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 is taken to 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 the only way back to the mainland is by surfing. SpongeBob, who does not know how to surf, starts panicing.
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.
( ‣ ) Associated production music
( • ) Original music
( ◦ ) SpongeBob music
• ? - Stephen C. Marston [title card] •Solo Steel - Jeremy Wakefield [opening at Krusty Krab] ‣Monocle and Pocket-Watch - Brian Douglas Gulland [Krabs forgot to pay the power bill] ‣Fanfare (a) - David Farnon ["We're going to the beach today!"] ‣Beach Party - Billy Lincoln [Goo Lagoon aka the beach] •Gator - Steve Belfer [Patrick emerges from the water] •Monster Wave - Nicolas Carr, Fabian Fernandez, James King [Patrick tries to climb onto the surfboard] ‣Alone in the Old House - Gregor F. Narholz ["Where'd the beach go?"] ‣Menace - Harry Bluestone, Emil Cadkin ["Water spouts... of blood?!"] • ? - Nicolas Carr [jelly donuts] ‣Unease - Dick Stephen Walter ["I've landed right in the middle of Dutchman's Triangle!"] ‣Malleus Mallificarum (a) - Dave Hewson ["Right above Davy Jones' Locker... in the Devil's Galley!"] •Lap Steel - Nicolas Carr [SpongeBob, Patrick, Squidward wash up on an island] ‣Hawaiian Happiness - Jon Jelmer [SpongeBob dragging seaweed around] ‣ ? ["Om..."] ‣Hula Guitars - Eric Spencer ["We've been here since we dropped out of junior college."] •Steel Sting - Jeremy Wakefield ["Great."] ‣Dramatic Cue (e) - Ronald Hanmer ["I don't know how to surf!"] •Surfing Sponge - Nicolas Carr, Barry Anthony [surf lessons] ‣Guitar Island - Eric Spencer [legend of Jack Kahuna Laguna] •Closing the Door - Nicolas Carr [dramatic sting] ‣Dramatic Cue (e) - Ronald Hanmer [Sandy wakes up on another island] ‣ ? ["I'm stranded!"] ◦Bee Line for the Tree Line - Nicolas Carr, Sage Guyton, Jeremy Wakefield ‣Steel Licks (a) - Jeremy Wakefield [SpongeBob stops to tie his shoe] ‣Sea Fanfare - John Fox [SpongeBob finds Kahmamoku Cove] ‣ ? [banjo music] ‣War Statement 3 - Laurie Johnson [Patrick sees a straw hut] • ? - Stephen C. Marston [extremely long surfboard] ‣ ? [JKL surfing] • ? - Nicolas Carr ["Just keep breathing."] ‣Unease - Dick Stephen Walter [Krabs going crazy] ‣Sailor's Sting 3 - Michael Bolger [Krabs talking to his cash register] ‣Drama Link (d) and (g) - Hubert Clifford ["Aaah! It's the Flying Dutchman!"/"Aaah! It's some guy I've never seen before!"] ‣The Dreadnought Tea Clipper (b) - Tim Laycock, Robert Alexander White ["Who be disturbing the Flying Dutchman's walk home from the convenience store?"] ‣Malleus Mallificarum (a) - Dave Hewson [lightning] • ? - Nicolas Carr [JKL appears] • ? - Stephen C. Marston ["We just have to stare into this fire all night."] •Lap Steel - Nicolas Carr [meanwhile...] ‣Hawaiian Happiness - Jon Jelmer [Sandy making a fire] ‣Lion Heart - Larry Hochman [helicopter] ‣The Dreadnought Tea Clipper (b) - Tim Laycock, Robert Alexander White ["I didn't mean to spill your groceries!"] ‣Steel Licks (d) - Jeremy Wakefield [Squidward wakes up] ‣ ? ["You obviously didn't stare into the fire all night."] ‣Apprehensive 2 - Harry Bluestone, Emil Cadkin [thunderstorm] ‣Death Clock C and A - Dick de Benedictis [planets align/JKL describing the big one] ‣ ? ["You'll have to catch it... or you'll be stuck here..."] ‣ ? ["...forever."] •Closing the Door - Nicolas Carr ["The big one... is almost upon us."] ‣ ? [Dutchman trying to take Krabs' cash register] ‣Malleus Mallificarum (a) - Dave Hewson ["LIAR!"] ‣Tomb Raider - Norman Dane ["This weather sure is dangerous."] ‣Finger of Fear - Fredric Bayco [cash register hits Sandy's helicopter] •Steel Sting - Jeremy Wakefield [Dutchman knocked out] ‣Wild Eyes - Ronald Hanmer ["Mayday...!"] •Harp Ding - Nicolas Carr ["Cashy!"] ‣Cartoon Sting 7 - Gerhard Narholz [pan over in the deep] •Lap Steel - Nicolas Carr [Dutchman wakes up] ‣Drama Link (b) - Hubert Clifford [Davy Jones' Locker] •Steel Sting - Jeremy Wakefield [Dutchman groans] ‣Daydream Believer - The Monkees [Davy Jones throws socks at Dutchman] ‣Alone in the Old House - Gregor F. Narholz ["Get ready, dudes, it's coming."] ‣The Creature B - Gregor F. Narholz ["The big one always demands a sacrifice."] ‣Dramatic Sea Battle - Gerhard Trede [paddling toward the wave] ‣ ? ["I never even got a chance to tell him that I..."] ‣Wild Panic - Gregor F. Narholz [JKL rescues Krabs] ‣ ? ["I guess the big one prefers a high protein meal."] • ? - Stephen C. Marston [SpongeBob playing bongos] ‣Drama Link (f) - Hubert Clifford [Sandy's helicopter crashes at Goo Lagoon] ‣Dramatic Impact 6 - Ivor Slaney ["Don't make any funny moves, spaceman!"] ‣Steel Licks (d) - Jeremy Wakefield [everyone walks away] ‣Beach Party - Billy Lincoln ["Welcome home!"] •Sponge Twist - Nicolas Carr, Fabian Fernandez, James King [dance music] • ? - Stephen C. Marston [JKL returns] •Sponge Twist - Nicolas Carr, Fabian Fernandez, James King [ending] ‣Daydream Believer - The Monkees [closing credits] •Self Surf - Nicolas Carr, Sage Guyton, Jeremy Wakefield*
*listed in credits; no information about where it plays in the episode
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.
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) 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.