looking to expand my big wave awareness


I moved to Oahu about 8 months ago to go to school and kinda put my pilgrimage in.  i have spent my whole life surfing the north east atlantic specifically new jersey and north carolina, with some trips to chile and puerto rico too.  my goal when i first came out to Hawaii was to get comfortable in 6-8 Hawaiian scale surf, like double to triple over head, but i got a hold of a couple of boards and im finding my stride in some bigger juice.  ive had a couple sessions out at ten foot sunset and himalayas, along with a small 10-12 foot bay day.  what im getting at is that there is so much out there as far as information on what to ride but im havin a hard time navigating it all and finding whats appropriate for my style of surfing.  i would consider my surfing as more of a working mans, i dont care to much for being undergunned so i can do snaps.  i try and train but im not really looking to make a ten foot drop at himi’s any harder than it has to be cause for the waves ive been trying to ride its mostly about the barrel or just gettin a good high line to the shoulder.  that being said im not one to shy away from performance either, just want a good mix.  i guess what im saying is i want functionality in bigger waves and im trying to tune my equipment for that.  right now when the surf get 8 to 10 i mostly ride and 8’3’ rick holt shaped under the brewer label, its beefy but still pretty foiled out for turns, i also ride a 7’6" tokoro chip which is a dream but i find it a little to light and hard to get over the ledge at the more open ocean spots.  that all being said i rode an owl chapman 9’2" single fin the other day at himalayas at 8-10 and it rode like a dream, got in pretty early and came off the bottom better than my small boards i figure cause of the weight making it stick to the face better.  so thats my first problem, i see most people on days like that with much smaller boards and i wonder if im cheating, i know this sounds ridiculous but im only 25 so i want to push myself a little.  now that being said i come to my main topic,  above ten foot!  i recently got a hold of a beautiful 9’6" bk gun and its super heavy and just looks amazing and im dreaming about stepping it up on the bigger days at himalayas and maybe the bay on this board but it seams like there are a lot of ideas about boards in this catagory, i also have a 9’8" brewer but it has almost half the rocker and is more narrow in the nose so im gettin confused.  i see that half the guys paddling out to waimea are on under 10’ boards and the other half are on 10’6" or around that.  i dont plan on surfing the bay really as i will focus mostly on the outer reef lefts but lately ive been thinking that if i start goin for the 12’ plus surf i want something bigger than the bk.  im not kelly slater, im not interested in taking off under the ledge and doin turns, i wanna get in, maybe get barreled and make it out, and im thinkin that a bigger board will really help even at this size, especially to get out of the way of cleanups.  this is only my first year in the islands so i think i might limit myself to 12, cause being from jersey, everything seems huge haha! but i want to paddly out on 15’ days and just get a feel and also i just want to be prepared.  im wondering if my line of thinking has any merit or what cause this is all very new to me as i never thought i would be contemplating a 10’6".  how do yall think a 10’6" would go in 12-15, i am about 6 foot and 180 pounds. i know that people ride them when its maxing out but it seems like a good move for someone just starting to get their feet wet.  and this brings me to another line of thought, shapers.  i have heard of guys incorporating paddleboard design into there rhino chasers and this sounds like a great move to me but i dont really see those elements in the main north shore guys like brewer and rawson.  and also fins, what to choose, im thinking quad but i have had good experience on single fins too.  im really curious on all aspects of riding big surf, stuff that doesnt really get talked about a lot is leashes and leash strings.  ive got a 10’ big wave leash that seems to do the trick but sometimes puts the board so far away from me that it takes too long to get it back.  as far as leash strings go, what makes the best kine, and should i double it up or any other tricks?

as far as training goes, i mostly just surf, and throw in a little diving, hiking, and swimming too. whats effective on season training as well as off season training, i plan on doing a lot more diving and i want to join an outrigger paddling team but i don’t know if there is muscle or stretching training that might help. as of right now i can static apnea breath hold 2 minutes which is a nice bit of mental reassurance but i would like to go longer.  

i know this all seems like a lot of words but ive been mulling it over for a while now, and it seems like this is the kind of information that, for good reason, is just glossed over.  being that im new to the island , i didnt get to grow up with a legend or mentor who could pass this sort of  knowledge down and it would really help if some of you nice folks could maybe point me in the right direction.  i really would like to push myself intelligently and safely and with a lot of hard work

A hui ho!

