Surfers have been questioning SurferToday about the possibility of surfing a tsunami. Is it possible? I am far away from the epicenter, so can I go for the waves? How big is a tsunami? Are waves perfect when a tsunami appears?
The "harbor wave," the meaning of the Japanese word "tsunami", is a consequence of a seismic disturbance like the earthquake. Tsunamis are not tidal waves. They are an unexpected and rare rise of the regular ocean swell.
Tsunamis are fast and powerful waves that gain heaviness as they progress from the outer sea to the zones of impact, such as coastlines. The natural phenomenon usually reaches speeds between 100 and 500 miles per hour.
Danger increases in shores where shallow water is seen in large areas because tsunami waves tend to increase height with less water and more sand or reef. If wind swell helps, the tsunami gets even more deadly.
Tsunamis are quite often associated with a 100-foot wave that appears in the horizon, but that is not necessarily true. Smaller wave faces can produce larger devastation than an apparently big wave. Tsunami waves carry tons of energy that will only be dissipating after hitting obstacles.
Generally, populations only have a couple of hours to escape a tsunami. This powerful wave travels quickly across the Pacific Ocean, for example, and can reach the shore as people try to save a few belongings.
Usually, a tsunami set of waves, called "tsunami wave train," has a period of one, two or three minutes. The first impact opens the ground to the next ones and theses can be even more destructive. When the tsunami alert or warning is raised, the population is advised to move to higher areas, as soon as possible.
The final answer for surfers is simple. Do not try to surf a tsunami wave, because it is simply not possible to do so. If you're looking for pure adrenaline, try a tidal bore wave. It's fun, fast and safe.