Carnage—we love it. It’s the reason people watch ultimate fail compilations, NASCAR, and probably big wave surfing. Sure, we celebrate the best rides and craziest drops, but it’s the cringe-worthy wipeouts that get our inner sadists the most excited.
There have been hundreds of next-level beat-downs over the years, floggings that were so atrocious they made us sick to our stomachs, wondering what we would do if we were the ones getting chucked out of the lip. While there have been far too many horrendous wipeouts over the years to list them all, here are five that got the world’s attention—some old, some new, all brutal, and mostly blue.
1) Jay Moriarty’s Iron Cross
Long considered one of the greatest wipeouts ever photographed, lip-launch annihilation revealed to the world just how heavy Mav’s actually was—and scored Jay the cover of Surfer Magazine at age 16. There have been other, more terrifying wipeouts over the years, but perhaps none have been as timeless as the Iron Cross.
2) Niccolo Porcella’s Kitesurfing Fiasco.
This one technically isn’t on a surfboard—it’s on a kiteboard—but it’s just so damned entertaining to watch that we couldn’t leave it off the list. Niccolo ended up winning wipeout of the year the same year for his trip over the falls at XXL Teahupoo, but in our book this futile attempt at escaping the jaws of Jaws is about as good as it gets.
3) Emi Erickson’s Peahi Face Skip.
Here’s one for the ladies. When the girls were sent out for the first Peahi Challenge women’s heat in 2016, Jaws was 15- to 20-foot and the wind was raging. Three out of the six women’s finalists ended up missing the finals due to injuries sustained during wipeouts, and Emi’s was by far the worst.
Fully committed on a bomb, Erickson got caught by the wind, fell out of the lip, and proceeded to skip all the way down the three-story face without penetrating. She earned a lot of street cred with that beat down, but that was probably bittersweet consolation for nine months out of the water with a destroyed knee. Worse yet, she was inexplicably denied a Big Wave Awards entry for the wipeout.
4) Tom Dosland’s Suicide Drop at Peahi.
This was the 21st century’s answer to Jay’s lip-launch at Mavs—the kind of wipeout photo that sucks the air out of your chest and leaves you wondering how he survived. In Hawaii there’s something called a “suicide,” where you jump off of a cliff and look like you are going to belly flop, but then tuck at the last second for a face-first cannonball.
Dosland may not have had a sui in mind when he stroked into this beast, but sometimes the best-laid plans…well, you know the rest. It doesn’t get much worse than falling out of the sky headfirst into the trough of a 40-foot wave, your leash stretched out above you and your 10-foot gun fluttering in the wind. There have been a lot of wipeouts that have resulted in a lot worse injuries over the years, but as far as photographic drama goes, Dosland’s was a doozy.
5) Andrew Cotton’s Levitation at Nazare.
This one is only a couple of months old, and is arguably the heaviest wipeout that’s ever been caught on film. After towing into a monster at Portugal’s infamous XXL wedge, Cotty went looking for a non-existent barrel, then straightened out at the last second.
At first it looked like a standard wipeout (if there’s a such thing at humongous Nazare), but then, if you watch close, you can see that he actually gets launched 20 feet into the air by the lip bounce, and ends up landing squarely in the flats, where he ended up breaking his back. While it is probably possible to have a worst wipeout, we certainly hope no one ever does.
Ed’s note: Our author, Matt Rott, loves donuts as much as anyone, and has taken his fair share over the years. Here’s one of Matt’s better moments from last season at Maverick’s, complete with a cockroach backslide to lip baptism, and finished off with a fade by a SUP—the ultimate insult-to-injury addition.
Cover shot: Mavs from the lens of Audrey Lambidakis.