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What If You Went Surfing on a Tsunami?

There’s something approaching from the distance that you can’t stop. It can completely destroy cities and kill tens of thousands of people.

It looks like another big wave at first, but as it gets closer, you can see it’s not just big. It’s HUGE! It’s a tsunami.

You should probably run away from it, but instead, we’re going to surf it. Seriously? This can’t be good.

Is surfing a tsunami even possible? And have people done this before? Well, we better get started.

The biggest wave that someone has surfed on was 24.4 meters tall (80 feet). It happened in November of 2018. Tsunamis can be around this height but for our purposes let’s go a little bigger and say ours is 30 meters tall (100 feet).

But if you want to surf on a tsunami – and we don’t recommend you do it – you’ll most likely have to travel to Japan or the Philippines. This is because they’re located in the Ring of Fire, an area in the Pacific Ocean where tsunamis are most likely to occur.

But wait, how do tsunamis occur anyways? Tsunamis are different from the usual waves caused by wind and tides.

Tsunamis form due to volcanic activity, but most often after an earthquake occurs in the ocean. If an earthquake
happens in the sea that’s 6.5 or higher on the Richter scale, you can expect a tsunami to come heading for land.

This massive wave will start deep in the ocean and build its way up to the coastline, quickly gaining speed and power. Experts say that a tsunami can move up to 800 km/h (497 mph) as it reaches the shore, so be prepared for a wave as fast a passenger jet.

And although tsunamis start as small bumps deep in the ocean, as they reach shallower water they become much more massive. So how would you surf on this thing?

Let’s hope you have a friend that’s just as daring as you. Because the wave is moving so fast, you’d need your friend to drive up the wave on a jet ski while you hitch a ride on the back.

If you manage to get to the top, you’ll quickly realize that this wave is completely different from any other wave you’ve surfed before. That’s because tsunami waves don’t break as opposed to regular waves created by wind.

A breaking wave curves and cascades onto itself, making it the perfect wall for your surfboard. But generally speaking, a tsunami doesn’t have this quality.

Apart from the massive size, and the incredible speed of the tsunami, surfing on it would be nearly impossible because there wouldn’t be much for your board to grip onto. But you’re up here now, so what do you do?

Well, your best bet is to really only hold on for your dear life and hope for the best. Let’s be real here; there’s no way you’re going to be able to surf on this monster.

You’ll quickly be hurled towards whatever coast the tsunami decides to bring you to. And you probably won’t just land on the beach either.

You could be several hundred meters or even kilometers inland. It could hurl you against the side of a bus, or into a building.

And after the tsunami brings you there that won’t be all that happens. After it tosses you inland, the waves will pull you right back out into the ocean.

Now it’s not only you in the tsunami. Other people, cars, and even entire parts of buildings will all be forced into the ocean, causing even more destruction as they slosh through the tsunami’s path.

You may think it’s over now, but that isn’t the case. A tsunami isn’t just one massive wave; it’s multiple waves.

A tsunami can last for up to an hour, With waves up to 30 meters (100 feet) continually hitting the coast while destroying cities and killing people.

So once you lose your surfboard, you’d be in the water with everything else, being pushed back and forth from the coast and back out to the sea.

You’d keep doing this until you inevitably drown or die from getting hit by debris. So although surfing a tsunami would make for a pretty gnarly story, maybe we should stick to regular breakers for now.

One person who might be a contender to tame a tsunami would be legendary Big Wave Surfer Laird Hamilton. I gotta admit, I didn’t know much about big wave surfers until I listened to his book “”Liferider”” on Audible.com.

But he’s one of the icons of the sport, and you get a real insight into what goes on in the mind of someone who’s not afraid to tackle enormous challenges. Audible is where so many inspiring voices and compelling stories open listeners up to new experiences, and ways of thinking.

Listening makes us smarter, more connected people. It makes us better partners, parents, and leaders. And there’s no better place to start listening than Audible.

We’re big fans of Audible here at Underknown, and we use many of their audio books to inspire the videos that we make for you. So thanks Audible for inspiring us.

You can start listening today with a 30-day Audible trial – your first audiobook, plus two Audible Originals are free. Visit audible.dot com slash What If – that’s audible.dot com slash What If to sign up, or text (WhatIf) to 500-500.

Even if you were to try to surf a tsunami, ands somehow survived,you could be pretty badly hurt and in a lot of
pain. But what if you couldn’t feel pain? Then you could probably do it!

How Big Can A Tsunami Really Get?”. Nield, David. 2019. Sciencealert. Accessed August 19 2019.

  • “How Dangerous Is Surfing? – Wavelength – Europe’s Longest Running Surf Magazine”. Wavelength – Europe’s Longest Running Surf Magazine.  Magazine, Wavelength. 2018. Accessed August 19 2019.
  • “Tsunami Facts And Information”. 2019. bom.gov.au. Accessed August 19 2019.
  • “The Science Of Surfing: A Simple Introduction To Catching Waves!”. Woodfrod, Chris, 2019. Explain That Stuff. Accessed August 19 2019.
  • Credits: Insh

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