Article

Is This Wave a World Record?

The politics of quantifying big-wave surfing, from our March issue

| posted on February 15, 2012

The wave in question: A Portuguese PR firm kicked off a media blitz when it circulated an unsubstantiated press release stating that this wave, caught by Garrett McNamara, was a 90-foot new world record. Photo: Caldeira

On a pleasant April day in 1953, a soft-spoken, 21-year-old New York Yankee named Mickey Mantle took the plate against Washington Senators’ home-team pitcher Chuck Stobbs. With two men out and Yogi Berra leading off first base, Stobbs slung a chest-high fastball. Mantle gave a mighty swing and sent the ball soaring into a 20-knot tailwind. It was a clear home run—the longest ever in the small stadium. Yet on its downward arc, after traveling 460 linear feet over the heads of slack-jawed fans, the ball ricocheted off a billboard for National Bohemian Beer and bounced clear out of Clark Griffith Stadium. Smelling a big story, the Yankees’ enterprising PR agent went to find the ball in the street. When he returned, he reported that the ball had traveled an additional 105 feet. It was a front-page story in the next day’s New York Daily News. The news spread around the world like wildfire.

It was an epic blast, but was it really 565 feet? And what about that extra bounce off the sign? In the end it didn’t really matter. The PR agent’s story stuck. Mickey Mantle had set the first of a lifetime of world records.

I spin this yarn because it’s a modern parallel to a media event that began to unfold on November 1, 2011, when a not so soft-spoken hellman named Garrett McNamara grabbed the tow rope off a barely-known hamlet on the Portuguese coast called Nazaré. McNamara had been invited some time earlier to work with local officials eager to promote Nazaré and to prove that a three-mile-deep gash in the near-shore seafloor could focus deepwater swells to produce waves that rivaled those found at Belharra, Jaws, Mavericks, and the Cortes Bank.

Garrett is a three-time XXL winner and, of course, no stranger to massive waves. Waiting around in remote locations for something radical to happen is a large part of how he makes a living. This is the same man who, in 2007, sat shivering for hours—bobbing among car-sized chunks of ancient, fizzing ice—waiting for Child’s Glacier to calve a 30-story skyscraper so he and his friend, Kealii Mamala, might harness a tsunami. It was a feat justifiably termed “Stunt of the Year” in a story I later wrote for another publication. Garrett is known for both escaping and being obliterated by some of the heaviest barrels in history and emerging from skin-shredding wipeouts—particularly at Teahupoo—laughing like a lunatic. He once allowed himself to be filmed as a giant millipede crawled out of his mouth. He would make an excellent contestant on Fear Factor. He is, in the words of Greg Long, “One of the most extreme high-sensation seekers on the planet.”

In an echoing of Alaska, Garrett’s efforts and patience appeared set to pay off in November. Unlike several other big-wave surfers who had also been alerted to the potential at Nazaré, McNamara heeded forecasts that indicated a low-pressure system might blitz Europe with a truly giant swell. McNamara was met by Andrew Cotton and Alastair Mennie—a Brit and an Irishman widely known for charging through the head-splitting Gaelic barrels off Mullaghmore Head. The trio found 27 feet of deep-water swell creating towering peaks off Nazaré’s Praia do Norte (North Beach) in the 50- to 60-foot range. The wave was not as critical as, say, Mavs or Jaws, but it was one of the biggest beachbreaks ever seen.

As Mennie sat gobsmacked in the channel, a wave—or perhaps a conjoined pair of waves—focused into a single towering peak that Mennie described as “a rogue.” Cotton pegged the throttle and Garrett bounced and skipped into a massive, emerald left, then ran down the line for about 20 seconds, avoiding a cascading lip and deepwater punishment.

Word of the wave was leaked through a Tweet by Kelly Slater on November 3: “I just saw a shot of Garrett Macnamara [sic] from Portugal on a stupidly big wave. He should post that thing ASAP. Looks like huge Jaws.” On November 6, a newly registered mystery man, who identified himself as “Mattice,” created a post on Surfermag.com’s online Forum. “Garrett McNamara breaks record for world’s biggest wave ridden,” he wrote. “Will be on news soon.”