Emmitt, if you ever come back to visit Puerto Rico again, contact me, I will show you some heavy waves besides Tres Palmas if you agree to stay quiet. I like your approach, stay humble and live in aloha, you will find what you are searching for sure…

Thank you Tony, i'm sure i will get back to PR one day, and i hope that this thread helps everyone.



looking to expend my big wave awareness

Posted: January 24, 2011 - 2:57pm


  ......expend it ?


  or expand it ?


I guess you / we can EXPEND a lot of boards [and energy] , doing big waves eh !


  not that I would know ..this old man is [as P.T'S nickname USED to be , until he proved em wrong! ha !]


"the six foot and under kid" !!


..... anyways , I give my respect to you , for charging in the big stuff , good on you mate !






p.s. -   get in touch with a shaper named Bill Barnfield , who posts here , he's been making boards for hawaii for DECADES  ! [ I hope this helps !!]

haha yeah i guess i was concentrating to hard on the details to notice that little mix up, thanks for pointing it out


wow you're lucky you could edit your original post and title , i've never been able to DO that , how do you do that ?!


  like I say , Bill Barnfield is THE man here [in my opinion anyway] when it comes to hawaiian shapers who are online . I've always found him to be very helpful , friendly , and free with his information here .  [ I hope he doesn't mind the 'plug' [pun intended !] If you do a search for his name , send a 'p.m.' [private message] to him , I'm sure in due time he will reply , and you'll have plenty of experience and practical advice to draw on ....


  cheers , and welcome to sways ! [ by the way ....are you one of the Malloys , by any chance ??]



i think all ya got to do is hit the edit button at the top of your post.  thanks for the information i will have to look up Mr. Barnfield, and no im not a malloy but ive met the brothers a few times and they’re a great surfing inspiration


Emmitt, that's great you decided to take the pilgrimage to Hawaii, one of the only things I regret in life was not going to college in Hawaii after I graduated high school in 1995, I decided to study here in PR to stay with a high school sweetheart, needless to say we broke up the first year of college.

Anyway about your question(s) well I am doing the same thing that you are, I am a beginner big wave surfer. After surfing for over 20 years I now have the true desire to surf big waves, I mean I have always had that desire, I am just doing something about it now.

I got comfortable in double overhead which I ride on a single fin longboard and decided to order a real gun. First I wanted a 9' cause I am used to my log so I figured a 9' gun would be the ticket for bigger surf. Long story short, I talked to a local shaper friend and ended up ordering a USblanks 10'6"A blank and got a 10'6" singlefin 70's style gun taking very little foam out of the blank. I will pick the board up from the shop this week.

One thing I have heard constantly from experienced big wave surfers is that "nobody really ever gets comfortable at triple overhead". Another important thing I once read from a Taj Burrow book was that a big wave beating is like being stuck in a bad traffic jam, you just kinda have to relax and wait for it to end. Holding your breath for 2 min is great, just remember that if you are apnea training in the water never ever do it alone and make sure that you and your partner know what to do in case of a black out.

For training I do jogging with sprints, bicycle riding, jump rope, paddling a big board and spear fishing. The last one is the most fun plus you get a healthy meal out of it.

Just remember that Zombieland film from last year "cardio, very important".

I guess that with surfboards for big waves, the most important thing is for you to feel comfortable with it "like it's your warm blanket"-some big wave rider once said; just be ready for the ocean to take that blanket away and be able to swim back to shore to retreive it... that's all I am going to say about leashes not to start any controversy.

Paddling power, a heavy well shaped hull for the chop and a solid bottom turn with some drive to escape the lip. You are on the right track on ignoring what the pros ride, choose what is functional for you, don't let people give you crap about using a huge board in biggie yet not monster surf. Owl Chapman rides huge boards all the time at any size Sunset, from small Sunset to scary Sunset.

If you are in Oahu, go talk to Bill Barnfeild at his shop in Haleiwa. Even though he is in Oahu and I am in Puerto Rico, he was very, very helpful with my new 10'6" and gave me a lot of tips about design and fin placement for this gun. I am using one of his fins on my gun. He is a really cool guy to talk to and has a lot of experience, just google his name.

