Serious wave riders are often looking for ways to push the limits, but sometimes there are waves too big for even the best to handle. Legendary surf spots from California to Australia contain waves that reach upward of 60 feet, though don’t expect to be able to ride them. These powerful barrel rolls will wipe even the greatest off their boards. Paddle out at your own risk.
At 30+ feet, Mavericks isn’t the largest wave on the list, but it’s earned a reputation for being one of the most dangerous. Breaking a mile out from the shore, the right-hander is thick and incredibly fast and breaks smack in the middle of some of the Pacific’s most tempestuous waters. Toss in the fact that the area is a haven for sharks and the cold temperatures can easily throw off your concentration and you have yourself a recipe for disaster. Mavericks, named after pooch who tried to surf the wave himself, has already claimed the lives of two famous Hawaiian surfers.
Shipstern Bluff, Tasmania, Australia
Formerly named (and perhaps more aptly) Devil’s Point, Shipstern Bluff is a monstrous behemoth challenged only by those who aren’t afraid to look Death straight in the eye. Even then, the chances of living to tell about it are probably slimmer than the likelihood of sliding face-first into the craggy rocks after a sudden cross-chop.
Nestled in the southeast corner of Tasmania, the brutal conditions here are the result of the peninsula absorbing storm systems of the “furious 50s”, strong air currents blowing in from the South Pole. The 30+ foot wave here is infamous for its “stair steps,” when the ocean draws water off the reef and the wave bends in the shape of the sea floor, which have been known to lob the best surfers from their boards. The sub-freezing waters certainly don’t help matters.
Though rarely seen, Agiti is a force to be reckoned with when the stars align and the conditions are just right to create one of the biggest swells off the coast of Europe. Big-wave surfer Asier Muniain is thought to have discovered Agiti in the Bay of Biscay after a decade of surfing the area. The bay is only 200 meters wide and the waves break into a swath of enormous boulders, making surfing here a risky proposition. Catching a wave here will be tough, with the swells only turning big enough to start breaking a handful of times each year. The rocky headlands make the area prime for shipwrecks, so ride at your own risk.
Pe’ahi, or Jaws, was once predominately known as a premier windsurfing destination before the likes of Laird Hamilton and Dave Kalama got ahold of it. During the burgeoning tow-in movement of the late 90s they discovered the occasionally 60-foot wave here was ripe for surfing. The looming cliffs overhead and sheer velocity of the wave make it a tricky situation for even the seasoned vets, but many surfers actually found towing in to be too safe for such an epic break. Nowadays you’ll find plenty of surfers paddling out the challenge this beast.
Cortes Bank, Pacific Ocean
One hundred miles off the coast of California lies one of the most ferocious and mountainous waves on Earth—Cortes Bank. It’s believed to hold the largest surfable wave in the world, regularly spewing out swells that create waves too gargantuan to even attempt. When the wave does reach a reasonable height, say 70 feet, surfers must contend with some of the most powerful and shark-laden breaks around. Combine that with the shipwrecks still lying just below the surface and you have yourself an underwater playground of sharp teeth, rusty re-bar, and sub-freezing temperatures with no land mass, or safety, in sight.