For the uninitiated, it would be easy to guess that the biggest waves in the world probably break off the shores of Hawaii or perhaps Australia. But over the past decade or so, a wave known as Nazaré (pronounced “Naz-a-ray”) located off Praia do Norte beach in a picturesque town on Portugal’s rugged west coast, attracted the best big wave surfers in the world like moths to the proverbial flame – or in this case, hell.
Nazaré is a real monster – the wave he claims is most likely to break the hundred foot high magic barrier that has long been the holy grail of big wave surfing. It is a monster of nature created by the Canhao de Nazaré, the largest underwater canyon in Europe. Reaching depths of 16,500 feet, the canyon narrows to a point as it meets land, channeling the swell that has formed and travels across the Atlantic Ocean upwards in gargantuan towers of water that, when they peak, have nowhere to go but down. These are the faces of these titanic waves where brave and talented surfers place themselves, whipped by jet skis in an attempt to ensure they have enough speed to outrun the foaming beast that pursues them. It’s quite the arena.
The fact that these waves crash directly in front of a cliff-top viewing platform that puts viewers so close to the action that they can as close as see the whites of surfers’ eyes has done to increase Nazaré’s notoriety. It’s as if it was perfectly sculpted and designed for the multimedia age of video sharing.
It was here on October 29, 2020 that German (not a nation famous for giant surfing or professional surfers) Sebastian Steudtner was towed in what has just been ratified by Guinness World Records as the biggest wave ever surfed – an 86-foot tower that reduced Steudtner to almost comical, ant-like scale. This is a record that took almost two years to be awarded.
Speaking to a Spanish newspaper Mark, Steudtner said of his wave: “I had tears streaming down my eyes from the wind, my face was melting. It was crazy. I didn’t imagine this could happen in surfing until this day.” Speaking to Magicseaweed, he added: “I remember thinking, ‘Oh, that’s fast’. The wave was chatty, crazy. It was big, but at the time I didn’t really know how to what a point. That’s how it is over there, keep it up.”
“Continue” is something Steudtner knows very well. He’s got form in the big wave realm, but his recent achievements have been subject to a strange mishap that has cost him dearly, both emotionally and financially. In 2018, a huge wave that Steudtner rode (still in Nazaré) went viral with, to date, over a billion views on various platforms, making it the most watched and shared wave in history. all the time. But for Steudtner, the fame and reward was sorely denied him as most news outlets and even the celebrity oddball wrongly attributed the images to then-world record holder Brazilian surfer Rodrigo Koxa . Some, but not all, have since corrected the error.
Despite the missed funding and sponsorship opportunities that such coverage would undoubtedly have afforded him, today Steudtner is more of a philosopher. “The way I see it now is, maybe I didn’t get the credit for it – we’ll never know why it went wrong – but it’s probably one of the most popular surfing outings ever. all-time hits – for me personally, public recognition in that sense, I’m fine with it. People correct it when they see it now. The people have spoken. Business-wise, it’s messed up [laughs].”
Indeed, it must now be quite satisfying to know that he now – officially – holds the record for the biggest wave ever ridden. “I’m really proud of this achievement and the performance of my whole team. It was a dream since I was a child to become a surfer and I have always stayed true to that. I hope that my journey and this world record will inspire many others to pursue their dreams too,” he told Magicseaweed. And what does that mean for him and his future career? “It’s great to have, I have the felt like it was meant to be. I put all my energy into this, I don’t know who else cares as much as I do here, it’s great to have this one on the resume, let’s see what comes out of it.
Whether Steudtner has inspired you to don a wetsuit, take a board and motor into the lineup yourself (don’t) or you just want to see one of nature’s most awe-inspiring examples of raw power balanced with overwhelming humanity. want to challenge it, Nazaré is a fantastic holiday destination. A former traditional fishing town bordered by a huge sandy beach steeped in Portuguese tradition, its warm but mild climate makes it a year-round option. But for big wave surfing (watch), October through March offers the best window for those massive winter swells.