Here’s our definitive list of the biggest waves in the world, packed with giant waves and terrifying slabs that can humble even the most experienced surfers.
Praia do Norte in Nazare can produce gigantic surfable waves that consistently break world records.
The oceanography around Praia do Norte is very unique, with the large ‘Nazare North Canyon’ funnelling swell into this amazing big wave arena.
All this magic came together in 2022 for Sebastian Steudtner, who broke the world record for the largest wave ever surfed at a whopping 26.21 meters or 86 feet in height.
Head over to Nazare Waves to find out more about this iconic surf spot and the surfers and community that make it so special.
Teahupoo, or ‘the end of the road’ may not be the biggest wave in the world, but it makes up for it with its brutal, raw power.
Swell arrives from deep water before unloading onto Teahupoo’s shallow coral reef with a ferocity that’s truly terrifying to watch.
A powerful left thunders down the reef before exploding into dangerously shallow water.
The wave was first surfed way back in 1985 by Tahitian Thierry Vernaudon. Now surfers from all over the world have made the pilgrimage to surf this iconic wave.
The reef pass at Teahupoo provides the perfect viewing spot for spectators on boats and jetskis with a view directly into the death-defying tubes.
Jaws, AKA Peahi, is a world-famous big wave surf spot. It’s responsible for more Wave of the Winter wins than any other wave on the planet.
With a star-studded local crew including Kai Lenny, Matt Meola, Albee Layer and Ian Walsh, it’s no wonder this wave has gained all the exposure it has.
Access to the wave requires some serious 4×4 action, with the route up and down becoming treacherous after heavy rain.
Previously a tow-in wave Jaws has quickly reverted back to paddle surfing with the names above leading the charge.
Mavericks is a big wave surf spot located just outside of Pillar Point Harbor, not far from Half Moon Bay.
Surfers like Pete Mel and Grant ‘Twiggy’ Baker were instrumental in bringing this wave into the headlights of the surfing media.
A predominant right-hander with the occasional left, this wave is not for the faint-hearted with its steep drops and massive waves.
The wave played host to the ‘Titans of Mavericks’ big wave surfing invitational from 1999 to 2016 before the organisation went bankrupt due to a combination of little to no funding and some questionable business decisions.
Sadly Mavericks is responsible for the death of some of the surfing world’s greats, including Mark Fu in 1994 and Sion Millosky in 2011.
Cortes Bank is an awe-inspiring spot in the Pacific Ocean, located 110 miles offshore from the Southern Californian coast.
It’s a large island that rarely breaks the ocean’s surface at low tide.
Most of the time, the highest part of Cortes Bank (Bishop Rock) sits only 6ft below the water, creating a rare offshore reef.
Only accessible by boat, this huge ranging lineup is exposed to swell and wind from all directions, so scoring here requires careful planning and an eagle eye on the forecast.
When everything comes together, massive right-handers open up for any brave waterman willing to take them on.
Most notable of these excursions was in 2001 when Project Neptune, comprised of surfers Mike Parsons, Brad Gerlach, Ken Collins and Peter Mel, all headed out to the break with jetskis and boats.
Mike Parsons managed to snag a 65ft bomb, the biggest wave-ridden in the United States at the time.
It wasn’t until seven years later that Mike would exceed this by hurling himself down a 75ft wave and earning himself the Guinness World Record for the biggest wave ever surfed.
Punta de Lobos, Chile
Punta de Lobos is a left-hand point that works from 3ft+ to 30ft+. Pro surfer Ramon Navarro calls this wave home, and we can’t blame him.
Breaking just outside two rock pillars makes for quite the lineup, and the waves easily match the surroundings.
On smaller days, Punta de Lobos is a fast barreling left that opens into a long wall perfect for burying your rails.
As the swell rises, the break pushes further around the point, with the take-off zone positioned dangerously close to the rocks in front of you.
It’s considered to be one of Chile’s best waves and it’s one of the few surf spots where you can escape the dreaded southwesterly winds that blow daily here.
Mullaghmore Head, Ireland
Mullaghmore Head rarely breaks, but when it does, it produces slabbing take-offs followed by death-defying drops and epic rides.
This Irish beast is exposed to any swell rolling in from the North Atlantic, but this also leaves it exposed to the wind making finding a surfable window quite the art.
Local and travelling big wave surfers will carefully scour the charts looking for any potential respite in storms that might give them the small window they need.
When it arrives, massive, powerful lefts break across a boulder bottom with treacherous cliffs directly in front of their take-off spot.
Despite these challenges, some of Ireland’s most accomplished surfers make it their to try and tame Mullagmore’s angry swells.
Check out our guide on how surfers survive in giant waves for an insight into the equipment and skills these individuals need to ride giant walls of water.
The Cribbar, England
The Cribbar is a big wave spot in England’s surfing capital Newquay.
It only breaks a few times a year through Autumn and Winter. It needs at least 8ft of swell to get going and can be surfed in the 30 ft+ range.
The long paddle out and sharp jagged rocks on the inside mean it’s strictly for the UK’s best surfers, but you’ll regularly see a crowd watching from the cliffs above.
Margaret River, Western Australia
Margaret River is a high-performance right-hander that plays host to the annual WSL Tour every year.
Even though it works on small swells, Margaret River is famed for the large rolling chunks of water that come straight out of the deep before unloading on the reef.
The left-hander is a rolling wall that breaks into deep water, making it a bit more approachable than the right, which can close out onto dry rock at the end of the wave.
Belharra is a lesser-known big wave surf spot near a small fishing town called Saint-Jean-de-Luz, nestled in the north of the Basque Country.
First surfed in the early 90s, it quickly solidified itself as one of Europe’s go-to spots for big wave chargers.
The wave is created by an underwater plateau covered by seagrass. When swell and wind conditions align, this plateau acts as the perfect reef for incoming swell.
Located 2.5km offshore, it’s best surfed with a boat and jet ski support over 30ft.
Below this, you’ll regularly see a lineup of surfers on guns (big wave surfboards) waiting to paddle into the next set of waves.
This mutant of a wave sits in an isolated spot on Tasmania’s rugged coastline.
This reef slabs in front of a gigantic cliff to create massive waves not for the faint-hearted.
While it may not rival some of the biggest waves in the world on this list, it more than makes up for it with power.
The shape of the reef creates steps in the waves that surfers need to navigate as they try to escape the jaws of the barrel behind them.
On large days these steps can turn into 6ft air drops mid-wave making for quite the spectacle.
The Right, Western Australia
The Right is a giant slabbing barrel 1.6km out to sea.
It’s an unforgiving gladiatorial arena of broken boards and near-impossible rides.
First surfed back in 2007 by a group of bodyboarders, The Right quickly grew in infamy.
Since then, it’s been surfed by many of the world’s top big wave surfers, with notable standouts like Taj Burrow, Kelly Slater and Mark Matthews.
The waves aren’t the only danger here either; you’ll be sharing the ocean with some of the biggest sharks in the world, most notably the Great White.
Frequently Asked Questions
We answer some of the most common questions about the world’s biggest waves!
What’s the biggest wave ever surfed?
Sebastian Steudtner holds the current record with an unbelievable 26.21 meters or 86 feet tall wave at Nazare.
Where are the biggest waves in the world?
Nazare currently holds the record for the biggest wave ever surfed, but I do not doubt that some lesser surfed spots could match and even exceed it soon.
Where are the biggest waves in the US?
Cortes Bank can produce the largest waves in the US with Mavericks coming in as a close second.