14 Beaches with the Biggest Waves in the World

The bigger the wave, the more daunting it is for many – but not for advanced surfers. In fact, it is what they’re actually clamoring for.

But, with so many places in the world known for towering waves, such as Chile, Portugal, Hawaii, etc. it can be a bit confusing where to next.

Waves that are as tall as 5 feet can already be daunting, especially for beginners. It’s understandable, though, because it’s hard not to think of the risks involved in surfing.

However, it is actually what makes the heart of big wave surfers race. And because of that, many of them are always on a mission to catch towering waves – bigger than the ones that are typically considered as big waves. 

But, with so many beaches out there, where can you test your limits? If you’re looking for the best places to catch the biggest waves, here are some of the places where you can go to.

Praia De Norte, Portugal

Portugal is one of the surfing spots that has become a household name for advanced surfers. This is because of how big its waves can get.

Even if it’s your nth time seeing this place, Praia De Norte is one of the surfing spots that will always make your jaw drop as the waves here can reach up to 100 feet.

And if you’re not convinced yet, Maya Gabeira might attest to how huge the waves in Praia De Norte can get. Apparently, she is officially the Guinness World Record holder for the largest wave surfed for a female.

The waves here are massive due to the canyon that’s hiding beneath its waters. Hence, the swells in Portugal stack up against each other, causing a humongous wave.

If you plan to test your limits and catch its biggest wave, it’s best to plot your schedule in either the fall or winter season. During these months, the waves become more powerful. Hence, your cravings for an adrenaline rush will be satisfied.

However, be warned of the risks involved in surfing huge waves as big as Praia De Norte’s. Even Gabeira, a pro surfer and Guinness World record holder, nearly drowned from surfing the waters of this place.

That said, if you plan to surf here, it’s not enough that you have the bravest of hearts. Make sure that you already mastered the sport too because surfing is an extreme sport.

Waimea Bay, Hawaii

Unlike Praia De Norte, Waimea Bay doesn’t have a canyon hidden under the ocean. But, it has a unique ocean floor, which makes it a place that adventurous surfers love.

Apparently, its ocean floor rises abruptly. So, even if it doesn’t have a canyon, like Praia De Norte, the swells here change rapidly as they move into the shallower area of the beach. As a result, you can encounter waves that can reach up to more than 30 feet. While they’re not as high as Praia De Norte’s they can still be really daunting.

What makes surfers love Waimea Bay more is that its waves are more consistent. Hence, surfers from around the world flock to the beach to get a feel of what it’s like to surf such big and beautiful waves.

But then, again, note that the bigger the wave can get, the more dangerous it can be. Unfortunately, this place has already taken several lives. One of them is Dicki Cross’, a pro surfer who disappeared here in the 1940s.

1995 was also an unfortunate year for Donnie Solomon, a Californian pro surfer. And just in 2015, big-wave surfer Alec Coole also disappeared while surfing Waimea Bay’s waters.

Punta de Lobos, Chile

If you’ve already tried surfing the waters or Praia de Norte, Punta de Lobos’ waves might not be as scary for you to catch. However, don’t be fooled by it. While Punta de Lobos’ waves aren’t even half of the tallest wave recorded in Praia de Norte, this beach can also be scary and dangerous.

At Punta de Lobos, you will love the adrenaline rush that its towering waves can offer as it can reach as high as nearly 30 feet if you’re already an advanced surfer. However, if you’re a beginner to intermediate, you might want to be extra careful when surfing here.

Punta de Lobos can also cater to novice and intermediate surfers. This is because it has parts that are great for honing your skills.

However, what many newbies will not like here is that the waves can get inconsistent. Unfortunately, oftentimes, big waves come without any warning, which can be perilous for beginners. That said, if you’re still not confident with the basics of surfing, you’re probably better off surfing other spots than Punta de Lobos.

Mavericks, California

If you live in the United States and are looking for exciting gigantic waves to surf, don’t look further than California as it is the home of the famous Mavericks. Here, the waves can get as high as around 60 feet.

However, certain natural events, like earthquakes and tsunamis, needless to say, can increase the height of the waves at the Mavericks. But, unlike other locations where the waves can only reach as high as 100 feet, the waves here could reach up to more than 1700 feet, which was recorded in the late 1950s.

But, even on regular days, Mavericks can still be dangerous. In fact, there have been several accidents that already happened over the past two decades.

In 1994, Mark Foo’s death made rounds worldwide. 2011 was also an unfortunate year for Sion Milosky as it was when he drowned, which caused his death.  The next year, Mavericks took the life of Jacob Trette.

Dungeons, South Africa

Dungeons, South Africa

South Africa’s Dungeons is often compared to California’s Mavericks due to its vertical takeoffs and unpredictable times. The height of the waves here also resembles Maverick’s sometimes as they can get as height as 40 feet or more, especially from the month of May to October. Additionally, it has icy waters and sharks.

