This list starts with Shawn Dollar’s 2012 record of 61 feet and ends with Benjamin Sanchez’s estimated 108-foot record in 2014. Big wave surfing is the pursuit of finding the biggest waves and attempting to smash the previous record. These extremely talented surfers compete yearly in the WSL or World Surf League. No matter if you’re a surfer or not, the feats of athleticism on this list are truly impressive. They might even inspire you to get out and try surfing for yourself.

Number 10: Shawn Dollar

Height: 61 feet

Location and date: Cortes Bank (December 21, 2012)

Shawn Dollar surfed a 61 feet wave

This managed to set the Guinness world record for the largest wave surfed using the “paddle in” method. Shawn Dollar, one of the best big wave surfers in the world, managed to snag the killer wave which broke almost a hundred miles off the coast of California. It was 61 feet. To put that into perspective, that is roughly the length of a bowling lane.

Number 9: Aaron Gold

Height: 63 feet

Location and date: Maui, Hawaii (January 15, 2016)

Aaron Gold, at the time, was surfing the largest wave ever at 63 feet

For 4 years Dollar managed to hold onto his record before it was narrowly beaten by Hawaiin surfing legend Aaron Gold. He traversed the gargantuan wave known as “Jaws” off the coast of his homeland in the Pacific Ocean. Sixty-three feet is roughly the length of a cricket pitch.

Number 8: Mike Parsons

Height: 66 feet

Location and date: Cortes Bank (2001)

Mike Parsons surfed an incredibly large wave measuring 66 feet

This was a big one! However, some would argue that it was overshadowed by Dollar’s ride due to the fact that Parsons was towed out. The towing vs paddling debate will rage on. Most pro surfers use whichever method they think is best at the time. For comparison, 66 feet is roughly the length of a Brachiosaurus!

Number 7: Carlos Burle

Height: 68 feet

Location and date: Mavericks near Half Moon Bay (2001)

Carlos Burle surfed some of the largest waves found worldwide

2001 was a great year for jaw-dropping waves and Carlos Burle won the Billabong XXL Big Wave Award for taking on this beast. Put into context 68 feet, or about 21 meters, is roughly the height of the carvings at Mount Rushmore. Imagine surfing George Washington’s head!

Number 6: Mike Parsons

Height: 77 feet

Location and date: Cortes Bank (2008)

Mike Parsons surfed a 77 feet wave making it, at the time, a new world record

7 years after riding his mammoth wave Mike Parsons broke the 70-foot mark and with it set a new world record for the highest wave surfed from a tow. Seventy-seven feet is like riding Turner Falls, the massive Oklahoma waterfall.

Number 5: Garrett McNamara

Height: 78 feet

Location and date: Nazaré, Portugal (2011)

Garrett McNamara managed to surf an extraordinary 78 feet wave in Portugal

As you will see, Nazaré, Portugal, is the place to go if you want to try and break records and traverse big waves, which is just what McNamara did in 2011 when he beat Mike Parsons record by a single foot. That’s the length of a bowling pin.

Number 4: Rodrigo Koxa

Height: 80 feet

Location and date: Nazaré, Portugal (2017)

Rodrigo Koxa reached 80 feet by surfing a wave in Portugal

As recently as 2017, the Brazilian added another 2 feet to the world record. Although he is not number one on this list, he still holds the record, as Guinness has not been able to verify any of the top three. That’s not to scoff at an 80-foot wave. After all, that is the length of a Blue Whale, the largest animal ever to have ever lived on the planet.

Number 3: Garrett McNamara

Height: 100 feet (estimated)

Location and date: Nazaré, Portugal (2013)

Garrett McNamara’s second record-breaking wave, which reached an incredible 100 feet

Had it been confirmed, this would have absolutely smashed the world record. It is a well-known fact that Nazare and in particular Praia do Norte can produce 100-foot+ rideable monster waves it just so happens that none of them have been verified yet. To put that into context, the giant wave is as tall as the length of the reclining Buddha statue in India.

Number 2: Carlos Burle

Height: 100 feet (estimated)

Location and date: Nazaré, Portugal (2013)

Carlos Burle surfed an incredible 100+ foot wave, which is yet to be verified

Once again, 2013 was a great year for the swell. Burle himself set about trying to nab the record for the tallest wave on the Portuguese coast. Leaving behind California for the infamous area, he managed to snag a hundred-footer during an autumnal storm. Unfortunately, he is still waiting to get it verified so no record for him. However, for added context, 100 feet is roughly the length of a Boeing 737 aircraft, which is an incredible feat.

Number 1: Benjamin Sanchis

Height: 108 feet (estimated)

Location and date: Nazaré, Portugal (2014)

Benjamin Sanchis rode a 108 feet wave (estimated), although he did fall off into it

The Frenchman was witnessed and verified by many sources that witnessed his feet from atop the fort on the cliffs at Nazaré. So why is he not sitting proudly in the record books? Unfortunately, despite his magnificent efforts, he did not ride the wave to completion, so could not achieve the confirmation for riding the 108-foot behemoth. It also meant he missed out on the XXL Biggest Wave Award.


What is the best route for surfing?

If a beach has good surf chances are it will offer lessons for less experienced surfers. If you want to practice, then a balance board is good practice and also is a lot of fun.

How do they measure waves?

In general, waves are measured from the surface of the water up to the crest of the wave. However, this is not an exact science when it comes to the world of surfing, partially because waves are not a uniform height, and also, a surfer needs to make the most of the wave that they are given.

Do surfers ever get eaten by sharks?

Around ten people die from shark attacks every year. That is ten out of the 7 billion people on the planet. However, it is worth mentioning that of all the shark attacks recorded, more than fifty percent of them are against surfers.

Where is the biggest wave surfed in the world?

The biggest wave that surfed in the world was located in Nazaré, Portugal, in 2014. However, the top 5 largest waves ever surfed were all located in the same region.

Did Garrett McNamara ride a 100 ft wave?

It was never fully confirmed, rather an estimate that he succeeded in riding a 100-foot wave. However, it has never been verified.

Who has ridden the biggest wave?

Rodrigo Koxa surfed the world record 80-foot wave in Nazaré, Portugal, in 2017. However, in 2014 in the same location, it was Benjamin Sanchis who climbed a 108-foot wave but has not been verified.

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