The Blame Game: If A Tragedy Occurs In Big-Wave Surfing, Who’s At Fault?


Publication: Adventure Sports Network

By Kyle Thiermann

As big-wave phenom Albee Layer kicked out of a wave at Jaws on the last swell of the year, he looked out the back and saw 15 or so waverunners floating in the channel - the majority of which had photographers perched on the back of them.

"This year at Jaws there were 60 surfers in the water and like two skis running safety," Layer told ASN. "The other skis were driving photographers ... This is unacceptable, it's unsafe, and it's downright stupid."

Although the risk in big-wave surfing has been partially mitigated in recent years with the invention of the inflatable vest, waverunners are still a crucial safety tool in lineups around the world. If a surfer has a bad wipeout, a waverunner can rush in and scoop them up.

However, on any given swell only a handful of surfers hire drivers dedicated to looking out for them. Typically, surfers rely on the good faith of whoever is running safety to rescue them. Waverunner drivers, however, can make upwards of $600 per day by allowing photographers to sit on the back of their skis and take photos from the channel. (READ MORE).