Big waves are scary. Very few surfers are fearless, they all just have different coping mechanisms in place. Some big wave surfers have rituals that help them in preparation for a big wave session, while others have slight equipment changes that help them quell the butterflies. So there are a few hacks that can help you get your head around a really big day, but you need to remember to not allow yourself to get too far out of your depth.
When your inner voice starts telling you that your session might be a very bad idea, it's best to listen.
1. Over-gunned Instead Of Under-gunned.
When the waves are solid, the only way you're going to get waves and possibly have any fun is if you have the right equipment. The bigger the waves, the bigger the board.
Some people argue that you don't really want a board that is too big, because when you have caught the wave you won't be able to turn it. Don't listen to them. When it gets big you would rather want too much board than too little board. That way you'll catch waves, and have the paddle power to escape a few big sets. What it's like to get caught by a 25-foot set right here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s695pzIiRDg
2. Sitting Wide Is Not Chicken.
If you're unsure of yourself, one method is to paddle into the channel, and sit on your board and watch. You just need to make sure that it is a proper channel and that no rogue sets are going to come through and clean you up, and that there are no sharks in the area.
By sitting in the channel you can properly ascertain just how big the sets are, and also how steep they are. Both will help in your decision to surf or not.
3. Foam Is Your Friend.
Much like (1) above, foam is your friend along with length. The thicker your board, the faster it paddles. The faster your board paddles, the more chance you have of catching a big one (or escaping a big one).
Some people think that thick boards are unfashionable. Don't listen to them. Get a thick one for those big days..
4. Hesitate And It's Too Late.
If you're going to give it a go on a big day, the worst thing you can do is hesitate. If you start paddling, and then hesitate, you have a good chance of getting sucked over, with your board, definitely the worst place to be in a big wave session. If you decide to go for a big one, paddle as hard as you can and keep on going. If you wipe out at least you'll have a bit of forward momentum, and the chances are you won't get sucked over. Here Nathan Florence does not hesitate https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9IPrzmryEfY
5. When In Doubt, Don't Paddle Out.
This is common sense. Don't be led by ego or by peer pressure. If it's too big for you then no shame to say no. Bravado won't get you anywhere if you're out of your depth. If that little voice is telling you to hang in the car park or on the boat, to rather have a coffee or grab a beer, then listen to it, and live to fight another day. See the biggest waves ever surfed right here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dtVQJCq2cCM
6. Relax. Assess. React.
If you get into a bad situation, like getting caught inside by a genuine bomb, the worst thing you can do is panic. If you do that, you burn off energy and burn up oxygen. The best approach is to relax, assess and then react.
Relax. You're going to get caught inside. Big breaths, start getting the oxygen flowing into the lungs.
Assess. Is it massive? Are you going to swim under, stand up on your board and dive off? Are you going to hold your noe and swim for the bottom?
React. Do what you need to do to survive. Find your happy place, and roll with it. You'll be fine.