Big wave surfing, death-defying slabs, our list of the 12 most dangerous waves in the world is packed full of the planet’s deadliest surf spots.
Whether you’re a big wave pro or just want to learn more about the crazy waves that can be found all over our planet.
Let’s dive straight into the planet’s most treacherous waves and what makes them so ‘special’.
Don’t miss our guide on how surfers survive in big waves for a deep dive into the tools and techniques surfers use to navigate heavy water situations.
Pipeline is Hawaii’s surfing crown. Located on Oahu’s 7-mile miracle it’s without a doubt the most challenging break on the island.
With consecutive outer reefs, it can handle waves well into the 30ft+ range for those who are brave enough to try.
Pipeline is dangerous for lots of reasons with the first being the shape of the reef lying just meters below the water.
The reef isn’t flat, there are gulleys and holes that you can get wedged in after a heavy wipeout. On top of this, it’s rock solid so any impact can lead to nasty injuries.
Notably, Owen Wright suffered a nasty head injury here which led to a long recovery before returning to the WSL world tour.
On top of the powerful waves, you’ll have to deal with one of the most competitive lineups in surfing, making a challenging situation even harder.
The Box, Western Australia
Located in the Margaret River region of Western Australia is a small slab of reef that attracts some fo the best surfers in the world to test their speed and agility.
The Box is the mother of all slabs, chunks of water appear out of the Indian Ocean before detonating onto just a few feet of water below.
Strictly for advanced surfers, it regularly plays host to the Margaret River Pro where the world’s best surfers battle it out for supremacy.
Shipsterns Bluff, Tasmania
Shipsterns Bluff is without a doubt one of the most dangerous waves in the world. From its remote location in south-east Tasmania to the treacherous journey required to reach the wave it’s no wonder it’s only surfed by a committed few.
Once you’ve made it to the wave you’ll be faced by a powerful barreling right exploding just a few metres in front of giant cliffs.
As if this wasn’t enough you’ll likely be sharing the lineup with the ocean’s deadliest predators, Great Whites are common and seal populations in the area make a run a very likely possibility.
Just for the final touch of danger Shipsterns throws out steps in the wave meaning you’ll need to navigate air drops mid-barrel if you want to stand any chance of making it to the safety of the channel.
Don’t believe me? Check out the vid below.
Teahupoo might be the most powerful wave on this list. A reef pass in Tahiti, it offers one of the few breaks in the coral that surrounds the island.
When swell arrives from the southern Pacific Ocean it creates what is easily one of the most dangerous waves in the world today.
Teahupoo is all about timing, you get seconds to position yourself in the line-up, put your head down and paddle.
Get this right and you’ll be met with one of the barrels of your life, get it wrong and you’ll be quickly sent crashing into the very shallow reef below.
To really add insult to injury Teahupoo’s reef is living coral, making the risk of infection and severe pain a very real possibility.
Every few years Teahupoo will go nuclear and the world’s best all head to ‘the end of the road’ to try their luck at one of the planet’s most terrifying waves.
Perhaps not as well known as some of the other surf spots on this list it’s still just as dangerous. Rileys is a somewhat secret slab located somewhere on County Clare’s coastline.
Choosing to surf here you’ll be met with a treacherous walk down the cliff before submerging yourself into some truly icy water temperatures.
Get it right and you’ll be rewarded with emerald green tubes as wide as they are tall.
Get it wrong and you’ll be shot straight down to the hard, kelp-covered reef below. While the kelp does provide some cushioning from your underwater beating it poses a whole new challenge when you finally surface.
As you scramble to escape the next wave you’ll quickly realise that you can’t get any traction on the slippery kelp below.
This can make extracting yourself from the impact zone rather tricky with many surfers waiting out the beating until a break in the set waves.
Ours is a slabbing right-hander not far from the bustling hub of Sydney.
It’s got an interesting history, originally surfed by a crew of bodyboarders, rumour has it that local Sydney surf gang the ‘Bra Boys’ effectively bullied them off the wave, claiming the spot as their own.
The wave breaks in a jumbled manner just metres from the cliff making for more bails than makes in any given session.
In the early days, localism was a major problem here with reports of travelling surfers being berated and assaulted for trying to surf the wave.
Now Ours is firmly in the sure media mainstream with Red Bull holding a special invite-only comp for tube specialists from all over the globe.
Puerto Escondido, Mexico
Known as the ‘Mexican Pipeline’ Puerto Escondido beach break Playa Zicatela is not for the faint-hearted.
If you can battle through the paddle out you’ll be met with ranging, shifty peaks that close out more often than not.
This beach is a famous board breaker so you’ll want to make sure you bring a well stocked quiver of surfboards to try and tame this beast of a wave.
This break has claimed surfers lives and should be treated with the utmost respect.
Skeleton Bay, Namibia
Skeleton Bay is about as remote as you can get. It gets its name from the many whale skeletons that wash up on the beach along this coast.
Located on Africa’s west coast it requires a day of travel in 4x4s just to reach the long peeling left-hander.
But it’s not the powerful left that reels down the bay that makes this the most dangerous wave in the world. It’s all the other dangers you’ll need to contend with along the way.
It’s location on the African coast means that large sharks are a very real risk and the scores of seals on the beach place you right next to their favourite food source.
It’s remote positioning means that any accidents or injuries will need to be treated on site without professional medical help.
The Wedge, California
The Wedge is Newport’s novelty monster. A large boulder breakwall refracts swells creating the massive wedges that give this spot it’s name.
Heavy, powerful waves break just metres from the shore in ankle deep water making for a deadly close out that can occasionally offer an exit.
The major risk here is being catapulted into the hard sand bottom. This combined with a competitive line up of bodyboarders, skimboarders, stand ups and bodysurfers all come together to make this one of the most dangerous waves in the world.
Nazare is the go to spot for big wave surfing in Europe. A normal beach break for most of the year it turns into a gladiatorial arena as soon as a large swell arrives from the Atlantic.
The North Canyon funnels swell directly at the beach creating huge mountains of water that rise out of the ocean before exploding down into the impact zone.
It plays host to several big wave surfing competitions throughout the year with the world’s top pros all making a pilgrimage to this beautiful but dangerous wave.
The Right, Western Australia
The Right is one of Western Austrlais’s most dangerous waves, which is saying a lot considering some of WA’s other contenders.
Located 1.6km off the coast it’s just you, the waves and a whole lot of sharks. Several legendary sessions have gone down here with a notable mention to Ryan Hipwood who nearly died here in 2012.
This waves raw nature makes it unpredictable with many of the barrels shutting down before the channel and broken boards are almost guaranteed.
The Cave, Portugal
The Cave in Portugal is a below sea level slab that works through all stages of the tide. Not far from Ericeira it’s smack bang in the middle of one of Portugal’s best surfing locals.
Waves hit the shallow platform and power there way down the side of the reef offering throaty tubes for any surfers brave enough to paddle out.
Check out the video below with Sebastien Zietz and Kelly Slater going wave for wave at this truly terrifying surf spot.