there is wind and there exists large bodies of liquid. Potential rivermouth and pointbreak setups abound. Someday in the future, astronauts will venture deep into our Solar System and explore Titan. With continued technological progression, spacesuits and materials will be able to withstand the dangers of bodysurfing on Titan.

The north polar region of Titan with Mare full of liquid methane. Credit: NASA
The north polar region of Titan with seas full of liquid methane. Credit: NASA

If the biggest waves are created by the biggest storms, lasting the longest time, with the strongest winds, then imagine the waves created by the Great Red Spot on Jupiter. The ultimate wave model purple, err, red blob! First observed about 200 years ago and likely existing for much longer, this monstrous maelstrom is 19,000 miles wide and would swallow 3 whole Earths.  Wind speed in the anticyclone is a consistent 350mph…if there is liquid below that atmosphere, the generated swell is massive! The fastest wind in the Solar System whips around the planet Neptune at 1,500mph. The strongest winds yet discovered in the universe swirl around a black hole at 20 million mph!

350mph wind over 12,000 miles for hundreds of years...big swell. Credit: NASA
350mph wind over 12,000 miles for hundreds of years…big swell. Credit: NASA

The Hollywood blockbuster movie, Interstellar, hypothesizes a 4,000ft. wave breaking in waist deep water, across an entire planet. Apparently, this is not a wind generated wave but rather the result of extreme tidal forces from a nearby black hole. Although not scientifically plausible, the visualization of the giant wave makes for an interesting mindsurf.   

Black hole tidal forces. Credit: Warner Brothers
Black hole tidal forces. Credit: Warner Brothers
Artist's conception of an Ocean Planet Credit: NASA
Artist’s conception of an Ocean Planet. Credit: NASA

Recently, astronomers announced theoretical evidence for a 9th planet orbiting our Sun in the farthest reaches of our solar system. Maybe there are exotic waves of liquid oxygen there. Astronomers have found evidence for “Ocean Planets” orbiting other stars, such as Kepler 22-b and Gliese 581d. The surface of these worlds are hypothesized to be covered in liquid water.  

There are intriguing possibilities for space-faring waveriders of the future. As our knowledge increases, so do the chances of finding perfect waves elsewhere in the Multiverse. 


Sources: Waves
NASA- Cassini-Huygens Mission to Titan


‘Umi and Pai’ea- Kaha Nalu

Reprinted from John R.K. Clark’s book, HawaiianSurfing
Hawaiian Surfing: Traditions From the Past.

Perhaps the most famous description of bodysurfing is found in the story of ‘Umi and Pai’ea, two chiefs from the island of Hawai’i who were both skillful bodysurfers. When ‘Umi as a young chief visited Laupāhoehoe, Pai’ea challenged him to a heihei, or bodysurfing contest to see who could get the longest ride on the same wave. ‘Umi and Pai’ea caught a wave together, but during the ride, Pai’ea crowded ‘Umi into a rock, causing ‘Umi to injure his shoulder. ‘Umi still won the contest, but years later, when he was king of the island of Hawai’i, he put Pai’ea to death for this incident. In the passage that follows, the writer offers a version of the story, which at the same time provides a description of traditional bodysurfing.  

Photo: Neal Miyake
Photo: Neal Miyake

‘Umi and his wives went sea bathing, surfing (he’e nalu), riding on the surf (kaha nalu), and a certain chief of Laupāhoehoe noticed ‘Umi’s skill in surf riding. His name was Pai’ea, and he knew all the surfs and the best one to ride. It was the one directly in front of Laupāhoehoe, facing Hilo. It was a huge one which none dared to ride except Pai’ea, who was noted for his skill. Gambling on surfing was practiced in that locality. All of the inhabitants from Waipunalei to Ka’ula placed their wager on ‘Umi and those of Laupāhoehoe on Pai’ea. The two rode the surf, and while surfing, Pai’ea noticed that ‘Umi was winning. As they drew near a rock, Pai’ea crowded him against it, skinning his side. ‘Umi won against Pai’ea, and because he crowded ‘Umi against the rock with the intention of killing him, Pai’ea was roasted in an imu in later years. 
       –Kamakau. Ruling Chiefs.  p. 10-11

Clark, John R. K. Hawaiian Surfing: Traditions from the Past. Honolulu: U of Hawaiʻi, 2011. Print.

*Cover photo: Brian Yee- @808makuatomakai

Credit: Brian Yee- @808makuatomakai
Credit: Brian Yee- @808makuatomakai

Bodysurf Skills Required

Bodysurfing is an art unto itself, no board required. However, there was a time when the world’s pioneers of surf considered bodysurfing skills to be a prerequisite. When they paddled out to explore towering Makaha or bombing Waimea, there was no safety patrol to ski wipeouts to the sand. These guys had no choice, but to be complete watermen.

