Where are the worlds most extreme waves?
Surfers will always try to push themselves into more challenging surf. It’s the nature of progression whatever the level of surfing ability. So it’s no surprise that modern surfers with the help of ever advancing surfboards, fins and fearlessness are seeking out insane waves which are borderline at best and downright lethal at worst. So we’ve brought together an extreme surfing list of the biggest, coldest, most dangerous, most shallow, longest and hottest waves on the planet. Of course the choice of waves is subjective and you might feel other locations would be better candidates (feel free to comment below on what you would choose) but whatever your opinion there’s no doubting that these waves are mean!
- The Coldest
There are plenty of options for the coldest wave on the planet including my home breaks in the North Sea which can get bitter at 5-6°C in mid winter but even this is nothing compared to when the ocean is close to freezing point and the waves become slush! The rare slushy wave phenomena occurs in a few locations around the world in places like Alaska and the great lakes however the one we have selected is Nantucket USA which in 2015 was captured by photographer and surfer Jonathan Nimerfroh. The air temps were around -12°c and the water around -1.1°C (30°F). Sea water freezes at -2.2°C so it was just at that pre-solidifying stage. Nimerfroh said that the waves were silent which must have been surreal. Surfers have attempted riding slush waves but they are not ideal as they slow a board down and are heavy when they break! Not only that without a full 6mm wetsuit, hood, gloves and boots according to the US Coastgaurd you’re looking at unconsciousness in around 15 mins and cardiac arrest at 15-45mins.
2. The Biggest
This is a tricky one as wave height is often difficult to determine (just ask any surfer!) as measurement criteria differ – peak to trough, back of the wave, wave face etc. However the biggest proven and scientifically recorded wave was the Draupner wave which hit the underside of the Daupner oil rig in the North sea in 1995 and measured 25.6m (84ft) from sea level to crest. This was a rogue and of course went un-surfed but these monsters are out there roaming the worlds oceans. As for the biggest wave that has been surfed there are anecdotal tales about a 100ft wave at Egypt surf spot offshore of Maui’s North shore or huge surf at Kings reef Kauai but the biggest photographed wave surfed to date was at Nazare Portugal. Brazilian Carlos Burle tackled a beast of a wave at this now famous ocean canyon break which was estimated at well over 80ft (claims of it’s size vary) which he tow surfed into in 2013.
3. The hottest
When you think of the hottest waves on earth maybe Indonesia or somewhere else on the equator spring to mind? However the actual location is a little more unusual – it’s surfing near the deserts in the Persian Gulf. OK there’s only a short wind fetch in the Gulf, waves are fickle and not often that good, but you can surf there and UAE summer temps can hit 45°C (113°F) and above and 35°C (95°F) water temp – literally like bath water! Heat stroke, savage sunburn and dehydration are serious issues surfing out there – definitely extreme!
4. The Shallowest
There are going to be a queue of waves lining up for this title and there won’t be much in it between the top contenders. However one wave that is a regular when discussing shallow surf is Desert Point in Lombok. A fickle wave that can produce huge 20 second barrels when it’s on, races down the edge of the coral reef picking up speed spitting you out the tricky end section onto dry reef (can’t get shallower than dry!) leaving surfers to paddle the evil currents back to the line up. A gloriously mean wave.
5. The most dangerous
So where do you begin with this category! The list could include the big guns like Pipeline, Teahupoo, Mavericks and Cape Fear however we’re going a little left field by selecting a location which won’t get you by vicious wipeouts and hold downs but the locals just might. It’s not recommended that anyone visit the surf spot know as Bengali, North Sentinel island, Andaman in the Bay of Bengal which is one of the remotest islands on earth. This is because the local Sentinelese tribe are not known for their warm welcome of outsiders. As recently as 2006 two fishermen were killed by arrow fire and when the authorities tried to recover the bodies more arrows rained down. These boys don’t mess about – since then they have been left well alone! It’s an extreme way to protect your local spot but it seems to be working for them. (Editors note: we don’t recommend arrow fire to deter other surfers from your local spot ;)
6. The longest
There are a number of super long point breaks and ocean waves to chose from like Chicama, Skeleton Bay, J-Bay etc however these are babies compared to the length of tidal river bores. The longest surfing ride on a river bore was 17.2 km (10.6 mi), achieved by James Cotton (Australia), surfing the Bono tidal bore on the Kampar River, Sumatra, Indonesia, on 10 March 2016. The Bono is said to be the best bore wave in the world for surfing because of the bottom contours and channel effect. It’s said that the height of the face of the wave can be up to 8-10ft foot, travelling at around 20kmph, glassy and occasionally barreling!