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Published on August 5th, 2015 | by Elijah

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How to Find Epic River Waves: The 2 Holy Grails of River Waves

Good morning river surfing world. I hope everyone is having a great day and as always I hope each of you can ride a river wave today. The blessing today is that many of you have waves right outside your front door. Not long ago the only community with that luxury was Munich. Now there are many communities with year round surf.

When I was a youth it was my easy access to the ocean waves that changed my life. But it was clear to me that travel and exploration was my surfing darma. At 15yrs old I started hitchhiking south to Blacks, Big Rock & South Mission Jetty, the tree best lefts in San Diego county. This same year I took my first trip to Todos Santo Island. When I was 19yrs old I moved to San Fransisco. Over the next ten years I jumped at every chance I could get to head north to Point Arena and beyond.

River surfing is going to take surfing all over the world. There are river waves everywhere, go find them.

So it is this spirit of exploration that I speak to you all now. My river surfing experience has always been about exploration as I have never lived anywhere with a wave just outside my front door. Because of this I had to search for and travel to river waves. I believe everyone should try this at least once. So I want to share with the world some info that may change someone’s life. I am going to share the best ways to get the best waves and then I am going to share what I believe to be the two holy grails of river waves.

How to Find Epic River Waves

1. Pick a Location

This could be close to your home or on the other side of the earth. It doesn’t even have to be a river, standing waves happen all over the world in a number of setting such as canals, tidal exchanges etc.

2. Research

The best way to start is to search online for any info related to rafting and playboating. When I first started I used a website called Play boating was more popular then but even with the sports decline in popularity all the years of data is still online. Rafting is a very popular pastime and there are rafting outfitters all over the world and most of them have YouTube videos of their trips.

The second best way to find suitable waves is Google Earth, as you are one click away from every river on earth.

And there is the old fashioned way, get out and drive along the river. Heading upriver is always best as you can’t see river waves from the back. Also be social, get out and talk to people in the local areas, whether they look like they kayak or not. Local people who live by the river spend time on the river and they may be your golden ticket. Also take what play-boaters say with a grain of salt, what we want in a wave is not what they want in a wave.

3. Network

At the start in North America there was the organization I started called the WRSA. In reality it was a website I had built that made a simple statement. “River surfing is going to take surfing all over the world. There are river waves everywhere, go find them.” I put up photos and videos and info on the spots I had surfed and I put up a member sign-up page. By 2005 the WRSA had just over 100 members. The core of them being from the ARSA in Alberta. It was from this simple website I was able to connect with the outside world.

4. Call Me

I am not kidding. If you take the initiative to call me, I will take the time to tell you about any waves I have surfed. 1-(503)-754-4764. You can email me but I can’t guarantee a response but if it is your only option to communicate with me then make it clear you can’t call me and I will be sure to respond.

The Two Best River Waves on Earth

What I will share now is in hopes that someone will take this to the next level. I am now 45 yrs old and I am laser focused on my hair career, river surfing is a thing of the past … at the moment. Since I do not see me getting to either of these two waves in the near future, the next best thing I can do is share what I have discovered. One wave is well known in the kayak world, the other is a secret to everyone until now. I found the second one by chance while watching a nature special on Netflix and within seconds I was on my computer researching this wave.

The two best river waves on earth that have yet to be surfed. I based my whole passion in the early years on the desire to ride Rapid #11 on the Zambezi and Skookumchuck Narrows: Learn more about these wave in my video here. So it is ironic now the two waves that I see as the next level are pretty much mirror images of #11 and Skook …. just bigger and meaner. They are the bad ass big brothers.

Mistassibi Barrel Wave

All I am going to do is tell you is the name and provide this video link. I will say this. The comparison between #11 and this wave is undeniable but its like comparing Pipe to Teahupoo. This wave is HEAVY! Mistassibi Barrel Wave on Mistassibi River in Northern Quebec.

Corryvreckan Wave(s)

I am only going to share the name and this video. You will have to research exactly where the waves form in this huge tidal exchange. This wave to me is the ultimate standing wave in the world. Just like Skook it’s a massive tidal exchange and the compassion is undeniable but it’s like comparing Waimea Bay to Jaws. The shear size of the waves here is INSANE! Did I say waves? Yes. Because of the set up here the waves are standing but they rise up and then are pushed out into the main flow where they collapse on themselves. I have never seen anything like it except the waves that build and crash at the start of the whirlpools at Skook and that worries me.

I will give a little more info so nobody tries something stupid:

1. The whirlpool which is the major attraction is not near where the waves break.
2. They call the wave(s) “The Grey Dogs”.
3. Do not attempt to surf near the whirlpool.

Be a Pioneer

And there it is. The future of surfing is near and it’s nowhere near the ocean. Go search. Go be the first to ride a river wave. Be a pioneer.

Elijah Mack

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As one of the founding fathers of the sport, Eli has long been a huge inspiration for many river surfers around the world. His travels brought him to the remotest corners of the Earth. Having surfed over 200 river waves, Eli is kind of the godfather of river surfing. He is also the founder of the WRSA (World River Surfing Association).

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