Big wave surfing: the 100-foot wave is the ultimate goal

One hundred feet. That is exactly 30.40 meters. Roughly, it also means a 10-storey building. Surfers have been chasing the perfect number for more than 80 years.


Big wave surfing may have begun in Makaha, on the West coast of Oahu, Hawaii, with the first rides being attributed to George Downing, Buzzy Trent and Woodbridge Brown. In the early days, surfboards were heavy and hard to steer in the fast Hawaiian walls.

With the advent of guns - big wave surfboards - Greg Noll and friends managed to raise the bar to 35-foot waves. Not bad at all. But the act of riding giants lost momentum in the final years of the 1960s.

The rebirth of big wave surfing only came in the mid-1980s, with a group of Waimea daredevils. The tow-in experiences led by Laird Hamilton brought XXL surf to the media spotlight.

Ken Bradshaw is the first man to go for it. On the 28th July 1998, Bradshaw took care of an 85-foot wave, at Outside Log Cabins reef, in Waimea Bay.

The height was never officially recognized, but it opened way to the 100-foot wave race. In fact, there were a large number of big wave surfers who could have made it. Miguel Del Toro, Peter Mel, Flea, Dan Malloy, the Wormhoudt brothers, Grant Baker, Shane Dorian, Mark Healey have nearly scored the perfect big bomb.

On the 5th January, 2008, at Cortes Bank, Mike Parsons sets a new world record for the biggest wave of all time, at 77 feet. Garrett McNamara steals it, in 2011, after riding a 78-footer (23.77 meters), at Praia do Norte, Nazaré, Portugal.

In January 2013, he may have improved it, but the mark was never officially submitted as a potential record-breaker.

Nine months later, Carlos Burle and Andrew Cotton get the most out of an historic day, in Portuguese waters, as they both ride a similar giant in the Nazaré Canyon. Has the 100-foot wave been surfed?

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