Surfers Epic Skeleton Bay Wave Makes History

PUBLISHED 13 AUG 2018   

Professional Hawaiian surfer, Koa Smith, surfed his way into the history books as he rode an epic wave on Namibia's Skeleton Coast for nearly 1.5 kilometers, traveling through an unprecedented eight barrels on just this one wave in 2 minutes. And the entire ride was captured on film by videographer Chris Rogers, who filmed from above using a drone, and also by Smith himself, using a GoPro camera attached to a mouthpiece to record as he surfed the wave.



However, Smith didn't simply hit it lucky. Arriving at this remote and somewhat secret surf spot at just the right moment required some careful planning. Back in Hawaii, Smith carefully studied synoptic charts (or weather maps) to accurately predict when the swell was most likely to hit. But even having mastered the art of predicting when storm swells are likely to arrive, Smith and fellow world-class surfers need to be able to get on a plane and travel to sometimes far off destinations such as this, and arrive before the swell drops off again, if they hope to catch the perfect wave.

"He can be in one place one day, and you call him and he says, 'I'm taking off for Africa tomorrow,'" says Smith's publicist, Ryan Runke.

Smith boarded a plane in Hawaii, traveling two days by air before touching down in Windhoek, Namibia. He then hopped in a car and traveled 6 hours across the desert, with the final leg of the journey taking him along unmarked sandy roads that end up at a sandy beach at the foot of a bay, known as Skeleton Bay — sometimes referred to as the Diamond of the Desert.

There are no shops, no hotels and no amenities. Surfers camp on the beach, sharing space with the locals — seals and jackals. Once in the icy water, the may even have to make way for an occasional shark or two. Certainly not for the faint-hearted. But as the longest left-hand tube ride in the world, for those up to the challenge, the rewards are priceless.

"When you're out there, you're really out there, and you're kind of on your own," Smith said. "But when you're out there, you're not thinking about it. You know you're sacrificing your life for this."

Smith grew up on the Hawaiian island of Kauai and like many kids in Hawaii tend to do, he started surfing at a really young age.

"There's not much to do there," he said. "My parents would drop us off at the beach. You start playing in the sand, playing in the ocean, body surfing, boogie boarding and it keeps evolving. I started surfing when I was 3. My brother is four years older. When he started, it was, 'If he can do this, I can do this.'"

Smith made the under-10 national surfing team when he was just six years old, and received his first Nike sponsorship when he was 12. He still surfs in plenty of contests, but also enjoys free surfing some of the best waves in the world.

The Skeleton Bay surf session is one that he will not forget in a hurry, particularly the life-changing 2 minute wave that has rewritten the surfing history books. The incredible video footage of his entire experience is proof in the pudding.

"There was a point where I was at four barrels and I was already like, 'This is amazing,'" he said. "It looked like the wave was over, but it formed again. I figured, the drone's there, I might as well stay on. And I was like, 'Whoa!' This went from a good wave to like a life-changing wave."