Surf's Up Magazine

The Biggest Wave Ever Surfed

  • Date: February 13, 2024
  • Time to read: 5 min.

When confronted with enormous waves, the average person is terrified for their life. However, there are a few who devote their lives to surfing notorious big wave spots throughout the world. This article explores the biggest wave ever surfed.

Read on to discover where the official world record has been set and which surfer holds this elite record.

biggest wave ever surfed

What Is The Biggest Wave Ever Surfed?

The official Guinness World Record for the largest wave ever surfed is currently held by Sebastian Steudtner of Germany.

The 86 foot wave he caught on 29th October 2020 at Praia do Norte, Nazaré, beat Brazils, Rodrigo Koxa’s previous record by 6ft.

Steudtner now 37 has been training his whole for this moment. He decided he would move to Hawaii when he was just 13.

At the age of 16, he eventually managed to persuade his parents after three years. He eventually departed Germany for the surfers’ paradise in order to pursue a career in surfing.

It was not simple, he remembers. Many people did not support or comprehend his choice to relocate to the other side of the world.

However, his bold gamble paid off: Steudtner is now one of the most renowned big wave surfers in the world. He has several victories under his belt, and now holds a Guinness World Record title.

The women’s record is held by Maya Gabeira of Brazil, whose 2020 Praia do Norte attempt was validated from analysis of the video at 73.5 feet. This surpassed her own record for largest wave ridden by a woman.

When it comes to world records, however, the Guinness adjudicators are generally seen as the arbiters of “true” world records. The biggest wave of the year is also recognized at the XXL event with its own award.

sebastian steudtner receiving guinness world record certificate
Sebastian Steudtner receiving his Guinness World Record certificate

Getting a Big Wave Record

The awarding of big wave accolades is highly contentious. The subjective nature of measuring the biggest wave ever surfed has created discontent within the big wave surfing community over the years.

Because of the verification procedure, obtaining a world record certificate can take some time. On October 29th, 2020, Portuguese local Antonio (Tony) Laureano took off on a bomb set on the west coast of Portugal. He instantly knew was the biggest wave of his life.

When the 18-year-old and his father watched the video, they realized that the wave had a good chance of beating Rodrigo Koxa’s 2017 Guinness World Record. Rather than wait for the World Surf League to make a decision, Tony and his father decided to the verification into their own hands.

The University of Lisbon’s Faculty of Human Kinetics (FMHUL) agreed to take on the task. After working with their own specialized computer software, a team led by Miguel Moreira arrived at a figure of 101.4 feet. This would make him the new record holder and the first human to (tentatively) ride a 100+ wave.

To date, this feat has not been verified as a Guinness World Record, and therefore unofficially remains the biggest wave ever surfed.​

The Obsession with Getting a World Record

Today, the primary objective of big wave surfing is to break world records. Why? Because there is no true world circuit or a genuinely competitive tour that enables riders to make money by risking their lives.

In 2020, a well-known British big wave athlete publicly stated he was “burnt out from attempting to make money off of my sport.” The rider in question was sick of competing on the highest level in a potentially life-threatening watersport that doesn’t pay off.

So, for most surfers, it’s all about breaking the world record for the largest wave ever ridden with all of the benefits that come with it.

Aside from the glory, there are new sponsorship deals, sponsorship deal extensions, commercial appearances, ambassador assignments, and a steady wage.

Nobody is putting their lives on the line just because they enjoy what they’re doing. If they are, they’re probably lying to every one of us.

The difficulty with determining “the largest wave ever” is that the criteria are subjective, unscientific, and mathematically complex.

The professional surfing circuit devised an intelligent yet fallible formula to calculate the size of each season’s biggest wave rides.

To be able to locate and successfully launch oneself on one of these enormous liquid mountains, big wave surfers work all year. Both in and out of the water.

However, we all know that in surfing, resources are limited, and there is no single world record-winning wave for every surfer.

During the winter season, each team strives to discover the finest gems. And while a few may accomplish lofty big wave accolades, others will spend their entire careers on that eternal search.

big wave surfing

Where Are The Biggest Waves Found?

Despite the fact that big wave surfing originated in Hawaii, it is no longer limited to that location. The world’s largest waves are found all over, including Maverick’s in California, Shipstern’s Bluff in Tasmania, and Aileen’s in Ireland, which are among the biggest waves on the planet.

However, one location stands out above the rest when it comes to truly huge waves. For the previous several years, Nazaré in Portugal has been the destination of choice for world record-setting storms.

Because of the bay’s orientation and bathymetry (bottom shape), the swell is funneled in and amplified, resulting in larger waves. That’s why Nazaré has been a regular stop on the World Surf League Big Wave Tour since then.

How To Catch Big Waves

The faster a wave travels through water, the larger it is. To be picked up by a wave, a surfer must reach the rate of the wave. There are two ways to do this in big wave surfing. The more traditional method to ride enormous waves is to use a long, thin surfboard called a gun.

These are made for big wave surfing, with a length and form that aid in the generation of sufficient paddle speed to grab the wave and cut through any chop on its surface during the ride.

The same technique as surfers employ in smaller conditions is used to catch the wave. Simply by paddling with the arms to catch up to speed with the wave, it is caught.

In the world of professional surfing, some big wave enthusiasts only consider records for riding the largest wave if the surfer catches it by paddling.

Many big wave surfers, however, prefer a tow-in technique. They use the same rope as waterskiing to ride behind a jetski while strapped onto a much smaller board.

The surfer will be carried into the face of the wave by the ski, resulting in a lot of speed. The shorter board can turn much faster than a cumbersome gun, allowing the surfer to ride even the biggest waves more aggressively.

dolphin smiling

Previous Post

Can a Dolphin Kill a Shark?

Next Post

The Fastest Fish in the Ocean

marlin in ocean