Good luck and be safe!

Hey Tony,

When you get that 10'6 could you put some pics up on here? I'd love to see it.



At your size and weight, a 10' 0'' x 22''   single fin squaretail gun will enable you  to ride anything on the North Shore that you care to paddle into.    Properly designed a 10 foot sqtail will have the same speed and paddling performance of a 10' 6'' pintail, coupled with better turning performance.   These observations based on direct experience.   A good friend has ridden 30 foot, near closeout Waimea on a 10' 6'' x 23'' sqtail gun, without any problems catching or making the waves.

hello Bill Thrailkill,

Are there any otherbenefits to a square tail gun design besides increased turning ability? It would seem to me that the outline from the wide point to the tail would be straighter, faster, and you'd probably have more hold and control from the straighter outline. Is this true? Also, do you put more VEE in the tail than a pin? hard edges??? I've seen a few diamond tails, and swallow tails on big guns, particularly on Single fin setups, and am assuming that a square tail would have a similar effect.

Sorry for all the questions, but I figure that I might as well ask someone with as much knowledge as you while I have the chance : )



 It would seem to me that the outline from the wide point to the tail would be straighter, faster, and you'd probably have more hold and control from the straighter outline. Is this true?


It can be, but not necessarily.    I don't put any  vee in the tail, as it increases drag.   (that's what made the finless hotcurls work)  With a fin, you have directional stability and control.   There is a delicate balance between tail rocker and outline curve, to maximize both speed AND ease of turning.   DO NOT be fearful of putting some width in a gun.    Most people make them too narrow.    I did to, in the beginning.    Other benefits?   Getting into waves earlier!  A crucial advantage in larger surf, as you can well imagine.  

i agree w/ bill on the width thing.

plus it blends with the length better.


Thanks Thrailkill,

more width in a gun makes alot of sense, and will give better paddle power too. if no vee, then what do your bottom configurations look like? do you change the WP  with your square tailed guns? do you change tail rocker?

thanks again for the response.

thanks for all the information, my only concern with a square tail is the lift it would create, im afraid i would be able to put the board on rail and just track.



Hey there, welcome to Himalayas!  I might have seen you there this past weekend, but I will definitely be out there this coming weekend. I’ll leave the shaping questions to the experts, but as for the other questions. 

1)Himalayas has three reef breaks based on the swell: Hawaiian 2-6, Hawaiian 6-10, Hawaiian 12+ feet.  If you break a board/leash, swim directly towards the square house with the tallest tree (do not go into the channel between Himalayas and Lanis as this will take you through a recycle process). Most of the regulars out there ride 10+ guns for second reef to third reef; In between first and second reef you will also see shorter boards for the performance oriented guys (ex…Slater).  You want volume to get you out of trouble by having paddling speed.  

2)As for leashes…this is just personal experience; OMA leashes break at the railsaver/swivel junction; same for Dakine big wave leashes.  Creature Creations make beefy leashes (there outer reef model) which has held pretty well, and I have gone to them exclusively.  Raging Isles sell the Creature Creation leashes (next to Cholos). A double leash plug may help dissipate some force seen by the leash string.  

3)As for training…as what other folks have said in the past…both the mental (staying calm) and cardiovascular aspect…but all of that training does come to play when your tired and trying to catch the last wave of the day and suddenly your board/leash breaks…stay calm, and let the white water push you in towards that square house, but the rip will want to suck you towards Lanis which will be devastating as you will get recycle back to the main impact zone or out to Lanis’ main outer breaks.  I had to swim twice this past weekend back to shore…

Feel free to PM me for questions. 


Good luck, great thread and wish I was younger, don't disregard vee or pintails, just digest bits of pieces from where you think are worthy, cheers H.


''....my only concern with a square tail is the lift it would create, im afraid i would be able to put the board on rail and just track.''


You could not be more wrong.  

Good stuff - Have no fear of a longer board…


are your tails wider 12" up on a square rather than a pin? It would seem to me that rail shape and tail width would be a better way of determining the amount of "lift" than the actual tail shape itself. Is this correct?

Also, if i'm digging too deep on my questions, then let me know. Idon't want you to reveal all of your secrets : )