Who was Mattice? What did his cryptic words mean? Other message-boarders waited, wondered, and hurled praise and insult onto Garrett, Laird, and one another.

Two days later, a press release from Praia do Norte public relations went viral with the headline: “Garrett Mcnamara Breaks World Record Riding The Biggest Wave Ever In Nazaré!!” Sportscaster Jim Rome frothed: “That is CG right there, and I don’t mean computer generated, I mean completely gnarly.” ESPN Sports Center host Scott Van Pelt brushed off Kelly Slater’s 11th world title win by stating, “That’s great, but he can’t touch Garrett McNamara.” And although SURFER scribe Kimball Taylor’s ESPN blog pointed out that the only source for the world-record claim seemed to be a public relations statement from Nazaré, even his story carried the headline, “Garrett McNamara breaks world record for largest wave ever surfed.”

A world record was declared on Good Morning America, CNN, SI.com and The Daily Beast. Gizmodo blogger Andrew Tarantola wrote: “Apparently born without a sense of fear, Garrett McNamara just broke the world record for largest wave surfed by successfully navigating this 90-foot wall of watery death. The previous record—77 feet—was set by Mike Parsons in 2008. Sorry Mike.” HuffingtonPost sports reporter Dan Treadway sourced Tarantola, chiding Mike Parsons for “surfing a paltry 77-foot wave,” at the Cortes Bank.

Mike Parsons’ XXL-winning wave at Cortes Bank from 2008. The XXL panel measured it at 77 feet, which is still recognized undisputedly by Guinness as the largest ever ridden—it will remain so until XXL judges determine if a new world record has been set this spring. Photo: Brown/BillabongXXL.com

The Huffington Post, NPR, and a host of newspaper writers who also gave McNamara the record cited a website called SurferToday.com, a website that did little more than regurgitate the original press release. I’d never heard of SurferToday, so I asked editor Luis Pinto to see what he made of all this. Turns out that Luis is both Portuguese and apparently worked with the North Canyon promotional team in deeming the wave a world record. “Fortunately, I’m not a journalist, a judge, or a member of the Guinness Book of Records,” he wrote me in an email. “I simply have my own opinion.”

Much of the surf media—including SURFER, The Surfer’s Journal, and Surfline—largely ignored the wave, a fact Mavericks surfer, XXL judge, and Surfing Editor Taylor Paul pointed out in their blog. “We ignored it because Garrett, or somebody in his camp, claimed it,” he wrote. “Ninety feet. World record. And that doesn’t sit well with us because it breaks the surfer’s code…that we must let our surfing do the talking and appreciate whatever recognition may come of it.”

Garrett was understandably cagey about talking to me, but to his credit, he answered my questions unflinchingly. Contrary to assumptions and accusations, he said, “I did not have a publicist or any ‘PR Machine.’” The only help I had was my love Nicole who is a school teacher and helped with everything. The North Canyon Project does not have a PR machine either. Only three people out of everyone working on the project made any money—three videographers, who earned a thousand dollars for two months of work. I did not make any money from the project.”

McNamara said that he had no idea how big the wave was when he was riding it. When he saw it, he only knew it was big. Nicole, however, suggested he send the footage to a former XXL judge (who said it could be as big as 85-90 feet) along with an oceanographer and a handful of surfers, including Kelly Slater and Greg Noll. All of them told Garrett it was a big wave—one of the biggest ever documented—so it was then sent on to Bill Sharp for consideration by XXL judges for both “Biggest Wave” and “Ride of the Year.”

“There is also a Kinetics Sports Movement Institute where they have the latest technology,” Garrett said. “They frame-grabbed three different times through the wave at different points and got anywhere from 28-31 meters [91-102 feet].”

