A two wave hold down is a badge of honour in surfing according to 11-time world champion Kelly Slater. It’s when you get hold down for two waves without catching a breath of air in between two waves. In this interview by Graham Bensinger Kelly talks openly about his near drowning experience last season in France by a two wave hold down.

Two Wave Hold Down

Perhaps some of us have experienced a two wave hold down already, and most of you will have one sooner or later if you continue to surf. A situation like this can occur under very different circumstances. Sometimes the waves aren’t necessarily big or powerful but just close together. In this case a second wave can roll over you as you wiped out on the first one. Although a scary situation, the most important thing you need to do is remain calm. It may sound difficult but it saves a lot of energy and thus oxygen. Even more serious does it get when the waves are huge, with large intervals. These are powerful waves which can push you deep, drag you over a large distance under water, or push you on the bottom of the ocean for a period of time. There are quite a few accounts even where surfers get pinched between the sand and their surfboards.


It may not always be a life threatening experience but it can still be quite traumatic. That’s why there are a couple of techniques you can use to make it less stressful:

  1. Take in as much air as you can before you go under
  2. Relax under water, either stretch out or curl up like a ball
  3. Climb your leash when the violence is over
  4. Remember the 12-second rule
  5. Find your happy (mental) place

12-Second Rule

This is a rule of thumb where a wave will never hold you down for longer than 12 seconds. These exclude big waves like Jaws and Mavericks of course but these wave should only be surfed after serious underwater training. Even with a high heart rate holding your breath for 12 seconds shouldn’t be a problem. Of course two times 12 seconds is already a whole lot longer, but you would be very unlucky if you experience two 12-second hold downs in a row. Besides, even that is manageable for most people. In the end of the following video you witness a serious hold down by big wave charger Shane Dorian.

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