Riding Giants: The 10 Biggest Waves in the World

Did you ever witness a wave so humongous that your eyes couldn't believe it? It's like a killer monster coming to eat you alive. Let's check out some of the biggest waves in the world that'll leave your eyes shocked.

For surfers, it’s a thrilling experience being chased by these big beasts trying to break their bones. Even after suffering from serious injuries and their surfboards being broken like a matchstick, these champs get back on their boards, as passionate and devoted as ever. 

From massive XXL waves to 100 ft large towers of water, these big wave surfers are not scared of anything. All across the world, you can find big waves smashing and slamming the sea like Thor’s hammer, but not all spots create that wow experience for surfers.

Keep reading to know where you can find the biggest waves in the world and if they are really worth surfing.

1. Praia do Norte, Nazaré

Biggest Waves in the World
Source: surfer.com

The small fishing town of Nazare has now become an iconic surf spot, generating record-breaking waves that have intimated even the expert surfers. The south side of the beach remains calm no matter how high the swell energy. However, Praia do Norte has a totally different story to tell.

When you look at world records, you'll come to know that Nazare tops the list of highest waves ever surfed. Each year, big surfing champs like Sebastian Steudtner, Maya Gabeira, Garrett McNamara, and other aspiring big-wave surfers attempt to ride the biggest wave this place has to offer. Up till now, Garrett McNamara holds the title of biggest wave (86 ft) ridden.

The reason behind such massive waves is Nazare Canyon. It's a 5000 ft deep underwater canyon that amplifies the effect of waves approaching the beach. When swells pushed by the Atlantic Ocean converge with waves passing through Nazare Canyon, you can see some of the biggest and scariest waves out there or, as surfers like to call it, the “Nazare beast.”

The surf world has witnessed some of the biggest wipeouts at Nazare that nearly killed these champs, but still, these big wave surfers are attempting to break world records. Imagine falling from a 10-floor building or getting hit by powerful swells that feel like bricks…that can get really painful!

In winter, Every year, this spot becomes the center of attraction and invites surfers and tourists from all over the world to witness the magnificent show of Mother Nature.

2. Jaws, Peahi, Hawaii

Source: espn.com

Another massive beast cruising the Pacific Ocean is at Peahi, a.k.a Jaws. Only experienced surfers can dare ride these epic waves. It’s located on the northern coast of Maui. The best way to reach these monstrous waves is through a jetski because paddling in those big and fast waves can be exceptionally challenging.

In winter months, the swell can go up to 70 ft and above. It’s a reef break that works on all tides. The best condition for surfing is when you see a combo of Northern swells and SE winds. It produces awesome hollow barrelling right-handers, but be cautious as it may also throw some deadly left-handers every now and then.

John Potterick, John Roberson, and John Lemus were the first to ride these super-fast waves and named it “Jaws” in 1975, inspired by a Hollywood movie, “Jaws.” Following the media frenzy, the spot got swarmed with enthusiasts by 2004, creating a bit of a crowd. The best spots for catching the action are the cliffs, where lookouts and professional photographers hang out.

If a surfer gets caught inside this beast, they might get pulled towards the rocky cliffs. The rescue missions can get a bit expensive here. You can see helicopters hovering over the sea. If a surfer sustains a serious injury, they’ll be taken via a helicopter ride to get to the medical assistance they require. Jaws is considered one of the most notorious surfing spots in Hawaii.

3. Teahupoo, Tahiti, French Polynesia

Source: parismatch.com

Teahupoo is a world-renowned surfing spot that has attracted surfers worldwide. Located on the French Polynesian island of Tahiti, Teahupoo is a small fishing village that rose to fame as one of the most dangerous surf spots during the 60s.

You can also see a lot of wipeouts and broken surfboards here. The spot is famous for generating perfect barrels. The waves are too powerful for beginners and intermediates. Even the best surfers sometimes don’t stand a chance against this fast and scary wave.