McNamara said that he did not tell the North Canyon team to describe his wave as a 90-foot-high world record—giving some credence to Luis Pinto’s assertion. “I did not agree to put 90 feet,” he said. “They put around 90 feet, which I didn’t agree to either. It’s not my project, so in the end, they did what they wanted. Then for some reason, the mainstream media ran with it, and the surf media did what they usually do: If it was one of the surf companies’ team riders who dictate to the magazines, he would be a hero. I think the reason the mainstream media grabbed a hold of the story is because this year has been full of negativity—even sports has had a rough year.”

“Garrett’s wave—it really was an accomplishment,” said Greg Noll during a phone call. “And you know, he doesn’t always get the kind of credit he deserves for the shit he does. It’s hard to get recognized if you’re dancing to your own tune, as opposed to when you have six guys attacking a spot. I like and respect the hell out of the guy. He’s so sincere. He’s just off doing his own thing, and he stumbles into some incredible stuff.”

“I appreciate Garrett’s animalistic, raw energy,” added Ken “Skindog” Collins, a two-time XXL winner. “He’s a beast—caveman style. But GMac rubs a lot of people the wrong way. Some have said to me that he owes the world an apology—that the wave’s not that big. Well, I’m not going down the path of thinking I’m going to discredit Garrett’s wave, look like a hater, and belittle big-wave surfing. What he did trumped everyone’s hype button tenfold. He’s going to bring more attention to big-wave surfing.”

It was on these points that other big-wave surfers like Greg Long, Mark Healey, and Grant “Twiggy” Baker generally agreed. But there was disagreement on whether that attention is all positive. Part of the reason, of course, is that Garrett’s wave has yet to face the actual scrutiny of the Billabong XXL judging panel, which over the past decade, has become the de facto authority in judging big waves and is, for better or worse, the body that reports “official” world records to Guinness. “I’m afraid that it might just back up our ‘Spicoli’ image to the main stream once a real [XXL] measurement comes out,” said Mark Healey. “It’s about as good for the sport as prematurely crowning an 11-time World Champion.”

The XXL Awards are the brainchild of former Surfing Editor Bill Sharp, whose basic idea was that the longstanding tradition of under-calling big waves was doing surfers a disservice. Why should a wave that’s clearly 50 feet high be called a 25-footer? Measure the year’s biggest waves, and reward the surfer accordingly. The awards now include more subjective categories like Monster Tube, Best Overall Performance, and Ride of the Year, and thousands of entries in these categories are vetted annually by a 300-member “academy,” of surfers, journalists, and photographers. But the judgment that still matters most, and the one subject to the most scrutiny, is the judgment for the year’s biggest wave, which is decided by an 8- to 10-person panel of big-wave surfers, meteorologists, and journalists that has included Sean Collins, Jeff Divine, Steve Hawk, Sam George, Chris Mauro, Evan Slater, and the late Larry “Flame” Moore and Philip “Flippy” Hoffman. Records have been set at Jaws, Mavericks, and the Cortes Bank, and sent on to Guinness—which accepts the XXL ruling as law. In 2008, XXL panelists unanimously decided that a four-year-old, 70-foot record held by Pete Cabrinha at Jaws was eclipsed by Mike Parsons on a 77-footer at Cortes Bank—a ride Hoffman once described to me as “the biggest goddamned thing I ever saw.”

I was a judge on last year’s XXL panel when we declared Benjamin Sanchis the Big Wave winner for a ride at France’s Belharra (a tow-in that was not in consideration for a world record) and ruled on Shane Dorian’s Monster Paddle wave at Jaws, which we saw as a potential world record. Everyone in the room was aware that the decision would change the lives of Sanchis and especially Dorian, and every effort was made to measure accurately and reach a consensus. To do anything less for someone willing to put himself into such a deadly position would be the height of disrespect. Everyone scrutinized and measured the waves from every photographic angle available. Using a known height of Dorian crouched in position, we unanimously calculated the wave to be 57 feet high—a mere two feet higher than Shawn Dollar’s Maverick’s paddle-in record from the year before.