Eddie Aikau could bodysurf by Jeff Divine
Eddie Aikau was the embodiment of the word waterman. Photographed by Jeff Divine

An early version of the surfboard leash was used by Tom Blake in the 1930s. He tried tying his belt to his surfboard using a cotton rope. Tom abandoned his invention, deciding it was too dangerous. Throughout the decades, others tried linking the fate of man and board. The French were early adopters of the ankle leash. In the early 1970s leashes were being marketed to the everyday surfer. Some of the old guard complained that leashes allow surfers who aren’t ready for bigger waves to take them on too early. Others claimed they made surfing more dangerous. Despite their protest, leashes have become almost universal with over 99% of surfers wearing leashes.

Surfing in the pre-leash days is hard to imagine for those of us who’ve grown up in the post-leash era. The sheer emptiness of breaks on overhead surf days would be startling. I try imagine what it must have been like to take a hard wipeout at big Makaha back then. Trying desperately to avoid hitting my own board, having no leash to climb for the surface and when the wave finally lets me rise for a breath the real nightmare begins. How lonely it must have felt, to be a speck in the torrent of the Sea without fins or a board to aid an escape. With the invention of the modern leash, surf companies essentially killed the surfer-waterman inevitability.

It means something different to be a surfer these days. What is lost? Those extraordinary riders who are still pushing the limits of paddle-in big wave surfing carry the torch. In their line of work the principles of understanding the Ocean’s energy and the ability to manage one’s own safety has infinite value. I would argue, those same principles should have never lost that value.



For more information about the history of the surf leash check out the Encyclopedia Of Surfing.


El Niño is real. As predicted, a series of solid swells are producing substantial surf throughout the North Pacific. The jet stream is firmly established in a southerly position and a seemingly nonstop train of WestNorthWest swells are marching across the NPAC region. Are you tired yet?

Powerful Jet Stream Image: NOAA
Powerful Jet Stream Image: NOAA

A couple months ago, I wrote a piece called Swell Affective Disorder. The month of November 2015 was dismal for California surf and I was feeling the effects. Fast forward 2 months and it’s been head high+ for almost 3 weeks straight. We are spoiled. The entire North Pacific is drenched in swell. A new affliction is beginning to affect some waveriders: swell fatigue. Many chest high waves go unridden in between overhead swells. Waves that a dozen people would fight over in July, break empty during an El Niño winter.

Nobody around.
Nobody around.

Arms are tired, backs are sore. Head’s full of water. Wetsuits smell terrible.  A chest high wave isn’t as exciting when it was 10ft last weekend and another solid swell is coming in a couple days. “Surfed out” is a real thing. Drive down the coast and check your local spots. Even the most popular might have a significant decrease of heads in the water.

You have to go out . Remember flat spells? Remember how it feels after 2 weeks of weak surf? Remember how you crave the Ocean’s energy? There it is. Right out front, right now. Fill your Vision bank. You’ll wish you had this much swell come July. Nothing gold can stay. It will go flat again. The long range forecast will go quiet. And you’ll be left with nothing but the memories of pumping El Nino surf. Always take advantage of swell when it hits your local shore. 



From Body, with love.

Dear you,

What is wrong with you? You were up late and now we’re combing the coast before the sun has even hinted at rising. Rest is hard to come by. I’m strugglin and this tiny cup of coffee ain’t cuttin it. Sure it’s warm, but we all know what’s next. That damn wetsuit. The salty, sandy, sodden wetsuit is sure to zap all my heat at once. Didn’t think to hang it up yesterday? Didn’t bother. Not to mention the frigid sand itself. No booties eh?

So we’re here, swimming out into the dark abyss. Don’t sharks feed at dawn and dusk? Are you even considering our long term health? You can’t see the sets coming, don’t even pretend you can. After all of this you ask me to go. You huck me over a moving ledge with little hope of a happy ending. Near drowning, more like it. You pompous ass. Throttled and bent, tweaked and aching you refuse to swim in. Those other guys have feet of foam, we’re not meant to be here. I can’t breathe water. Stop half-assing your swims under the waves. Making this swim longer. Speaking of which, why the hell did we swim out straight into this mess? No channel? No swim around. Is that reef? Seriously?

Water is cold and now the sun is scorching. Did you forget sunscreen? I know you forgot Vaseline. Rubbin raw man! Isn’t an hour enough? On that wave, the big teepee. Yeah, good choice. That glide felt spectacular. In and out! Boom. Let’s end it. Call it a day. Ride the whitewater in with a smile. We may have time to catch some of the game. Never enough. Greedy fool. Why must you push me to exhaustion? One too many, here comes the free fall. Instead of riding in like a king you wanna be washed up like a beached whale. Fat, over zealous meat-head. While we’re lyin’ here, a limp mess of muscle and rubber on the sand, take a second and plan some better choices for the future. You’re getting old. The grays came in so fast. Get a life. Find a hobby. I bet you don’t have to get up at 4:30am to learn the banjo.

With Love,

Your Body