Tombstoning is a common phrase in surfing. It’s not a trick, nor is it positive, but it’s definitely worth knowing about.
So, what is tombstoning, why does it occur, and what can you do to avoid it?
What is Tombstoning in Surfing?
Tombstoning occurs when the surfer has been knocked off their board and dragged down deep. So deep, in fact, that their leash is fully outstretched.
When this happens, the surfboard inevitably tips upright and sits in the water, looking like a large headstone.
Tombstoning is a relatively common sight at deep water spots. It is a sign that someone is in trouble and usually sends lifeguards and/or other surfers scrambling to see if they need assistance.
Where Did the Term Tombstoning Come From?
Once you see tombstoning in action, it’s fairly easy to understand why the term was coined. However, no one really knows when or where the term was first used.
What we can say with relative certainty is that it was coined after surf leashes became popular, which puts its origins sometime in the 1970s or 1980s.
It’s said that this term comes from lifeguards patrolling the shorelines of popular big wave surf spots in the 1980s.
Legend has it that they would walk along the shoreline looking for “tombstones”, which would indicate that a surfer was in trouble and needed their help.
The term is often connected to the death of Mark Foo, a legendary surfer who lost his life at Maverick’s back in 1994 after his leash became tangled on a reef.
The longboarder went under following a big wave and never reappeared. His death remains one of the highest profile tragedies in the surfing community.
Foo isn’t the only one to have met with a tragic death at Mavericks. The big wave spot is unforgiving and so it’s not uncommon to see tombstoning there.
Hawaiian surf spots such as Waimea and Peahi are also known to produce epic waves capable of tombstoning even the most experienced surfers.
At the time of Foo’s death, a debate about the use of leashes was reignited. It’s a debate you still hear on occasion, but it has all but faded away these days and most surfers agree that leashes are safer.
In fact, since this much-publicized tragedy, quick-release leashes have become more common, negating the risk of leashes becoming trapped on rocks and reefs.
Where Is the Tombstone Surf Spot?
Tombstone is a surf spot in Australia. It’s not exactly popular, nor is it very easy or enjoyable, but many experienced surfers have ventured out there.
Located in the far north-west of Australia, Tombstone is hard to reach and even harder to surf. It’s said to be home to some of the heaviest waves in the world, and that makes it an off-limits destination for all but the most advanced and adventurous surfers.
FAQs About Tombstoning and More
The following questions are some of the most common questions associated with tombstoning and similar phenomena.
What is Tombstoning in Diving?
In diving, “tombstoning” refers to a vertical dive. The diver places their arms by their sides, keeps their legs and back straight, and jumps off a cliff or diving board.
The name comes from the posture that the body assumes.
Why Do You Paddle When Surfing?
Surfers paddle to gain momentum and reach the waves, at which point they pop up and let the waves carry them.
Paddling gives surfers more control and lets them choose the best lines and waves. You can’t simply hop on a board at the shoreline and then expect it to carry you where you want to go. You need that momentum, and that’s what padding provides.
What Is Potato Chip In Surfing?
A “potato chip” refers to a very thin shortboard. If the waves are small, that chip is best left at home.
What Is A 360 In Surfing?
A 360 is a complete rotation performed on the face of a wave. It’s a difficult trick, but it looks great. You’ll also see 360 turns in most other board sports, including skateboarding, where riders often make several full rotations.
What is a Shredder in Surfing?
You shred when you cut through clean water and kick up a lot of spray. You have a lot of control on the waves and are shredding the turns like a pro.
What is a Grom in Surfing?
A grom is a young surfer, often under the age of 18. The term has been used since the 1960s and is an abbreviation of “Grommet”.
“Grom” is also used to refer to inexperienced surfers.