Still, such close measurements mean that the process is fraught with peril. Where’s the trough? How tall is the surfer to the inch? What about different camera angles? What constitutes a successful (and thus XXL-eligible) ride? Can 3D technology save the day? What if you brought in a sniper to help figure out distances and perspectives? As important as big-wave surfing is becoming, how do you avoid any perception of bias? These are questions Skindog, and a small group of big-wave surfers he has been in talks with, have been wrestling over.

“The judgment of whether to include a wave [in the XXL Awards], and world records especially, should be coming from a panel of big-wave riders,” he says. “I’m not bashing Bill [Sharp], or Billabong. What they’ve done for big-wave surfing is incredible and I’ve benefitted from it. But when Billabong hands out a world record to one of their team riders, it does Billabong and that surfer a disservice, because it opens up the judgment to questioning. When Garrett gets a giant tube at Teahupoo but doesn’t get a nomination. When Sion doesn’t get nominated for an incomplete ride, but Shane does. Even if there is no bias, it’s gonna be perceived like Paramount handing out Oscars to its own actors.”

To Skindog, the solution is an association of big-wave surfers that would not only have a hand in judging world records and the XXL Awards, but also weigh in on the invitees to big-wave contests, including the event at Mavericks and the Eddie. “Bring on a solid group of big wave surfers, legends,” he says. “Guys from Australia, NorCal, and Hawaii, who are deeply involved in all this. It gets rid of thoughts of corruption or agendas and it eliminates the possibility of a world record being handed out by a PR team.”

Which is exactly what happened in Garrett’s case. The wave could be 90 feet. It might still be a world record. But only time—and the XXL panel—will tell. But in the meantime, we might do well to hear some parting words passed along by Greg Noll: “You ride big waves for the love, and the joy, and the adrenaline rush—and that’s what Garrett—hell, what all these guys have in common. How they express themselves may come out a little differently, but they’re all part of the same family.”

  • Ruy

    Yeah well, I too wouldn’t say McNamara’s wave is a world record or bigger than Parsons’. And I also agree the whole media process behind the ultra-hyped world record was pretty “arrogant”. McNamara can say what he wants, but there was a big media project behind the whole thing, especially coming from Zon, a portuguese cable company who “sponsors” the Grand Canyon project and who used it to promote itself and the whole world-record wave thing. But i mean, it’s no different than what surf brands also do. That’s why companies have marketing, PR, advertising and communication departments. It’s just that this time it was targeting non-surf audience as opposed to what surf brands do. And that’s something the surf world despises. Just like the surf world despised “Jimmy Slade” and Baywatch, Point Break, and anything surf related directed at a non-surfing audience. It’s just the way we are. Our tribe-like heritage. But one thing is true though, McNamara’s Nazaré wave is one damn big wave. XXL material. And as a kid and for 15 years I lived a mere 30 minute drive from that beach break in Nazaré. I know it well. And I’ve always seen huge huge rideable waves come through unridden. It IS a spot that rivals with Jaws, Mavericks or Belharra on huge swells.

  • Julie

    I don’t think it’s the biggest wave ever ridden…I’d like to give that trophy to Laird Hamilton. I think it’s the biggest wave ever ridden that’s been caught on tape.

  • tillish bazooka

    …I did not despise point break!

  • Thadius

    When is the Billabong XXL panel going to make an official judgement on this ride? I don’t think it’s the biggest wave ever ridden, although it’s definitely XXL as can be. I’d really like to hear a ruling on it, though … I read this a few weeks back when the new issue came out and I’ve been hoping they’d make the call since then.

  • http://DrRik.net Rik Cederstrom

    I have had the heavies compliment me by telling me that I ride true 15 foot waves (North Shore). Maybe I’ve ridden a twenty. These are friggen’, big, scary, badass and FUN (for the survivors). All this ego-babble is for those who haven’t been there. Big wave surfers are some of the nicest and most humble people on the planet. They are also a different breed of human being.
    Garrett is not the world’s best surfer, but he is strong and determined, and a fun guy. He earned this wave and whatever he gets from it.

