When it comes to tearing the face off a gnarly wave, size most definitely matters. It’s not enough for a professional-grade surfer to catch a wave, he’s got to go aggro, dude. Competitive surfers want big waves. The bigger the better. Bigger waves mean better air. You know, like when the board shoots off the water’s surface at the wave’s A-frame or, that peak in the wave where it breaks both left and right. Who doesn’t dream about making a full 360-degree turn inside a wave that’s 100 ft high? That’s right, the biggest wave ever surfed. The baddest wave ever attempted. The one single wave that would not only leave you totally amped, but would earn you MudTribe half-of-fame-status, bro.
While that 100 foot wave has yet to be achieved and verified, some dudes are coming pretty close (lots more are wiping out). It’s also important to note that all these surfers are tow surfers. That is, they get towed to the big waves by a jet ski, since it would be impossible for them to get where they need to be under their own power. That fact alone should give you an idea of just how dangerous surfing these mammoth waves really is. So don’t try this at home kids, unless you know what the hell you’re doing.
So then, for the record, and according to both Seeker.com and the Guinness Book of World’s Records, these are five of the world’s biggest waves ever surfed and the surfers who rode them. No ankle busters here, man.
1. The first place winner is Rodrigo Koxa. On November 8, 2017, the 38 year old Brazilian surfer managed to catch an 80ft high wave in Praia do Norte just off the coast of Nazaré, Portugal. For his bad ass efforts, the World Surf League awarded him the Quicksilver XXL Biggest Wave Award, which is sort of like winning the Silver Star in US military terms. The ride was not only recorded for posterity (and proof on digital video), it was said to break the Guinness World Record for biggest wave ever to be conquered. Said Koxa during the award ceremony, “This is the best day of my life.”
2. November 9, 2011. Adventure Journal reports that extreme surfer Garret McNamara rode a wave as high as 90 feet which would actually beat Koxa’s wave by ten feet. Problem is, the Billabong XXL Committee has never actually decided on the true height of the wave. Bummer. In the end, it might be safe to say McNamara and Koxa might be tied for having rode the world’s biggest wave.
3. Back in the early 2000s, Mike Parsons nailed a 70+ footer off California’s Cortes Bank. He broke the Guinness World Record and netted a tidy sum of $15,000, plus a Honda Jet Ski from Billabong’s Biggest Wave Award. Who says risking your neck doesn’t pay?
4. The next in line is Pete Cabrinha who is said to have surfed a 70 footer at Maui’s infamous Jaws. Says Pete, post ride, “From the first day of tow surfing at Jaws, one thing became crystal clear to everyone. By towing ourselves into these waves with a jet ski, we could catch, and hopefully ride, any sized wave that the ocean would send our way.” Radical.
5. Surfing clean-up in our non-scientific survey is Brazilian Carlos Burle who in 2001, surfed a 68ft wave at Maverick’s located off the California coast.
Okay, some of you are gonna bust a board at this list because you’ll no doubt know of a surfer, maybe even yourself, who has surfed a giant wave yesterday or last year or whenever. And that may be the case. This list ain’t gospel, it’s just representative of some of the verified information out there. Verified being the key word here. I wouldn’t doubt if the 100ft wave has already been surfed. But if it has, the proof just hasn’t surfaced. So always remember to carry your smartphone with you when you tackle the giant waves. The Guinness Book of Worlds Records is waiting for you to crush the record for biggest wave ever surfed.