It is a very hot day in Bikini Bottom, and the Krusty Krab is seeing no business. To get some customers, Mr. Krabs moves his business to the middle of the sea at Goo Lagoon, where he, Squidward, and SpongeBob meet up with Patrick and Sandy. Patrick then tries to get on the board on which the grill is, but ends up tipping it vertically into a wave, sending them off to separate places: SpongeBob, Patrick, and Squidward end up on an island with young surfers, Mr. Krabs is stranded in the middle of the Dutchman's Triangle (which he identifies by red waterspouts, raining doughnuts, and still waters), and Sandy ends up on a small island in the middle of nowhere. SpongeBob, Patrick, and Squidward come across the locals, who claim to be junior college dropouts, and take them to a hut made of bat droppings (guano), where they learn that the only way back to the mainland is by surfing. SpongeBob, who does not know how to surf, starts panicking.
Meanwhile, the Flying Dutchman accidentally rams into Mr. Krabs on his way home from the grocery store and spills his groceries. As a result, the Dutchman then tries to get money to get more groceries from Mr. Krabs by stealing his cash register (which he now calls Cashy), and a fight brews.
While that's happening, SpongeBob, Patrick, and Squidward receive lessons from the locals, but struggle to focus, until they are told to head downriver to see Jack Kahuna Laguna (aka JKL), who was supposedly last seen upriver. After a while of enjoying the sights, SpongeBob stops to retie his shoes, but stumbles upon the cove where JKL was last seen. Patrick and Squidward follow him further and discover JKL, who they watch surf for 2 and a half hours. He later starts a fire and tells them to look into it, claiming that doing so will show them the secrets to surfing, but Squidward refuses, saying it is ridiculous.
Meanwhile, Sandy thrives by building a 5-star hotel, a helicopter, a steam-powered generator, a cappuccino shop, a coconut-milk-powered car, and a control tower, but decides to head back home. Meanwhile, at the Dutchman's Triangle, the Flying Dutchman gets hold of the cash register, but accidentally releases the tray, which hits him and sends him to Davy Jones' Locker, where "Davy Jones" is revealed to be the real-life actor of the same name.
Back with JKL, JKL continues to teach SpongeBob and his friends how to surf, but during the middle of the final lesson, JKL leaves to head towards a temple, and SpongeBob and friends follow. It begins raining as soon as SpongeBob and friends hit the top, and JKL tells them that every 1,000 years or so, the planets align in such a way that the perfect wave forms, known as "The Big One," and that this time has come, and SpongeBob and friends must ride it back home, or else be trapped on the island forever. SpongeBob and his friends are also told by JKL that the Big One requires a sacrifice to stay "alive" for the whole trip, and that one of them will not return. SpongeBob and friends head off to the Big One, but immediately, it eats up Patrick and Squidward's boards. SpongeBob allows them onto his board, then Mr. Krabs shows up and gets swallowed by the Big One, but JKL shows up and rescues him. Mr. Krabs then accidentally drops Cashy into the wave. JKL jumps into the wave to recover it, and as a result, gets absorbed by the Big One, sacrificing himself allowing SpongeBob and the others to get home safely. SpongeBob then surfs them back home while playing a tribute song to JKL's sacrifice.
Meanwhile, Sandy crashes into Goo Lagoon in her helicopter, where the beach visitors mistake her for an alien. SpongeBob, Patrick, Squidward, and Mr. Krabs wash up a few seconds later, soon followed by JKL who somehow survived the Big One and they welcome them back home with a luau. JKL gives Mr. Krabs Cashy, and the episode ends.
The German title is "Die Welle Zuruck" which means "The Wave Back."
JKL has a striking resemblance to his voice actor, Johnny Depp.
This episode is also known as "SpongeBob vs. the Big One" or "SpongeBob and the Big Wave," which is used in Russia.
Sandy at one point says Michelangelo's catchphrase "Cowabunga!"
When SpongeBob's shoes are melted off, Mr. Krabs said "Let's go to the beach." When SpongeBob ripped his clothes to swimming clothes, he had flippers on, but he was barefoot before he ripped them off.
This episode and "Pet or Pests" are the first episodes to use the new sad music.
JKL's advice to surfing is mainly to "just keep breathing."
Sandy builds a 5-star hotel, a steam powered generator, a car and a helicopter using the natural resources on the island she was stranded on.
There is another fish (Dennis Rechid) in the control tower on Sandy's island. There was another fish with the same appearance at Goo Lagoon when Sandy landed with her helicopter. It's possible that the fish from the control tower was stuck there not long before, and somehow found his own way back.
Both sides of JKL's surfboard are never seen at the same time.
When Sandy's helicopter hits the Flying Dutchman, his hat falls, and then his hat suddenly reappears.
The Japanese title for this episode is "スポンジ・ボブとビーーッグウェ～ブ" which means "SpongeBob and (the) Big Wave."
The music for the end credits of this episode is the Monkees' "Daydream Believer."
Sandy managed to survive and thrive on a nearby island. This is similar to how she can also survive in "To Save a Squirrel," where she also used her bare hands to survive.
List of things Sandy created while "thriving":
5 star hotel
Automobile which runs on coconut milk
Wooden helicopter (with control tower)
This episode was on SpongeBob.com before it aired on its original date.
In this episode, Squidward says to Sandy "Who are you again?," but in episodes like "Fools in April" where he says he is forced to interact with her. So, that clearly shows that he knows Sandy.
SpongeBob says he didn't know how to surf in this episode, but he was seen surfing in "Ripped Pants" and "Pranks a Lot." This episode possibly takes place before these two episodes.
This episode has the longest opening credits right after the title card due to all the special guest stars.
In Indonesia, Twitch says "That's right. Kemosabay Island. Although, we sometimes refer to it as an... island." That means he knows the name of the island, or maybe, Indonesia didn't have translation for words kemosabay.
This is the only episode in the series to include SpongeBob's full name in the title.
The Dutchman's Triangle is a reference to the Bermuda Triangle.
Kahanamoku Cove is a reference to famous surfer Duke Kahanamoku, considered to be the father of modern surfing.
The song that plays under the surfing narration sounds similar to "Papa Oom Mow Mow" by the Rivingtons.
It is not possible that Squidward, SpongeBob, Mr. Krabs, the grill, and the cash register could possibly balance on the surfboard.
In the picture SpongeBob shows Patrick, Squidward's shirt is white instead of brown.
In some parts of the episode, Squidward's work hat disappears.
After Sandy's helicopter hit the Flying Dutchman, it vears toward a different island. However, she crash lands on Goo Lagoon.
It is unknown how Twitch and his friends got to Bikini Bottom, thouugh it is possible that they also surfed.
Typically, SpongeBob, Patrick, and Squidward could have been found by Sandy, another helicopter, or a ship passing by. Therefore, surfing was not the only way home.
JKL said that one of them would die, yet all of them (including himself) survived.