  • Toni Silva

    Dear Chris Dixon,
    Didn´t you released a book about the biggest waves a few weeks before this wave in Nazaré – Portugal?
    The title of your book is: “Ghost Wave – The discovery of Cortes Bank and THE BIGGEST WAVE ON EARTH”.
    shouldn’t you write exactly the same words about your book? THE BIGGEST WAVE ON EARTH? Do you know every places on EARTH with BIG WAVES?
    Are you upset with something?
    It wasn´t good for business?
    Aren’t you a judge of Billabong XXL?
    Is this a decent article from someone that is going to judge this wave? I´m so sad Chris!!!

  • Dman

    Oh please.. Bill sahrp and the whole KOOK squad who thinks they are the ONLY people who can judge a bug wave is a JOKE. How about a bunch of big wave surfers not old has been photogs or team managers. Surfing is lame sometimes.

  • danl

    Talk about showoffs: despite him trying to portray the image of a soul big-wave surfer, GM is as much into self hero worship and aggrandizing as any one of the NFL prima donnas, and he’ll stop at nothing to build his adoring public. Lots of things you see him doing are artificial situations with camera crews and makeup artists. I saw him at the 2011 Pipe Masters walking around with the board in the beach crowd and trying to surf it at 3rd reef and looking like a self-promoting fool. Good surfer yeah, but an ego 100 times bigger than that Nazare wave … which by the way is no bigger than Snips’ wave. Additionally, Garrett’s wave was shot from an elevated angle, lengthening the trough and providing the illusion of height. Snips was shot at sea level and it still looked absolutely giant. GM needs to get over himself in the worst way.

  • PDSF

    I think Sean Collins is “late” as well…

  • http://ghostwavebook.com Chris Dixon

    Dear Toni – Yeah, I wrote the book – and I’m sorry you’re sad. If you read the book, it has nothing to do with Portugal – though I do give several mentions to Garrett in it. And this article has nothing to do with the book and I would have written it whether I had written a book or not. I was asked to write it by the editors at Surfer – a magazine I have written for and been associated with since 1989 – and because I have been a judge at the XXL’s and was in a position to explain how they work. So why would I refuse that request?

    This story has to do with the fact that this was the FIRST time that ANY ENTITY has come out and announced that a wave was a world record before that wave received any sort of official judging or scrutiny – or was put before the XXL judges. It was also about the fact that the mainstream media – supposedly reliable sources from NPR to CNN to ABC news and a host of others, went ahead and declared the wave a world record without bothering to see if that was, in fact, the case. Its purpose was also to pull the veil of mystery from behind the XXL judging and to show – for better or worse – how it works.

    I might add – and I had written this in the article originally – that because of any appearance of bias, and because I had authored a book about the Cortes Bank, that I told both Bill Sharp and Sean Collins that I will NOT ask to be a judge at this year’s XXL’s. But that line was edited out of the story. A fact Brendon Thomas would attest to.

    I might also add that, unsurprisingly, I saw a bump in book sales after Garrett’s wave was ridden – so if anything, his ride was, in fact, good for business. A number of people have told me that they picked up the book after seeing Garrett’s wave on YouTube and elsewhere. It’s like Skindog says, the wave upped the hype meter big time – and made a huge number of people aware of how radical big wave surfing is. So I will take this opportunity to thank Garrett publicly for a few things. 1. Helping sales of Ghost Wave. 2. answering my questions in the story and not ducking them out. 3. Being such an entertaining, hard-charging and controversial figure.

    You obviously feel very passionate about this issue. Do you have any connection with Zon – the largest cable TV operator in Portugal, and sponsor of the Zon Canyon surf project – or are you just a big fan? — CD

  • geband

    donde esta’ Laird Hamilton in all this???!

