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The Biggest Waves In the World & People Who Ride Them

The ocean is a wild and strong environment that can turn on the drop of a hat. But as intense as powerful as the ocean is, it matches that with drastic beauty, and for some, joy. As miraculous as these forces of nature are to watch, some even try to ride them. It is an insane concept for the lay-person, and yet–they’re out there.

Big-wave surfing takes an elitism, training, and boldness that very few in the world can hone. It can turn life-threatening in a single moment, a single error–the stakes are high. However, the reward of coming out on top, of surviving the moving mountain, is likely a thrill few will ever truly know. We’ve compiled a list of some of the most famous big wave spots for you to check out.


What is in a name? Mavericks is known for its howling and famous right located in Half Moon Bay, Northern California. After a strong winter storm passes through, you can expect the waves to have crests at heights from 25 ft to 60 ft.

The wave is located 100 yards out from shore in incredibly chilly water that is stirring with giant great white sharks. If a surfer does end up getting held down, they are facing being held underwater for an uncomfortably long time or getting bashed against the boulders beneath the water the size of homes. Grant “Twiggy” Baker holds the record for largest Maverick wave surfed at 50 ft.


When Nazare has a swell, it is the biggest wave in the world. What it lacks in consistency, it makes up for in monstrous size. It is located at Praia do Norte, Portugal and has become a tourist attraction for big wave surfing.

The secret to this incredible force of nature is the deep canyon of water pushes towards shallow waters along the coast, creating an insanely massive wall of water. This tends to happen in the winter, when the swells come from in the Atlantic and light up the coastline.


Located in Tahiti, Teahupo’o is a force unlike any other. It is heavy as it is hollow and breaks on a razor sharp reef only slightly below the surface. There is no room for mistakes when it comes to this wave. Often referred to as “Chopes,” it was considered the most un-surfable wave out there– until the end of the 20th century.

This wave has provided some of the most iconic and memorable shots of big-wave surfing and continues to garner surfers to push the limits to try and tame the beast.


The almighty Jaws can be found in Maui, Hawaii. It is an amazing wave because even when the swell is light, it can still handle any size and keep the waves fun to surf. But when a swell does come through, you can expect a 15+ wave of gorgeously blue water to be pushing through and some bold people to be riding them.


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