Slabs are a silly kind of wave—twisted and vicious, shallow and dangerous, popular with bodyboarders and tow-bros and other deranged perverts.
But what was once a couple of novelty breaks (Shark Island and The Box started all the madness three decades ago) has turned into an entire subset of the heavy water surf genre. These days, you aren’t a proper hellman unless you regularly pack nugs at Riley’s, Mully’s, Shippies, Ours, The Right, Chopes, and basically every wave that Russell Bierke likes.
But there are a few slabs out there that are so mutant they were never meant to be ridden. Sure, people try—with success rates in the single digits and consequences that include death and dismemberment. No matter how much we progress, there are simply some waves that are better off left to their own devices. Here are five of the freakiest.
Probably one of the most beautiful waves in the world to photograph—and deceptively inviting when you look at it from a distance—Cyclops is neither beautiful nor inviting when you are getting driven into the virtually dry reef that lies just below the crystalline chaos. Koby Abberton says it’s not a real wave, and Mark Mathews said he’d never go back after test-riding the Western Australia beast. Considering their pedigree as two of the craziest lunatics behind a ski, we’ll take their word for it.
Dark, cold, ugly, unpredictable, sharky—the Pacific Northwest’s most infamous slab covers all the bases when it comes to upping the fear factor. Slurping from below sea level before twisting itself inside out, the Yeti is basically only rideable from behind a ski—and even then, it's a rare accomplishment when someone actually makes a barrel.
Brazil isn’t exactly known for its heavy waves, but the truth is, Rio has a full-on slab scene, with a number of freakshow waves breaking just off shore. Gardenal might be the craziest of them all, heaving its guts out onto an underwater rock pinnacle that surges dry—like 10-feet-out-of-the-water dry—as the wave barrels across it. Some call it the Brazilian Teahupoo, but that’s not exactly accurate, since Teahupoo is paddleable, has a rideable barrel, and won’t necessarily kill you if you fall.
Okay, so technically Ke Iki is a shorebreak—but that doesn’t mean it can’t be considered a slab, too. And yes, it is ridden virtually every day, by bodyboarders and bodysurfers, and even the occasional kamikaze on a surfboard—but that doesn't mean it should be. Clark Little made this wave famous through his suicidal photography obsession, and before that he spent most of his time riding thrusters at Waimea Shorebreak, so that should give you some context. Ke Iki is little more than a mutant closeout that breaks straight onto dry sand, and it isn’t uncommon to see world champion bodyboarders getting pitched out of the lip. If they can’t make the drop, then no one can, which makes it even more amazing that dozens of us swim out to whomp Ke Iki every time it breaks.
Like most waves on this list—and most slabs in general—Supers was the domain of dick draggers long before stand-up surfers ever found it. And for the most part, it still belongs to the boogs. The left-hand slab on the east coast of Australia can be paddled on a surfboard if it’s the right size (and if you luck into the 1 out of 10 waves that has a hairball entry), but for the most part it’s a tow-only affair—and even then it’s hardly makeable. Breaking directly in front of a rock slab, the slab not only has dire consequences for anyone that falls, but also suffers from a nasty backwash problem that all but ensures that will happen.