  • rodney p

    If the surfer is 10 feet tall then you might have a 90 foot wave here….but it looks a lot closer to 60 feet to me.

  • Toni Silva

    Dear Chris Dixon,
    Didn´t you released a book about the biggest waves a few weeks before this wave in Nazaré – Portugal?
    The title of your book is: “Ghost Wave – The discovery of Cortes Bank and THE BIGGEST WAVE ON EARTH”.
    shouldn’t you write exactly the same words about your book? THE BIGGEST WAVE ON EARTH? Do you know every places on EARTH with BIG WAVES?
    Are you upset with something?
    It wasn´t good for business?
    Aren’t you a judge of Billabong XXL?
    Is this a decent article from someone that is going to judge this wave? I´m so sad Chris!!!

  • John

    Garrett’s wave is huge, but it is photographed from a very high camera angle, and that exaggerates the apparent height. Mike Parson’s wave was photographed from water level, which does the opposite to the apparent height. Garrett’s wave is somewhere between 60 and 75 feet.

  • Toni Silva

    Dear Chris,

    Thank you for your answer. I´m really happy for you!! And more happy to know that this wave in Nazaré Portugal helped the big wave surf industry all over.

    best regards

  • Mick

    Chris,

    I just finished your book today (yes, literally today) and I appreciate how you seemed to appear conflicted between the camp that says take the “bounty” away from big wave surfing and the people involved with the XXL. I think this story shows the need for there to be some authority that makes the official and final call on wave heights.

    Good article and great book.

  • Amish

    Mike’s wave you can’t even see the trough, and is still the biggest! My theory, size of the man minus a foot and a half for the speed crouch, then trough to lip, and slide ruler.

  • Makela

    This is the first time I have ever written in any type of forum. I realize that there might not be much going on for you people who take the time to write about things you know nothing about. Since you have so much spare time on your hands to pass judgment you might want to check the facts before forming an opinion. There are a few things that I have seen consistently expressed that are far from the truth.

    1- In a crouched, surfing position Garrett McNamara, measures to be 5’4. Do the math.

    2- The correct way to measure a wave is to determine how tall Garrett is in a crouched position(5’4), determine the top of the wave at its highest point, determine the bottom of the wave, then you figure out how many Garrett’s fit between the top and the bottom. Take some time to actually do the calculation the correct way and then tell me how tall you think the wave is??????

    3- The other thing that needs to be taken into consideration is that Parsons wave was taken with a BIG lens that was pulled all the way back which gives a railroad track effect, making things at the end of the railroad look much smaller than they actually are and…… where is the bottom?????? You can’t even measure it because there is no bottom!!! How do you measure a wave without a bottom????. Garrett’s wave seems to be taken from a low vantage point since you can still see the wave in front of it and it was also zoomed in which will make a wave look smaller. I read somewhere that Al Mennie who was in the water on the shoulder said it was every bit of 90 feet.

    4- A lot of people also seem to think they have a right to make assumptions and judgments on Garrett McNamara’s character. I highly suggest that before you form an opinion you meet him in person. He is one of the most giving and caring people I have ever met and would literally give the shirt off his back to someone he has just meet. Even one of you haters who spit garbage out of your mouths Garrett would leave that all behind an treat you with respect and kindness. All you people who have something negative to say about him should back that up with examples because I doubt you have any!!!!!!

    5- All these people are accusing Garrett for claiming…. I haven’t read or seen one interview where Garrett claimed anything. If your going to point a finger, point it at your self. Chris Dixon being the biggest person who needs to point a finger at himself. He writes that hogwash article about Garrett claiming, when he spent three years of his life writing a book CLAIMING in the tittle that Cortes is the biggest wave in the world. That is the biggest claim I have ever heard. Also I can guarantee that Surfer didn’t ask him to write the article. He pushed and begged Surfer to write this article!!! I’d like to see those e-mails of him begging!!!Then the people he has in the article, Skin dog and Healy, can’t even leave their house without their sponsors plastered all over their body!!! You can’t catch Healy on land without his Monster hat on and I doubt he even drinks the stuff. Then skindog slaps a Volcum sticker on the podium before accepting his award for best barrel for a 15ft beach break . Who’s really sold out here and claiming, and rubbing people the right way by sticking their tongue so far up the surf industry and corporate americas ass that they are taking “tossing the salad” to a whole new level.