And these are usually the ingredients to an adrenaline-filled surf experience that many surfers look for. And if you’re feeling like a daredevil, needless to say, this surf spot is for you.

However, this is not always an ideal spot to surf due to the sharks. Yes, sharks are just one of the risks of surfing. But, catching the waves at the Dungeons is different as this place is billed as one of the places in the world that are infested by the most number of sharks lurking, waiting for a surfer to feed on.

Still, it’s a beautiful place that can give you the kind of adrenaline rush that you will not feel elsewhere in the world. Just make sure to be extra careful and keep an eye on the news for updates of shark sightings in the area.

Shipstern Bluff, Australia

Shipstern Bluff is also one of the top spots that surfers from around the globe prefer the most. This is because of how tall its waves can get. Here, you can catch waves that are up to 30 feet in height, which is already equivalent to a four-story building.

Because of how tall its waves can be, many refer to it as the Devil’s Point. Despite that, so far, no death has been recorded in this area, as per Red Bull. True enough, there have been a few accidents that happened here, which resulted in broken bones, split skulls, and even punctured lungs. But, no one has ever died here.

But, of course, you should still double your safety measures as the area is known to have rich marine life. It even houses great white sharks and they are very common in the area.

Unlike other surf spots on this list, you will need to ride a boat first to get here. If that’s not for you, then you can hike through the Tasman National Park, which can be a bit exhausting. But, if you’re into big-wave surfing, this place is definitely worth the boat ride or the hike.

Teahupo’o, Tahiti

Teahupo’o (pronounced as Chop-pu) is merely a small and quiet village. But, it boasts of its monstrous heavy and consistent waves that big-wave surfers will clamor for as they can reach up to 23 feet in height.

If you’re a surfer, you will need top skills to catch Teahupo’o’s waves. Additionally, to successfully surf here, you will have to take off under the lip. This way, you can prevent being launched.

And because of how big and heavy its waves are, many surfers have nearly died in this place, such as Nathan Fletcher and Niccolo Porcella. There were also several deaths recorded.

The most unforgettable death was in 2001 when Briece Taerea got sucked over the falls as he was trying to duck dive a 12-foot wave.

The waves drove him into the the reef and caused him broken bones. It also knocked him into a coma. Two days later, he succumbed to his injuries. Many will never forget this incident as it is one of the most violent deaths related to surfing.

So, like in other surf spots on this list, you need to take extra careful when surfing Teahupo’o’s waters.

Mullaghmore Head, Ireland

Like the waves you can surf in the spots listed here, Mullaghmore Head’s are also huge. They usually get as talls as 20 to 25 feet. Sometimes, they can even get higher and reach nearly 50 feet.

What makes it different from others, though is that its waves aren’t only tall; they are also fast and strong compared to others. It is also a combination of the Mavericks, Teahupo’o, Shipstern Bluff, and Cloudbreak.

For starters, it can get as cold as the Mavericks. It has a lip just like Teahupo’os, Its steps and bumps will remind you of the Shipstern Bluff. Plus, its long runs equals Cloudbreak. Hence, it is crowned as the best big wave destination in Ireland.

Aside from the thrill that it can give pro surfers, this place also boasts of shimmering blue water that will mesmerize you. But, don’t be fooled by its beauty. Because of how big its waves can get, it can also be dangerous.

Fortunately, despite how huge its waves can get and the risks involved when surfing the waters of Mullaghmore Head, no deaths have occurred while surfing here. This is all thanks to the excellent communication between rescue operators, emergency services personnel, as well as the surfers themselves.

But then, again, even if there are medical and rescue experts here who are known to provide utmost service to surfers, it is always best not to test your limits too far. Make sure to also practice safety precautions at all times.

Banzai Pipeline, Hawaii

Of course, who wouldn’t forget about Hawaii when talking about big wave surfing? Usually hailed as one of the United States’ best spots for surfing, this place boasts of gigantic waves that can get as tall as 20 feet.

Because of its beauty and towering waves, this place hosts popular surfing competitions. This includes the Billabong Pipeline Masters, as well as Pipeline Bodysurfing Classic, to name a few.

And if you plan to visit here and try your hand at surfing its huge waves, winter is when you should start packing your bags. This is when Banzai Pipeline’s waves get bigger, guaranteeing you the best and the most exciting big wave surfing experience.

However, it is also the most dangerous place to surf. In fact, it has already claimed the lives of seven surfers (namely Andy Chuda, Travis Mussleman, Moto Watanabe, Malik Joyeux, Jon Mozo, Joshua Nakata, and Joaquin Velilla) since the 1980s. It is also the place that has threatened many surfers with near-death experiences over the past decades.

