There is nothing quite like the fear-inducing yet heart-lifting nature of the ocean. Like staring into the night sky or watching the flicker of a flame, there is something truly mesmerising about watching the waves break repeatedly onto the shore. With the Maptia HQ currently fewer than five meters away from the Atlantic ocean at high tide, a wave-related photo essay was inevitable, and we are actually quite surprised that this collection took so long to appear!
Below you will find 20 incredible photos of uncharted waters, world-famous waves, and the never-ending oceans that cover so much of our planet. Many thanks to all the charming photographers for sharing their beautiful compositions.
Portugal is home to some record breaking waves. At the end of January, a beastly wave was surfed off the coast of Nazaré that exceeded 100 feet (over 30 meters). Due to a deep water canyon connecting to the shore (one of the only a few like this in the world) the north beach of Nazaré, Praia do Norte, sees some abnormally large waves that are fearsome and awesome in equal measure.
The notorious wave seen captured below - known to surfers as ‘Cyclops’ - can only be accessed by boat and is found in a secret spot seven hours from Perth off the Esperance coast. A sudden change in water depth and a shallow reef below cause this wave to take the shape of no other anywhere in the world. The hollowing barreling movement in both directions, means that for anyone trying to surf this wave it quickly becomes a matter of life or death.
Some of the biggest and most impressive waves are to be found in Hawaii, and if nothing else they make for some incredible photographs. Man has always been fascinated with trying to tame the ocean, with varying levels of success, and for anyone looking to harness the power of the waves, Hawaii is probably top of the list.
The oceans have long been a source of inspiration for writers and poets, with the sound of the sea leaving its impression throughout centuries of fiction and fantasy in so many different cultures. There is something intangible, fearful, and yet beautiful about its uncontrollable and unpredictable nature.
Home to Phil Edwards, credited as being the first professional surfer and the first person to tackle this beast of a wave in Hawaii, Oceanside is a coastal city in San Diego County with a strong beach-centered community. This abstract capture is stunning - the evening sunlight looks like oil on the wave.
With a coastline stretching 501 km, it's hardly surprising that Puerto Rico has some incredible waves - part of the reason for this being it’s close proximity to the deepest submarine depression in the North Atlantic Ocean. The trench lies about 120 km north of the island, roughly parallel to its northern coast, and within it lies the Milwaukee Deep - the deepest point in the Atlantic Ocean.
There are about seventy islands and islets that make up the Mentawai Islands Regency, which is found off the western coast of Sumatra. A more-than-notable surfing destination, these islands are also home to the indigenous Mentawai people. This beautiful shot does a great job of capturing the perfect waves and amazing waters in this part of the world.
Jeffreys Bay has changed and grown from the sleepy, hippie-populated little fishing town of the 60s and 70s into one of the ‘fastest expanding urban areas in the country’. Also one of the most famous surfing destinations in the world, the wave here is fast, hollow and powerful.
The North Shore - referring to the north-facing coastal area of the island of Oʻahu between Kaʻena Point and Kahuku Point - is considered by most (in fact, everyone who has ever ridden a wave) to be the surfing mecca of the world. The largest settlement of Hale'iwa is both beautiful and historic, and the perfect winter waves in this area are legendary.
‘Shipsterns Bluff’ (also known as Devil’s Point) is widely regarded by the surfing community as being one of the most dangerous (and wildest) waves in the world. Not only because of the unusually powerful wave that breaks onto a sharp coral reef, but also because the area is known for great white sharks, and the nearest hospital is four hours away - an hour of which can only be covered on foot.
The Hawaiian Civil Defense alert ‘Condition Back’ was issued for the first time on January 28, 1998 - this declares the oceans dangerous enough to be off limits to everyone. That day it was issued for all the North Shore beaches, including Waimea Bay. Despite this, a few surfers actually defied the warnings and headed out into the ocean - everybody else stood slack-jawed on the shore, stunned into a respectful silence.
It was difficult to resist including more of Gregg Miller’s photographs, as they are unusually evocative. Ke Iki Beach can be found between the famous Sunset Beach and Waimea, less than an hour from the crowded, tourist-populated white sands of Waikiki. The high resolution version of this image that Gregg was kind enough to send to us was spellbinding - so much powerful movement, forever frozen in motion.
Known simply as ‘Plett’, the town here was originally named ‘Bahia Formosa’ (beautiful bay) by early Portuguese explorers. It lies on South Africa's famous Garden Route, 210 km from Port Elizabeth and about 600 km from Cape Town. Ray's photo below captures a real monster of a wave.
Teahupo’o is a unique wave, as the shape of the underlying reef causes it to effectively break below sea level. This unstable beast is often as thick as it is tall, and there are some incredible videos that have been filmed here, this one by Chris Bryan being a particularly terrifying example.
Thanks for taking the time to peruse these beautiful photos of our world's oceans. If you have a moment, why not tweet this post and @mention any friends who you think might also enjoy it.
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We also think that you will enjoy reading some of our other recent blog posts. Here are two more of recent photo essays.