The world’s top big-wave surfers have spent the past year globe-trotting in pursuit of the largest, most powerful swells during a competition that honors standout performances, and the following video showcases what were judged to have been the five most amazing rides. Watch and see if you agree that a) these are the most enormous waves ever ridden; b) all five deserve a winner’s check; c) these surfers are insane to toy Mother Nature in this manner; d) all of the above.
It’s worth noting that these athletes train specifically to ride these types of waves, and to endure brutal wipeouts. The adrenaline rush is the payoff and the annual competition — the Billabong XXL Global Big Wave Awards — helps justify the career they’ve chosen.
Viewers might say Nathan Fletcher is the obvious winner because of the haunting thickness and roundness of the wave he rode at Teahupoo in Tahiti. But then, he fell before riding the wave to completion.
Some might Garrett McNamara purely for the size of the wave he was towed onto behind a personal watercraft at a spot off Portugal; or they might prefer Jeff Rowley’s ride at Jaws, Maui, because he paddled onto the wave at a spot widely regarded as boasting waves too large and fast to be ridden without the assistance of personal watercraft.
This should take nothing away from the performances of Ryan Hipwood at Cloudbreak, Fiji, or Greg Long at Puerto Escondido, Mexico. From an old-school aesthetics standpoint — both paddled in, and both got completely barreled — these surfers should be considered strong finalists for the ultimate prize.
The winner, who will earn $50,000, will be announced May 4 during a ceremony in Southern California.