Surfers have been questioning SurferToday about the possibility of surfing a tsunami. Is it possible? If you are far away from the epicenter, can you go for the waves? How big is a tsunami? Are waves perfect when a tsunami appears?
The Japanese word tsunami, meaning "harbor wave", is a consequence of a seismic disturbance, such as an earthquake. Tsunamis are not tidal waves. They are an unexpected and rare spike in the regular ocean swell.
Tsunamis are fast and powerful waves that gain weight and mass as they progress from the outer sea to coastal zones of impact. This natural phenomenon usually reaches speeds of between 100 and 500 miles per hour.
Danger increases on shores where shallow water exists over large areas, because tsunami waves tend to increase in height with less water and more sand or reef. If wind swell is aiding the wave, a tsunami becomes even more deadly.
Tsunamis are quite often associated with the image of a 100-foot wave that appears on the horizon, but this is not necessarily realistic. Smaller wave faces can produce larger devastation than an apparently big wave. Tsunami waves carry tons of energy that only dissipate after hitting obstacles.
Generally, populations only have a couple of hours to escape a tsunami. This powerful wave travels quickly across an ocean or sea, and can reach the shore as people are still trying to gather belongings.
If a tsunami forms as a set of waves, it creates what is called a "tsunami wave train". These waves have periods of one, two or three minutes. The first impact clears the way for the following waves by removing many obstacles.
Therefore, the next waves to come are often 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.