"Freak" waves...

do they really exist or are they just a myth?

We have all heard the stories... one massive wave just comes out of nowhere knocking you off your feet. Some might call this a freak wave, others might know it as a rogue wave or killer wave. The question is, are these giant waves really coming out of nowhere or are we just not as aware of the conditions and the environment around us as we think we might be? Let's find out.
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One of the most common things we hear from rock fishers who get washed out to sea or thrown back on the rocks is that a massive freak wave came out of nowhere

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Research conducted by The University Of Melbourne with the help of Surf Life Saving Australia has found that although ‘freak or rogue waves’ are often blamed for numerous rock fishing deaths by the public and the media – these are actually very rare events and don't really exist.

freak wave lighthouse

So what does this research tell us?

  • More experienced fishers tend to look further offshore when they’re looking for hazardous waves.
  • The further offshore fishers looked, coupled with the experience to know what they were looking for, the safer they were.
  • Inexperienced fishers are often unaware that there is a wave period and are more likely to claim that a "freak wave" came out of nowhere.

What is a wave period & why is it so important?

A wave period is the time it takes between two waves to hit a specific point. You could count this, by counting the number of seconds between waves hitting the rock platform edge. This should be done for at least ten minutes as waves often come in groups with longer periods between each group. Without oberving the wave period it would be easy to assume that a calm ocean means that your safe.


What does all of this mean for rock fishers?

It is important to spend time observing the waves and the conditions before you start fishing and ensure that you continue to observe as you fish - make sure that you don't just look right in front of you - looking further out and placing yourself in a safe position away from the rock edge will help you to avoid situations where large waves "sneak up on you". Remember conditions can change quickly so continually monitoring the ocean and swell is an important part of safety.

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Speaking with other experienced rock fishers about the definition of freak waves, many say that “they aren’t freak waves if you know they are coming"

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What else would you like to explore?

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