    I think Garrett McNamara should pull his wave from XXL judging proving that he doesn’t care how big the wave is and that he didn’t ride the wave for the money.

  • Makela

    So if someone says something that rubs you the wrong way you just delete their post??????????

    Can’t handle the truth …huh???

    Bunch of ego maniac, self promoting CLAIMERS!!! You guys aren’t surfers your CLAIMERS!!!!

  • John

    My hobby over the past decade has been estimating the height of giant waves by using the “head-high” scale. I have analyzed Garrett’s Portugal wave several times, because I was excited about it. I paint photorealistic pictures of these historic waves. Garrett’s wave was photographed from a very, very high camera angle. The higher the camera angle, the greater the exaggerated apparent height of the wave. I estimated his wave as between 60 and 75 feet, depending on how high the camera angle really is. That can be tested by going to the exact place on that cliff from which the photo and video was shot.

    Mike Parson’s Cortez waves was photographed from WATER LEVEL. That has the opposite affect. It makes the wave look a little smaller than it really is. Most expert watermen know this.

    The way to get an accurate height estimate is a panel of surf experts participate with a CGI artist in mapping the wave into a CGI grid. Garrett is photographed in the exact pose as in the photo, and photographed standing up straight. The two photos are compared and ratio is calculated. How tall is Garrett? That is the head-high scale.

  • JT

    No way close to 90 feet, politics as usual!

  • http://ghostwavebook.com Chris Dixon

    Makala, It was actually quite the opposite. I was very hesitant to write the article because of exactly the reasons you describe – something Brendon and Alex Wilson would also attest to. In the end, the only reason I wrote it was because they felt very strongly that I was the person to do so. And where in the article – or my email do I write that Garrett claimed it. I don’t know who made the “claim” – only Garrett and the Zon folks – those who made the decision to post the wave as a world record know for sure. But it’s pretty obvious that someone claimed it – otherwise it wouldn’t have been called a world record without facing any scrutiny. If you read my earlier post, that is partly what the article is about. I’m curious as to why you think that a claim that the biggest wave ever was ridden is somehow 1: Not news. 2. Something that shouldn’t subject to some scrutiny. That in my mind, is a big part of what’s wrong with the world – the fact that anyone is happy to read a press release these days – as fact. No matter whether the subject matter is surfing or politics – or both.

    And as for Cortes being the biggest wave in the world, it is, as far as anyone knows, a spot capable of holding a surfable, non-closeout wave better than 150 feet high if you were to throw enough swell at it. A fact verified by Bill O’Reilly, a surfer professor/doctor from Scripps who developed NOAA’s CDIP program seafloor mapping and wave measureing projects, and of course, by Sean Collins.

    http://www.surfline.com/surflinetv/how-it-works/how-it-works-cortes-bank_22567

  • Makela

    So Chris, I see you are still claiming that Cortes is the biggest wave in the world!!! According to “everyone” you say…. who is everyone???

    John- you are right that it seems to be a 60-75 ft wave, but if you notice in the video it jumps up about 20-30ft higher for about 2 seconds making it an gigantic wave. This is due to three swells coming in at the same timing forming a wedge effect. Garrett just happened to be right in the middle of that wedge for a second or two.

    I think what you propose is a great idea to figure out the exact height and would be very interesting!!!

  • http://ghostwavebook.com Chris Dixon

    Makela – How about reading my posts in their entirety before spouting off and misquoting me. And how about posting your real name on this forum.