This is because Banzai’s break waves occur over a reef that follows the shoreline is filled with sharp and jagged edges, running along the shallow water.

In spite of being the deadliest surfing location in the world, Banzai Pipeline still remains one of the most exciting spots for big wave surfers. Its beautiful waves also entice numerous filmmakers. In fact, it is where some scenes from the 2004 movie The Big Bounce were filmed. It is also where Blue Crush and Hawaii Five-O were filmed.

Mentawai Islands, Indonesia

Indonesia is a popular summer destination. Bali alone can offer many great vacation spots that will make your summer memorable.

However, unlike Hawaii, California, and Portugal, it’s not a famous spot for surfing — it’s more known as a place for a relaxing vacation and not some adrenaline-filled one. It turns out, it can fare well with other notable big wave surfing spots. No matter where you look, this place can offer you some of the biggest waves that you can surf in Indonesia.

If you plan to visit here, try to plot your visit between June and September as this is when the waves are the biggest. For more adrenaline rush, don’t miss out on Lance’s Right and lance’s Left Bankwaults, as well as Macaronis. You’ll need a charter boat or a ferry to get there, though. Yet, it’s worth it.

Puerto Escondido, Mexico

Portugal isn’t the only surfing spot in the world that has a secret canyon. It turns out, Puerto Escondido has one too. And just as how the canyon affects Portugal’s waves, Puerto Escondido’s underwater canyons are also the ones responsible for the towering waves in this area too. For that reason, you have swells that can reach up to 40 feet.

However, it is also one of the deadliest. In 2007, it took the life of Ron Cassidy; in 2011, Noel Robinson; then, Jay Adams in 2014. The most recent: Oscar Serra, who died just this year after falling from a six-foot wave.

And because of the amount of dangers involved in surfing Puerto Escondido, the authorities have made improvements to ensure a safer space for surfers, as well as other visitors in the area. Still, that doesn’t make its wave any safer. When surfing the waters of Puerto Escondido, it is definitely still important to be extra careful.

Cortes Bank, California

The Mavericks is a household name when talking about the biggest waves to surf, especially in California. But, California isn’t only about the Mavericks. Apparently, it also has the Cortes Bank.

Here, you can catch waves with a height that’s between 20 feet and 100 feet. This is due to the submerged mountains meeting the deep waters of the Pacific.

And, with such huge waves, it’s common for surfers to have their lives threatened at some point when surfing Cortes Bank. Greg Long is the latest surfer who has had a near-death experience due to the waves at Cortes Bank. He was held under 50-foot waves, which caused him to nearly drown and lose his life in 2014.

So,, if you decide to brave the waves of Cortes Bank, make sure that your skills are already enough for you to surf such huge swells. Also, don’t forget to keep an eye on the wave forecast in the area.

The Right, Australia

Like California, Australia is also a place that has several spots where you can enjoy big waves. Aside from Shipstern Bluff, you will never go wrong in surfing The Right if you’re craving some adrenaline rush and humongous waves.

Be careful, though, as you should be worried about getting wiped out. Apparently, The Right is home to numerous sharks. So, you should be more careful.

Jaws, Hawaii

14 Beaches with the Biggest Waves in the World

If you think you’re still not prepared for surfing the towering waves in the first places mentioned on this list, you might want to check out Jaws instead. Located in Hawaii, this place’s waves reach up to 15 feet.

When compared to other big-wave surf spots on this list, it’s quite small, which makes it a great place for big-wave surfing, especially if you’re still afraid to face the waters of Portugal.

Aside from its size, many advanced surfers, as well as other tourists, also love it here due to how its waves look. Unlike other big waves, Jaws’ remains perfect in spite of its huge size. And such beauty makes it easier for surfers to paddle in or get towed to catch the wave.

The beauty of Jaws offers big-wave surfers to showcase their talent better. Plus, they can get to enjoy an open face and, sometimes, deep barrel, which makes it a cut among the rest.

And fortunately, despite its massive waves, no death has been recorded surfing at Jaws.

Waves as big as the ones on this list are definitely daunting, especially if you’re still trying to learn the basics of the sport. And if you’re a newbie, it’s definitely impossible to surf here. Even some of the pros had to fight for their lives when surfing in these places.

However, surfing such massive waves can bring you the adrenaline rush that you might not be able to feel elsewhere — even in the tallest or the fastest roller coaster ride you know. But, remember, the bigger the wave, the more risks is involved when surfing. So, make sure that you’ve already polished your skills before surfing these places.

About David Miller

Passionnate about extreme sports since a young age, I started my journey with brazilian Jiu Jitsu and skydiving. After 2000 jumps, I’m now a professionnel skydiver focus on wingsuit flying. I’m writing about all kind of extreme sports, trying to find the best spots in the world to do it.

Leave a Comment