As Santa Cruz surfer Darryl "Flea" Virostko famously said of a hold down at Mavericks "It was like trying to do a sit up with a fat chick sat on my face". Shakespear it ain't but Flea definitely conveys the message of how a serious wipeout in huge surf can punish a surfer. The team riders at Northcore™ certainly know a thing or two about riding big waves, especially brand Ambassador Richie Fitzgerald. Based over in Bundoran, Richie has surfed some of the worlds biggest, meanest, scariest waves right on his doorstep, including Aileens, Mullaghmore and Prowlers.
We've listed a a select number of waves below below which we feel fall into the category of worlds biggest, heaviest waves. It's by no means an exhaustive list as there are plenty of others out there which qualify as truly big surf, like Cortes Bank, Todos Santos, Ghost Tree, Nelscott Reef, Waimea, Pipeline etc So we may add some more big waves at a later date. Have a read through, decide which one you think takes the crown and vote on our poll to the right. Alternatively if you think that theres a wave we haven't included and you'd like to see it here, drop us a line via our contact page and we'll look at including it.... if it's big and mean!
The huge left hand reef/point break that is Mullaghmore has been hitting the headlines recently as it serves up massive waves in the 40ft+ face range. "Mully" is a wave in Co Sligo in the North West of Ireland out on a headland. The wave itself pitches up and throws out massive lips as it barrels over a rocky reef. A tow in comp began here last year in epic conditions. It's cold, it's mean and it's one of Northcore™ team rider, Richie Fitzgerald's favourite waves.
Australia's has some insane heaving slabs around its coastline and one of their heaviest waves is called Cyclops.... Cyclops is a mental secret spot near Esperance in Western Australia. It's more of a bodyboard wave as it breaks in really shallow water despite that the Oz tow in surf crews are all over it when its big.
Anyone who witnessed the first day of the 2011 Pipemasters will know how gnarly this wave can be. The Pipemasters event kicked in 12-15ft swell which saw Pipeline breaking on the third and second reefs... it was big! A number of the WCT pro-riders (if not all of them) admitted to being nervous about padding out at Pipe at the size because it's barrelling, spitting tubes and heavy lips can smash heads and boards alike. Pipeline is located on Oahu's North shore and at one time was considered an unrideable wave. Pipeline is a series of three lefthand lava reefs with the right hand section being called Backdoor. Pipeline is super heavy, its shallow, breaks over a reef which is full of holes that a board or body can be rammed into, it's fast with a critical take off and it's crowded with no-nonsense locals who rip.
Shipsterns was only fairly recently discovered and even then was only ridden by a handful of lunatics. Shipsterns Bluff is located in Tasmania and the wave is a fast, deep water, super heavy right hander breaking over a reef of massive boulders in freezing waters. Waves are thrown up from West, Nth West and Sth West swells pushing from deep Antarctic waters and can reach the 25ft+ range and when they do break theres all kinds of weird boils, double ups and ramps to content with. For the brave and insane only!
The wave know as Prowlers was discovered by Northcore™ surfer Richie Fitzgerald and NZ photographer Aaron Pierce (who named the wave). Prowlers is a secret spot but its roughly 2km offshore from the Cliffs of Moher on Irelands West coast. This monster wave is a rare and fickle beast which will only work when the right size swell, direction and wind all aline. The wave itself is tripped by an undersea reef/sea mount and it can handle waves in the 50ft + face range, to a point where it looks like and Atlantic version of Mavericks in California. When considering the size, the distance offshore, the chilly air and water temperatures in winter and this is one heavy wave.
Aileens is another beast of a wave lurking on the West Coast of Ireland. Aileens is located below the huge Cliffs of Moher in County Clare South-Western Ireland and its a really sketchy spot unloading over a reef directly under the cliff so any errors are punished by a visit to the rocks below it, making it tricky for ski rescues. The spot can only be accessed by boat or PWC from 2 miles away so its a wild location. Aileens is exposed to the vast fetch of the Atlantic ocean and is subject to massive swells especially in winter. The wave breaks on a rock reef jacking up to produce 30ft+ waves as huge as any of the worlds more famous big wave locations.
Not many would argue that Teahupoo, located in the SW corner of Tahiti, is close to the top of any list of heaviest waves in the world. What isn't in doubt is that it's most definatley the worlds thickest wave - a left hander which unloads on the reef and throws forward an immense lip with virtually no back to it, only what looks like the whole Pacific ocean pushing behind it. The wave then peels off towards the channel and virtually dry reef.... it's gnarly by any measure, but at least the waters warm and it's sunny.
Until 1992 when Mavericks "the voodoo wave" hit the mainstream media it was only know to a handful of locals living in an around the area of Half Moon Bay Northern California. Incredibly it was only surfed by one man, Jeff Clark between 1975 and 1989 as it scared most mere mortals into staying on land. This isn't surprising, Mavericks is a cold heavy water wave, breaking over a punishing rock bottom with viscious currents, a boneyard of rocks on the inside for those unlucky enough to get washed in there and the area is patrolled by great white sharks.... A surfer needs big plums to surf this spot! Sadly Mavericks has also taken lives so its lable as a dangerous wave is beyond doubt.
Peahi is located on the island of Maui's Northern most tip and it looks almost custom made for big wave tow in surfing, although Shane Dorian has recently been PADDLING into some HUGE waves. Peahi (AKA Jaws) is a rare wave breaking only a few times a season with truly monster surf. The swells travel thousands of miles of uninterrupted open ocean hitting the Maui reef at almost 30 miles per hour, a half a mile offshore. Jaws can hold waves in the 40-70ft range and theres talk of the fabled 100ft wave breaking and being ridden here by Laird Hamilton and although theres no images of that day, if anyone is capable of scoring such a wave its Mr H.