You can find some challenging left-handers breaking on dry, dangerous reefs. The place receives consistent swells throughout the year. However, in the winter season, surfers get to ride heavy, epic waves. 

Aside from surfing, Tahiti is a stunning place to visit with blue waters, sandy beaches, picturesque views, and, above all, welcoming locals. Surfers tend to stay with families living in that area and return to them every year for the Tahiti Pro Event. Their hospitality is truly exceptional.

4. Shipstern Bluff, Australia 

Source: stugibson.net

Shipstern Bluff is located on the southern tip of Tasmania, Australia, and is known as one of the scariest places to surf. Surfers use a jetski or a boat to reach the spot. These 30 feet waves are a result of their unique geometry.

The bumpy sea bed creates these cool “steps” on the waves, making it like riding waves within waves. The huge waves make surfers feel like they are riding a four-story building, and they must maintain their balance and speed as they freefall and land in the water. If surfers get hit by those sharp reefs, they’ll definitely find themselves in hospital.

Shipstern Bluff is considered a dangerous spot to surf not only because of abrupt high waves or the sharp reef bottom but also because of the threat posed by White Sharks in the freezing water.

But no matter what the danger is, there’s no stopping these pro surfers from riding the amazing barrels. Some of the big names who dared to ride these massive waves include Andrew Campbell, Andy Irons, James Polanowski, Laurie Towner, and Mick Fanning.

5. Mavericks, Half Moon Bay, California

Source: adventurekeys.com

No one ever imagined that such monstrous waves could exist in California. It’s because of Jeff Clark, a surfing legend, that this place gained hype. He was one of the first surfers to tackle these massive waves for 40 years and survived to tell the tale.

The name Mavericks has a story of its own. Three buddies, Alex Matienzo, Jim Thompson, and Dick Notmeyer, decided to surf these waves. Matienzo’s furry friend “Maverick” was right beside them. Despite leaving Maverick on shore, the courageous dog swam to his owner and joined them. After the tough surfing session along with their companion, they named the spot Mavericks in honor of the dog who experienced the thrilling adventure.   

It’s not a complete “safe zone,” as you can find sharks and foggy weather in cooler months. When it’s working, these massive swells can go from 25-60 feet, kinda like a giant beast chasing ya. 

As the waves interact with the reef, they rise, creating a towering A-frame peak with a thick lip. It works at any time, but it really goes big when the waves come from the Northwest or West with winds from the East. You’ll mostly find challenging right-handers, but the place is also known for its occasional left-handers that can paint a pretty scary picture.

6. Mullaghmore Head, Donegal Bay, Ireland

Source: si.com

Mullaghmore is a top surfing destination in Ireland, with blue water, white sand, and, of course, giant waves giving you the chills. The spot is a combo of Teahupoo, Mavericks, and Shipstern Bluff’s steps. 

The left-hander slams on a rocky bed in front of dangerous cliffs. It produces one of the biggest swells the Atlantic has to offer and can be surfed only by pro surfers.

The huge waves start from 10 ft and go above 50 ft. Surfers have to deal with the harsh conditions of winter, rocks, and strong currents. The spot gained popularity after the big-wave surf contest in 2011. This barrelling, unpredictable wave is a must-see in Ireland.

Ollie O'Flaherty, Alistair Mennie, Tom Butler, and Richie Fitzgerald are some of the names that have mastered this beast.

7. The Right, Australia

Source: snowbrains.com

Another big wave surfing spot in Australia is located 1.6 miles from the shores of Walpole. This notorious reef break is known as “The Right.” When it comes to life, you can see expert surfers taking on 25 ft deadly waves. It gets wild thanks to the Albany Canyon, located south of the coast.

The waves kick off on a shallow shelf and then dive into a deeper zone, giving surfers a short but crazy ride. If a surfer gets hit by this heavy wave, he might end up being rag-dolled for a long time.