  • Dan

    Its a huge wave and garret doesn’t get a lot of core respect for it. I don’t think its 90 ft on the face. Thats too big. He also didn’t get much credit for the huge wave he paddled into at mavericks 5 years ago, pretty much one of the biggest waves ever paddled, I think because he was wearing a life jacket, which was rather unfashionable then but is commonplace now.

  • Rick

    When a chunk of ice falls into the ocean and displaces a bunch of water causing massive displacement and an ensuing wave it’s called a “seiche,” not a tsunami.

  • John

    Makela: “…you are right that it seems to be a 60-75 ft wave, but if you notice in the video it jumps up about 20-30ft higher for about 2 seconds making it an gigantic wave. This is due to three swells coming in at the same timing forming a wedge effect. Garrett just happened to be right in the middle of that wedge for a second or two…..”

    I appreciate your opinion on this. The video posted above is 1:04 minutes. See the second counter at the bottom of the screen and tell me at what second of the video you think the wave jumps up 20+ feet?

    I think it is amazing that even from a high camera angle from the cliff, Garrett was completely hidden by the previous wave. Those 2 waves were very close together. I wonder how many seconds the period was? Or something about the wave that gully channels the waves that compresses them to be unusually close together.

  • kingG

    Did you here about the planet the US has found.
    It’s 2.7 times the size of earth and made almost of just water now I think a planet of this size would be capable of some real 100-150ft waves so on your bike boys that 100ft wave is only a few million light years away.

  • helder brás

    The only issue here is that the previous record of the biggest wave ever riden was from a windsurfer named pete cabrinha, something hard to swallow for the big surf comunity, so the corporate billabong a brand that puts money on the big surf, puts some 7 feet more on a team rider and excells the 70 foot previous ride. Now with the ride of Mc Namara they are going to do the same. But may be in the future they will sponsor Mc Namara and then magically…… the 90 foot wave will apear.
    So this is bullshit, for me the important is that if you have the balls and dare go paddle surfing Nazare in those 60 foot waves as you call it, just like the tiny ones you americans paddle in maveriks…
    Have a good day Chris

  • dmt4

    put a gps in riders’ boards??

  • John

    To measure wave height exactly, use tiny buoys, like ping pong balls, that float in the impact zone. As they bob from trough to crest they exactly measure wave height. There should be a number of them anchored by weights to the reef and should be cheap and harmless if a surfer comes in contact with the line. They should be connected with easily detatchable segments for safety. They transmit their data to a receiver with a time stamp, so you know who was riding the wave.

  • John

    Results now in. Garrett’s wave was judged by the Billabong XXL to be 78 feet. It won the biggest wave ridden of the year. I think they are exaggerating the height of this wave by 10 feet.

  • John

    I just finished analyzing an enlarged frame of this video. Notice the chosen frame for the XXL is just before Garrett became obscurred by spray from the previous wave. Just before he disappears he slightly crouched MORE and the illusion is that he is much SMALLER than he really is. Conclusion, wave height overstated by 5 to 10 feet, and will appear in the Guiness Book of World Records as 78 feet.

  • João Nobre

    The truth on the biggest waves and their “real” size will always be discussed. Politics, and interests might be involved, photos and films may get adulterated, opinions can diverge… but the truth of Man´s pursuit for the ultimate limits will always be news and mater of discussion.
    I´ve always been a fan of big waves, independently where they break, and i believe that the biggest waves ever surfed were never shot or filmed.
    In defence of Nazaré grand Canyon waves, the only thing i´ve got to say is, that spot has huge waves that were n´t surfable unless by ” tow in”, and just like “jaws” and other spots after the tow in was introduced, Nazaré´s biggest waves might be really discovered and surfed one day in a near future (i´ve already seen bigger waves, in old pictures and also story’s from local fisherman of Nazaré).
    The Climatic changes in the world and the new surfing techniques, allied to over wide technologies spread to everyone will provide successfully new conquers and records.
    Just wait and be patient, because the future of ridding big waves is still to be revealed.

  • imageAMMO