Is this really the biggest wave ever surfed?

Garrett McNamara rides the big one in Nazare, Portugal. Photo by Tó Mané

Garrett McNamara rides the big one in Nazare, Portugal. Photo by Tó Mané

On Monday 28 January 2013, Hawaiian big wave surfer Garret McNamara was towed into what many people believe to be a 90-100ft wave off the coast of Nazaré, Portugal, the same place McNamara set his 2011 Guinness World Record for riding a 78ft wave.

Apart from the sheer courage, skill and even luck required to surf a wave of that magnitude, the location is particularly unique too, from a geological perspective that is. McNamara himself explains,  “There is an underwater canyon 1,000ft deep that runs from the ocean right up to the cliffs. It’s like a funnel. At its ocean end it’s three miles wide but narrows as it gets closer to the shore and when there is a big swell it acts like an amplifier.” McNamara also reportedly remarked, “The waves break into cliffs 300ft in height. You can’t contemplate coming off because it would kill you.”

Looking at the picture, there’s no denying that the wave is massive and could very well be in the region of 90-100ft and hats off to McNamara and his team for being there and taking on the swell, but I cant help but wonder, is this really the biggest wave ever surfed? It quite possibly is, but how big is it really? In my experience, surfers have always had differing opinions as to how big a wave might be. One man’s 2ft is 4ft for the next and as the size increases, so too does the exaggeration. Either way, it will be interesting to see what the ‘official’ height is and how it was determined. In my humble opinion, this wave is no less than 70ft in height and I wont be surprised if its 100ft.

What do you think? Do you think this is the biggest wave ever surfed? And more importantly, do you think that the 100ft surfing benchmark has been achieved here?

Advertisements

Surfing in Muizenberg

Words and Photographs by Gero Lilleike (unless otherwise stated)

I awake to the gentle sound of the sea and as I rise from my slumber, I look out my window and smile. Not too far away, 3ft waves roll toward the beach, beckoning me to go play. The sun is out, the sky is blue and it’s time to go surf. I arrive at ‘Surfers Corner’ in Muizenberg and find myself in chaos as throngs of people bustle on the beach and in the sea, soaking up this beautiful day like seals in the sun.

Muizenberg Beach, Cape Town, South Africa

I suit up and make my way to the waters edge. Everywhere I look I see people, most with some sort of surf craft at hand. Muizenberg is one of many crowded surf spots in Cape Town and I would even go so far as to say that it’s quite possibly the most crowded surf spot in South Africa. The wave at Muizenberg is generally quite small and breaks gently, making it a particularly popular beach for people wanting to learn how to surf. Paddling out at Muizenberg is like driving into oncoming traffic, you constantly have to dodge and dive to avoid collisions with other surfers. Getting a wave to yourself is a rare occasion and everyone paddles for the same wave making it a free-for-all wave frenzy. Surfing etiquette? What’s that? I wasn’t out for long and before I could even react a surfer rode over me leaving me to bleed in the sea.

The view at Muizenberg, Cape Town, South Africa

Apart from the perils of surfing at Muizenberg, it can be a fun place to surf, especially when there’s a record to break. In 2009, the Earthwave Beach Festival saw 443 surfers take to the water, attempting to set the Guinness World Record for the most surfers to ride a single wave. The attempt was successful, with 110 surfers riding the same wave, beating the old record of 100 set in Santos, Brazil in 2008. To this day, Muizenberg holds that record proudly.

Another interesting fact is that Muizenberg is considered to be the birth place of surfing in South Africa. The earliest recorded surfing event in South Africa apparently took place in Muizenberg in 1919 when Heather Price, a Capetonian woman, befriended two American marines who disembarked in Cape Town on their way home after World War One. The two kind gentlemen happened to have solid wood, Hawaiian style surfboards and proceeded to introduce Heather to stand-up wave riding. The photograph of Heather Price surfing in Muizenberg speaks for itself.

If you ever have the pleasure of visiting Cape Town and have the nerve to learn how to surf, visit Muizenberg, rent a board or a surf instructor and go for a paddle, you might be pleasantly surprised at how fun surfing really is. Good luck and enjoy.

Steve Erwin (Surf Shack), The Best Surf Instructor in Muizenberg, Cape Town, South Africa