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The Inertia

For decades, the sport of surfing has been entrenched in a battle over wave height. How should it be measured? Or rather, how does one decipher the Hawaiian scale in the first place? Doesn’t it make sense to just measure or estimate the height of a wave along its face from the lowest point to the peak?

No. That makes no sense at all.

Don’t agree? Too bad, because the Guinness Book of World Records — the global arbiter of all things weight, size, and height and the only sanctioning body that matters — has adopted the Hawaiian scale.

The change reportedly comes as the result of an organizational split over uniformly adopting the metric or imperial system (meters vs. feet). An unnamed American Guinness World Records official had, for years, been lobbying for the organization to start solely measuring in feet and inches. While seemingly innocent, the proposal soon snowballed into a bit of a civil war within the Guinness Book of World Records’ ranks. Americans, naturally, pushed for feet and inches. Meanwhile, officials from literally every other nation insisted if there should be one universal measurement, it should be metric.

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That battle raged on unbeknownst to the rest of the world for more than a decade. The infighting reached a fevered pitch in November of 2019 until finally a compromise was suggested: the Hawaiian scale.

Photo: Wikipedia

“What could shake things up more than basically cutting every world record ever in half?” Guinness insider James Eldright told me. “We all have to go back and re-record the world’s biggest this, world’s largest that, all from the back rather than the front now. In the end, that part ended up being a pretty American solution after all, you know, because it creates new jobs.”

Appropriately, the organization’s first official change to the books went to Rodrigo Koxa’s Nazare record.

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“Once tasked with actually applying this change, we realized nobody actually fully understands how the Hawaiian scale works. So we just went with two feet on Koxa’s wave,” Eldright admits. “Two feet sounded pretty Hawaiian.”

Editor’s Note: Johnny Utah is an “Eff-Bee-Eye” agent and an expert in works of satire. More of his investigative work can be found here.

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