The five biggest waves surfed – EVER!

Apr 30, 2018 BY Paul McWilliams

Catching any wave and riding it is always an amazing feeling. But over the last couple of decades, some surfers have taken this to new levels. Some of the biggest waves surfed in history are as high as a five storey buildings and are powered by the unbelievable force of thousands of tons of water.

biggest waves surfed Flickr image by Jeff Rowley Big Wave Surfer

Biggest waves surfed

This was going to be a top 5 but there were 7 waves we wanted to talk about so check out the following seven waves. They are some of the biggest and most dangerous in history, and all ridden by surfers who not only lived to tell the tale but caught the whole thing on camera for us to enjoy.

**Update** As the record has recently been beaten we have updated this article on 30/4/2018. See below for more details.

Pete Cabrinha – Jaws, Maui

Imagine surfing one of the biggest waves in history without even realising. That’s what happened to Pete Cabrinha in Maui in 2004. Apparently it wasn’t until he watched the video back that he realised the sheer scale of what he’d just been riding. The 70 foot monster was a world record at the time. So, let’s just get this straight. A guy who surfs for a living, accidentally breaks the record for the biggest wave ever surfed. In Maui. Yeah, some guys have it hard, don’t they Pete?

Mike Parsons – Jaws, Maui

Another unlucky soul spending his days surfing in Maui, Mike Parsons also managed to catch a 68 foot monster on the deepwater reef known as Jaws. Mike caught the wave during a competition, which was luckily being filmed from overhead in a helicopter. Which means the whole thing was captured in a sensational video. Lucky boy.

Mike Parsons – Cortes Bank, California

Officially, the biggest waves surfed are around the 70 feet high mark. Rumours circulate about people claiming 90, 95 or even 100 foot waves but there never seems to be any video or photographic evidence. However, at Cortes Bank in 2008, Mike Parsons (him again!) caught an 85 foot monster. There are photographs that seem to corroborate the claims which are mind boggling but the lack of video means it cant ever claim top spot. See Mike talk about it here.

Manoa Drollet – Teahupoo, Tahiti

Ok, so compared to some of the other monsters in this list, 30 foot doesn’t seem so big. But this definitely counts as one of the biggest waves surfed because this huge swell dumps all of its water onto a shallow reef. Which makes it very dangerous to surf indeed. Five people have died and countless more been injured trying to recreate this ride.

Carlos Burle – Maverick’s, California

Brazilian Carlos Burle caught this insane 68 footer just off the coast of California. Back in 2001, this colossal bomb was the biggest wave surfed ever and became known as the ‘wave of the century’. A little premature perhaps given that we were only one year into a new one but you try telling former world champion Carlos this wasn’t an amazing achievement.

Garrett McNamara – Nazare, Portugal

Officially the world record for the biggest wave ever surfed was conquered by Hawaiian Garret McNamara. Back in 2011, the then 43-year-old took on a massive 90 foot wave just off the Atlantic coast of Portugal. Officially verified at 78 foot, this stands as the biggest ever surfed. However…

Garrett McNamara – Nazare, Portugal

Not content with taking on the 90 foot monster, the now 45-year-old Mcnamara braved the stormy waters of the Atlantic during a huge storm swell in 2013 and may have surfed the first ever official 100 foot wave. The wave is yet to be measured, and we won’t know for sure until early 2014 but early images captured of the day sure make it seem like he has smashed the record again.If it’s proved to be true, this is a record that might stand for some time.

**Update April 2018** Contrary to the media hype around this wave Garrett McNamara never claimed to have surfed a 100ft wave and this was never put forward as a record. He said “I’m honoured to be able to surf and the world is just having fun with it but I never claimed 100ft. I find it hilarious but also overwhelming and we’re all just going surfing again.”

Rodrigo Koxa – Nazare, Portugal

In April 2018 Surf officials confirmed that Rodrigo Koxa broke the world record for the record for biggest wave surfed. The Brazilian surfed an 80ft (24.4 metre) monster at Nazare in Portugal on 8 November 2017 and has been awarded the Guinness World Record for the biggest wave ever surfed.

I hope these biggest waves surfed help to inspire you to dust off the wetsuit and head to your nearest break. It may not be a 100 foot monster but you will still have fun!

Fancy a surf trip? Then check out our surfing holiday discounts as you could save a fortune.

California, Europe, Hawaii, Leiria, Nazare, North America, Oceania, Portugal, Tahiti, United States
big wave, Carlos Burle, Grant McNamara, Manoa Drollet, Mike Parsons, Pete Cabrinha, Rodrigo Koxa, Wave, World Record
Top 10s

    Related Articles


    Geographically embarrassed: Is it the Red Sea or Dead Sea?

    There are a number of travel trivia questions that always turn up in quizzes and conversations. And every time they have you scratching your head in a, 'I really...

    Read Article

    We love outdoor activities: But can indoor sports compete?

    OK, this is an adventure sports blog so we love outdoor activities. But don't think for a minute we are exclusive here. Even the hardiest mountaineer or hiker...

    Destinations: N/A
    Read Article

    Best YouTube snowboarding movies: Top 5 full length free snowboard films

    Looking for the best YouTube snowboarding movies? Well we have a treat for you with the top 5 full length free snowboard films on the world's most popular video...

    Destinations: N/A
    Read Article

    Newsletter sign up