Wipe out

Analisys of a wipeout – Nathan Florence at Teahupoo


Have you ever had a wipeout that gives you a new perspective about life and death? Either the answer is yes or no I recommend to watch this vid of Nathan Florence. He missed the drop at Chopes (Teahupoo, Tahiti) and gives an amazing insight of what happened to him. When one of the best surfers of the planet talks, it’s good thing to sit down and listen.

Inside there are some great highlights to consider in order to avoid the same mistake. Of course most of us are far away from being able to surf a monster like the one in the video, anyway I dealt in the past with some heavy falls and still I like to push myself into uncomfortable situations. So let’s have a look at what comes out from the precious words of Nathan Florence at Chopes:

What went wrong on the surface

  1. @3:26 “I got overconfident“. This is why most of fails occur in general. Overconfidence makes you underestimate the situation and approach it without the proper focus. He said overconfidence brought him to stand up and look down the line too early, thinking he had the drop done.
  2. He made an air drop because he didn’t account the mid face step on the surface of the wave, consequently his front foot disengaged from the board, mentioning exactly his words.
  3. Once he realized he did air drop he tried to sink the rail as soon as he landed, knowing that he has really little chances to make it.
  4. His board, according to him, was too thick, too buoyant. Therefore he tried to sink the board to penetrate the wave, but the board kept planning and he was bounced off. At this point he knows he’s going to meet the reef…

What he should have done

  1. just take off and go straight, do the bottom turn and then going down the line. Easy, isn’t it?

@7:10 : “Worst wipe outs are the ones that you try to make till the end because then you are falling in any way that you want anymore, you lost control of the fall“. Cannot agree more. I got punished few times just for trying to catch a wave at any cost. It pays back very few times.

Going underwater

When Nathan realized that he wiped out, he tried to penetrate the wave not to get sucked up over the falls. Also this didn’t work out… So he was hoping to be able to pop his head out of the lip to get the last breathe before the impact. Sometimes this can work, depending on the size of the wave. Talking for myself I applied successfully this technique several times. It’s a kind of natural reflex that pushes you through the lip up to the surface to allow you that last breathe before the beating. And it comes natural to all experienced surfers, on my opinion. Unfortunately the lip of that little one was too thick. He was sent straight from the top of the lip to the impact, without any bonus breathe.

And here you can see the difference between a mere mortal and a pro. He’s still able to think what to do to minimize the consequences:

@9:45 “In the water you are able to move your body and use your arms and legs to land how you want to“. Which is on your hands or on your feet.

@9:58 “sacrifice your hands and fore arms“. That’s also what instinct brings the experienced surfers to do just before the impact with the bottom: protect your head and chest by sacrificing your limbs. He landed on the high energy zone where the lip hits the flat water. Boom, big explosion, chaos and then he was sent straight on the reef, where he landed on his feet and got cuts everywhere. Here comes the surprise, because I don’t have experience with waves of that magnitude. As soon as he was hard planted on his feet he tried to jump immediately to the surface.

The leash

@ 11:18 “screw the cuts at the bottom of your feet“. And then “goal is to get to the surface right get back to the air as close as you can“. Surprise: his leash immediately pulled him back down. Normally the leash should pull you up to the surface where your board is floating. So this was another bad news for Nathan. He had again the cold blood to check what happened to his leash to realize it was very close to the breaking point. Then yanked his leg and the leash immediately snapped, pam! free again. It’s not the best scenario being in a impact zone separated from your board because…it floats! And you want something that can guide you to the surface in case of multiple hold downs.

I remember a wipe out on a big wave (double over head, that’s my limit) where I couldn’t recognize anymore up from down. I was lost in a dark world. So I went to reach my ankle to get the leash that was super stiff, very close to breaking. I was really scared because if the leash would have snapped I couldn’t have reached the surface. But everything went well.

Luckily Nathan was wearing a life vest that allowed him to reach the surface easily. The next waves pushed him to the lagoon where he was rescued by the jet ski.


@14:55 “Unfortunately the only way to practice these kind of situations is being in them“. I would never try to practice to buckle up and cover up in a shore break because even 1m shore break can easily break a neck. It’s anyway good suggestion to protect your head with your arms in case of wipeout on shallow water. The upper part of the spine is the most exposed and vulnerable part of your body, don’t forget!

I love the final part @18:08 “I didn’t want to panic but I simply did, I was out of breathe and I was scared. That happens to me all the time…People think we are scared or fearless, there nothing in our heads, that we’ve total confidence all the time..no way! Every single swell I have anxiety, I have my doubts, I get scared…” Love you Nathan. Thank you so much for being human! Indeed I thought the top pro surfers were fearless and super confident. Now I feel better.

Have fun, be safe, be calculated…be as prepared as you could possibly be for when a situation like that it does happen….don’t send without first looking

Great piece Nathan, on my opinion one of the best surf content I have seen in the last few months, thank you again!

See you guys next week!


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