Due to the uncertainty factor, riding the “The Right” is a big challenge. Don’t just expect to paddle out to the spot. Waves so massive and unpredictable can easily break your bones. Justin Allport and Ryan Hipwood found “The Right” in 2007 while exploring new surf spots.

Some of the champions who conquered this beast are Tom Caroll, Laura Enever, Ross Clarke Jones, and Mick Fanning.

8. Dungeons, South Africa

Source: surfer.com

Dungeons is a ruthless wave that has been on the surfing map for decades now. It lies half a mile off Hout Bay in Cape Town, South Africa. It’s one of the most challenging surfing spots in South Africa, and you have to use a jetski to get there.

This 25-footer has wiped out many pro surfers attempting to tame this beast. You have to think and act fast when you're there, as the epic wave ride may close unexpectedly. Known for its hazards, chilling waters, and unpredictable conditions, this challenging wave breaks fast and features double-up drops. 

The spot gained popularity when Red Bull organized the Big Wave Africa Speciality at Dungeons. This right-handed monster is considered one of South Africa's deadliest waves.

9. Killers, Todos Santos,Baja California,México

Source: surfaid.org

Killer has a reputation for living up to its name. It’s one of the biggest and most badass waves in Mexico. You have this awesome spot chilling 16 km away from Ensenada in Baja California Norte. Surfers usually call it the Jaws of Mexico.

The underwater canyon is responsible for creating such heavy and powerful waves, ideal for big-wave enthusiasts. When it gets hit by NW swells, the monster rises to 60 ft with a thick lip. This right-hand point break is also the highway for marine life, including the big gray whales.

The best time to surf here is in the morning, from November through March. Do remember to follow all the safety measures and avoid going solo. This deserted island is home to a lighthouse and fish farm only. The rocky bottom and strong currents provide challenging conditions for surfers.

To reach the spot, you have to hire a boat. Brad Gerlach, Shane Dorian, Coco Nogales, and Ross-Clarke Jones are some of the big names who dared to take on this monster. This famous surf spot has attracted many movie makers as well and has been featured in cool movies like Overdrive and Gone Surfing.

10. Punta de Lobos, Pichilemu, Chile

Source: xtremespots.com

Punta de Lobos is another big-wave surfing spot catching the eyes of surfers around the world. It’s close to the chill town of Pichilemu, about 128 miles from Santiago. The Ceremonial Punta de Lobos event helped this spot gain international recognition.

It’s only crowded in peak sessions, as these XXL waves bring tourists and surfers from all around to experience a bit of cold water action. The spot delivers consistent swells throughout the year so that even intermediate surfers can also enjoy some mellow waves in summer.

It’s extremely challenging to ride this 32 ft roaring beast that enjoys breaking surfing boards and smashing surfers pretty hard in the water. 

The best time to enjoy a great ride is during a SW swell with SE winds. It works mostly on mid to low tide. Intermediate and advanced surfers armed with shortboards and guns are in for a treat on epic days. However, be cautious of the sea racks and headlands.

Conclusion

Now you know about the big monsters cruising the oceans that’ll leave your eyes popping. These daredevils circle the globe in pursuit of finding the scariest and biggest waves around as they love challenging Mother Nature.

Battling these gnarly waves isn’t a walk in the park. Your speed and timing matters most. From the insane Nazare beast in Portugal to the iconic Jaws in Hawaii, each wave is deadly and ruthless. Teahuppo throws challenges, and Australian Shipstern Bluff offers a wild ride within waves. As Rob Machado said

“Foam is your friend. Don't be scared of it. A little bit of extra foam here and there is good for the soul and your surfing.”

Oliver Jones

Written by Oliver Jones

I'm a dedicated surfer and writer, and my heart truly belongs to the ocean. Surfing is not just a sport but a way of life for me. I ride the waves in the water and on paper, pouring my passion into every word I write.

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