What’s the Biggest Wave Ever Surfed?

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Mavericks in California is a popular big-wave surfing site. Photo Source: WikiMedia Commons.

The biggest wave ever surfed is ‘officially’ a 78 foot wave ridden by Garrett McNamara at Nazare, Portugal in 2011. That’s the ruling of the Guinness Book of Records, which hired big wave experts and photographers to review the wave and give it a yea or nay.

They went with the former. And with that, GMac dethroned previous record holder Mike Parsons to be the official king of big wave surfing – and balls so big they’d need a dump truck for transport.

Cojones, Garrett McNamara.

But the ruling is not without controversy. Some say big wave stud Benjamin Sanchis eclipsed that mark with a ridiculous 108-foot monster on December 11, 2014. That would put him in the driver’s seat, with the biggest wave ever surfed firmly etched on his bed post.

But there’s a few problems with that. Among them, he fell shortly after launch. And another, more technical question: are the waves at Nazare real waves in the first place?

Why Garrett McNamara Currently Owns the Biggest Wave Ever Surfed

GMac is no stranger to Nazare, Portugal. He’s been there pretty much every Autumn for the past 5 years. His 2011 wave is officially the biggest wave ever ridden according to the folks at Guinness because he rode the ‘meaningful part’ of the wave – and it was a monster at that.

Find it below for your gratuitous viewing pleasure.

The’s been some debate about Nazare’s waves, however. Namely, are they really waves, or just stupidly huge walls of water? A wave has a trough and a crest. Yet the waves break differently here. Nazare often lacks a definable trough because of the giant canyon that forms the ocean floor at the notorious spot. The result? Giant mountains of water, rather than breaking waves – at least for many sets.

Yet the good folks at Guinness spent 5 years looking at McNamara’s 2011 monster and determined it was a legit wave, and 78 feet high at that.

The 100 Foot Club

You can’t argue that 78 feet is a monster. But there’s always a bigger fish, and there’s been some debate of late whether a 100 foot wave has yet to be surfed. Many observers say it’s already happened, and point to the Sanchis wave in 2014, also at Nazare, as proof.

The wave is, simply put, f**king huge, and is now being looked at by big wave experts. If they determine the wave is legit, Sanchis will likely be the champ.

Other potential hundred foot waves include:

Carlos Brule – In 2013, 45-year old Brazilian Carlos Brule caught a massive set at Nazare in October of that year. Brule speculates it was a 100 foot wave, though we haven’t heard much about it since.

Garrett McNamara (2013) – Ironically, GMac may have surfed an even bigger wave than his 78 foot record in 2011. Two years later, he surfed his own ‘claimed’ 100 footer at the hallowed break. Rumour has it that one’s being looked at by experts as well.

It’s safe to say the biggest wave ever surfed in the next 5 years may likely be 100+ feet – if it hasn’t already. Watch British surfer Andrew Cotton too. He’s good friends with GMac, and a regular at Nazare. The first verified 100 footer could also be him.

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