7-Day Surf Forecasts.
Explore 5,000 Surf Spots.
Browse over 50,000 questions.

What are the top 10 waves ever surfed?

Important considerations

The size of a wave will always be important to passionate professional surfers because without some way to accurately measure the size of a wave how will one hold score on which wave was the biggest. Most surfers will measure a wave on its face in other words the front of the wave measured from top to bottom. However, this is not the way in which waves are measured in Hawaii because there a wave is measured on the back and this will come to about half the size of the face of that wave. In other words, if the face of the wave is 30 feet then Hawaiians will call that wave a 15 footer. A strange phenomenon among surfers is the fact that they always downsize the size of a wave, maybe it is because they lose objectivity when they are riding that wave. However, someone observing the face of the wave from land will be able to make a much more accurate judgement because they have more facts to work with such as the horizon or the sky in the background. 

1. Teahupoo

One of the most notable surfers ever is Laird Hamilton and he is known for his extraordinary run at Teahupoo. Many of the big names in surfing feel that this break is one of the most dangerous on the planet. Even though these waves may not be the tallest, they have a lot of volume which makes them among the most powerful in the world. Other factors are the shallow water and the sharp reefs and all this justifies the opinions of surfers that this particular spot is the most dangerous surfing location on the planet. When Laird Hamilton attempted this feat he could not paddle into position because of the raw power of the waves, he had to be towed into position with a jet ski.

2. Mavericks

One of the sport’s legends Mark Foo drowned at Mavericks in 1994 after wiping out on a 40-foot wave. This north Californian surfing spot is not only popular among surfers but also among sharks. The water here is very cold which many experts feel has been a contributory factor in the death of Mark Foo. 800 people attended his memorial service at Waimea Bay where after his ashes were placed in the water.

3. Waimea - Aikau

Bruce Iron will always be remembered for that contest winning wave at the Eddie Aikau contest. Many surfing professionals reckon this to be two rides in one since there is the substantial drop on the outside followed by that barrel on the shore break. Professionals deemed the shore break barrel to be the greater challenge of the two but nevertheless, it is here that Bruce Iron has won the ultimate crown in big wave surfing. This Eddie Aikau contest is not an open event, only the most respected big wave surfers are invited annually to take their chances at this event and to hopefully walk away with one of surfing’s greatest accolades.

4. Teahupoo again

Same venue but another surfer, Shane Dorian who is a respected and well known especially because of his achievements as a big wave surfer. He is so fearless that some people have begun to doubt his sanity and this ride at Teahupoo may well be one of the most dangerous performances by this surfer. His mentor in the world of surfing was the late Tod Chesser who himself perished while trying to tame a big one. Even though Shane was wearing a life vest during this run, it would have provided very little protection on a run such as this. The waves here are breaking over a sharp reef which is lying just below the surface and to fall here could be disastrous.

5. Waimea Bay

Shane Dorian again but this time he has a partner in crime, Mark Healy as they paddle into a big one at Waimea Bay. It is well known that in order to make the best of a wave it is better to paddle into them early, but better is to be towed by a Jet ski because this allows the surfer to catch the wave early and this will reveal vital information about that wave such as how the wave could be expected to behave. The primary concern for big wave surfers is how the drop will be because only after they pass that critical point will they be in a position to decide whether to play it safe by going straight or to turn and run the gauntlet. It is safer to be towed it, paddling is also an uncertain business which forces the surfer to rely on instinct and skill and then the drop and everything that follows can be unpredictable.

6. Another Teahupoo incident

Manoa Drollet is one of surfing’s daredevils and he has dedicated his life to big wave surfing. He is a regular at Teahupoo and this is how he caught this monster. The photographer on the scene had to zoom out in order to be able to take the shot. Every surfer knows that measuring and analyzing a wave is easier when you are facing that wave. Analyzing accurately is extremely difficult when riding that wave and this is what makes big wave surfing extremely dangerous. 

7. Cortes Bank

There is another daredevil by the name of Mike Parsons who believes that it is entirely possible to ride a 100-foot wave and he believes the place where this can be accomplished is Cortes Bank. Cortes bank is just off the coast of California on the Pacific Ocean. There is a swallow chain of underwater mountains in the region but in reality those mountains measure more than half a mile from the ocean floor to their peaks which is sometimes less than three feet below the surface. In 2001 Mike Parsons was part of a group of surfers who rode a massive swell at Cortes Bank thereby putting this spot on the big wave surfing map. This spot is not for the faint hearted because of the hidden mountain tops, very cold water temperatures and monster waves.

8. Puerto Escondido

Ken Collins also nicknamed Skindog caught a winning wave at Puerto Escondido. This popular surfing spot is in Mexico and this beach break is famous the world over. Contrary to other big wave locations there are no sharp reefs but only sand which makes Puerto Escondido a little less dangerous compared to places such as Cortes Bank and Mavericks. However, the power of the waves is just as lethal as in any other big wave location and drowning remains a real threat. Nevertheless, it was here at Puerto Escondido where Ken Collins won the Billabong big wave ride of the year award in 2007.

9. Jaws

A helicopter was used to film a run by Mike Parsons at this spot. This video recording provides you with a front row seat allowing them to observe how a big wave develops and what happens when that monster breaks. It helped that Mike Parsons was towed by a jet ski which eliminated much of the danger encountered by big wave surfers. A man by the name of Buzzy Kerbox introduced the use of jet skis into the sport of big wave surfing but many surfing enthusiasts are critical of this practice, claiming that the noise and exhaust fumes cause excessive pollution and changes the nature of the sport. There are also many who are of the opinion that having watercraft available where big wave surfing takes place can help to save lives. The reality is that falling on a big wave is a life-threatening experienced and then having to contend with a thirty foot wave while badly winded can be disastrous. Having a fast jet ski available can make it possible to extract a victim before they are drowned.

10. Waimea Bay - The Legends

Surfing has produced many legends such as Greg Noll and Eddie Aikua which were among the brave pioneers who paddled out to meet the giant waves. They were followed by other legends such as Ken Bradshaw, Richard Schmidt and Brock Little. Because of his achievements as a surfing legend the Quicksilver Big Wave Invitational is held annually in honor of Eddie Aikua who became a victim of the sea in 1978. The Quiksilver Big Wave Invitational is held every fourth year when the waves are deemed to be big enough. It takes place in Hawaii at Waimea Bay. Only when truly enormous waves are present can this contest take place. It is here at Waimea Bay where Greg Noll became famous in 1957 when riding a monster wave.