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Top Five Biggest Surfer Waves (Video)

An American surfer tackled a monster 100-foot swell in Portugal. Watch more wild waves.

‘It Would Kill You’

No burnout here. Hawaiian surfer Garrett McNamara reportedly broke his own world record when he rode a 100-foot swell off the coast of Nazaré, Portugal—the same place where he set the previous world record. McNamara said in 2011 that he had been invited by the government of Portugal to investigate the area for a big wave competition—and it clearly paid off. “You start seeing the coastline about half a mile when you pass some rocks and turn a point,” McNamara said. “Then you are in the break. It’s unique. The waves break into cliffs 300 feet in height. You can’t contemplate coming off because it would kill you.”

The Previous Record, the Pride of Portugal

Of course, McNamara is no stranger to giant waves or the coast of Nazaré. The surfer tackled a 78-foot wave off the same coast in 2011. (Original reports pegged it at 90 feet, but Guinness certified it at 78 feet, meaning it broke the previous record by just 50 centimeters.) Another surfer described the conditions on Nov. 1st as “perfect.” “The jet ski was the best place to see him riding the biggest wave I’ve ever seen,” fellow surfer Alistair Mennie told the Guardian. “Most people would be scared, but Garrett was controlling everything in the critical part of the wave. It was an inspiring ride by an inspiring surfer.”

Craziness Is Like Heaven

Jimi Hendrix once said, “Craziness is like heaven.” If this is true, then surfer Ken Bradshaw earned his wings with this ride. “Biggest Wednesday,” as Bradshaw calls it, occurred in 1998 on the north shore of Oahu, Hawaii. The only video of the radical ride was taken from shore and is a bit grainy. Still, it’s impressive to see Bradshaw dart with ease through this 85-foot wave. Surf's up!

Shark Bait

The fact that this wave occurred at a deepwater reef referred to as “Jaws” should indicate the level of the danger involved in this performance. Surfer Mike Parsons rode the 64-foot wave during a competition on the north shore of Maui, Hawaii. A helicopter hovered overhead, catching every second of the gnarly ride.

Weapon of Surf Destruction

To a surfer, the word “bomb” refers to a wave that is bigger than most. In 2004 Pete Cabrinha snagged a “bomb,” but realized it only after watching the video. The big-wave surfer conquered a 70-foot swell at Jaws in Maui, which landed him a spot in the Guinness Book of World Records. Bomb, you say? More like grenade!

The Taming of Teahupoo

Whoa, brah! Thirty feet doesn’t seem like a huge wave after watching the previous videos. Nevertheless, be assured that surfing a swell of this magnitude is no walk in the park. Manoa Drollet maneuvered the rough wave on Tahiti’s infamous Teahupoo reef break before a sea of white foam swallowed him up. Hope he didn’t swallow too much water.

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Note: This article was originally written in Nov 2011 by Brittany Jones-Cooper; it was updated on Jan. 28, 2013.