Before we start, please keep in mind that surfing on waves of this size is not something that beginners or even most experienced surfers will be able to do. This should only be done by people with years of experience surfing large waves.
If you have ever seen any surfing movies you would have seen people on waves bigger than anything possible. But what if we told you they were based on truth? Maybe not the 200-foot wave from Point Break but surfers are chasing the biggest waves they can get.
This is a stark difference from a few decades ago. Back then surfers were considered pushing the limits of the sport when they first surfed 20 foot (6 meters) waves. Today, surfers are chasing a 100-foot tube (30+ meters). Some have been practicing their whole lives to prepare for this once in a lifetime wave.
How big is a 100-foot wave? Well, the typical family home is between 25-30 feet (7.5 – 9 meters) tall.
Over the years there have been some waves that stand out. These are waves that have been ridden by professional surfers. The size of the waves that have been ridden has increased drastically in the past few years since a 20-foot wave was considered extreme in the ‘90s.
January 2008 – After his 2001 Big Wave Award for surfing a 66 foot (20 meters) wave Mike Parsons went on a search for the largest wave ever surfed. On January 5, 2008, he found it. Dropping into a 77 foot (23 meters) wave he broke the Guinness World Record in that category.
November 2011 – American surfer Garrett McNamara holds the Guinness World Record for the biggest wave ever surfed. McNamara took to the waters in Nazaré, Portugal where he conquered a monstrous 78 foot (23.8 meters) wave. This part of Portugal is known for having some of the largest waves on the planet including rideable 100-foot waves.
December 2012 – Shawn Dollar won the 2012/13 Billabong XXL Big Wave Award for taking on an impressive 61 foot (18.6 meters) wave. Dollar conquered this wave in a traditional paddle in method making this the biggest wave ever surfed with this type of entry. This wave was surfed at Cortes Bank just off the coast of California. This area is known for heavy waves that come in fast. For this reason, most surfers prefer to be towed in. This is a great accomplishment for Dollar.
October 2013 – If you are a big wave surfer it seems you need to head to Portugal. They routinely have some of the biggest waves in the world. One particularly bad storm created one of the best surfing waves in history. Instead of finding shelter Carlos Burle went for it and dropped into the elusive 100 foot (30 meters) wave.
This surfer needs some added props. Earlier in the day, Carlos had to save another surfer trying to break the record for the largest wave surfed by a female (80 feet / 24 meters).
All of this came after Carlos’ first run-in with big waves. In 2001 he won the Billabong XXL Big Wave Award for conquering a nearly 70 foot (21 meters) wave.
January 2014 – A surfer from the UK was towed into an estimated 80 foot (24 meters) wave. Andrew Cotton rode the wave for 10 seconds before it got the best of him. He was lucky to walk away without any serious injuries. This wave sparked his drive to find and ride the biggest wave possible.
December 2014 – Benjamin Sanchis, a big wave surfer from France, rode one impressive 108 foot (33 meters) wave. While this wave does surpass the world record, unfortunately, he does not receive credit for this wave. The surfer must ride the ‘meaningful portion of the wave’ according to the Billabong XXL Biggest Wave Award rules. Sanchis fell on the wave before this stage leaving him to not be granted the world record. In the eyes of many, this is still the biggest wave ever attempted.
How To Enter The Surf
These waves are so large that they are hard to even get to. Usually, surfers would paddle and let the surfing form and then stand up and begin their ride. But these massive waves develop differently than regular ones. Surfers usually have to be towed by a jet ski so they can build enough momentum to even get to the wave.
For this reason, some of the biggest wave sessions are only possible with a tow in the system. This takes even more skill and adds more risk than some people are willing to take. We weren’t kidding when we said this isn’t for beginners.
Where To Find The Best Waves
Without a doubt, some of the world’s largest and rideable waves can be found off the coast of Nazaré, Portugal. South Africa is also known for its large waves. If you are looking for waves in America, the coast of California is a great place to start. If traveling to Hawaii there is an area off the coast of Maui named Jaws that is home to some impressive waves.
Globo Surf Overview
Big wave surfing is an increasingly popular sport. The search for the largest waves ever surfed is continuing to grow in popularity and risk. These surfers have years of experience that help them through some of the most adverse and advanced maneuvers imaginable. As long as there are big waves, people will flock to surf them.
When it comes to rating these waves it can be difficult. Since there is rarely a point of reference it can be hard to project how tall a wave truly is. For this reason, the records can be hard to create and update. With that being said, most of the people on this list love the sport and do it for this reason.