- A professional surfer has set a world record for riding an 80-foot wave in Nazare, Portugal.
- Rodrigo Koxa surfed the wave in November, and was just awarded the XXL Biggest Wave Award by the World Surf League for that ride.
- Koxa broke the previous world record, a 78-foot wave surfed by Garrett McNamara at the same location in 2011.
- Watch a video of Koxa’s ride below.
Professional surfer Rodrigo Koxa has set the world record for the largest wave ever surfed, according to a panel of judges from the World Surf League (WSL).
The 38-year-old Brazilian surfer rode the wave in Nazare, Portugal in November. On Sunday, he was awarded the league’s annual XXL Biggest Wave Award after the judges calculated that the height of the wave was approximately 80 feet. That tops a 78-foot wave surfed by Garrett McNamara in 2011 at the same beach.
“I had an amazing dream the night before, where I was talking to myself: ‘You gotta go straight down. You gotta go straight down.’ I didn’t really know what it meant. But I figured somebody was talking to me,” Koxa said at the awards show, according to surf forecasting website Surfline.
A huge comeback
Koxa’s massive wave is something of a redemption for his surfing career. In 2014, he almost died surfing a wave at Nazare. He said he spent the next few months recuperating and training to get back in the water.
“I try to surf big waves all my life, and I had a huge experience in 2014 where I almost died at Nazaré,” Koxa said. “Four months later, I had bad dreams, I didn’t travel, I got scared, and my wife helped me psychologically. Now, I’m just so happy, and this is the best day of my life. Thank you to WSL, it’s a dream come true.”
Capturing the XXL Biggest Wave Award is something of a holy grail to the tight-knight cabal of surfers who travel the world hunting for the biggest waves. Besides the international recognition, the award comes with a hefty cash prize – which helps offset the travel and training expenses.
Though it’s an intensely sought-after prize, it’s difficult to accurately measure wave height. To determine how large a wave is, the judges – a mix of professional surfers, former professionals, oceanographers, and other wave experts – estimates a surfer’s “crouch height,” then use an oversize image of the wave to generate a scale that gives them a roughly accurate measurement.
Big waves, real risks
The waves are so big at Nazare that they move too fast for the surfers to paddle into – so the surfers get towed on jet-skis. The jet-skis also act as a safety measure, picking up the surfers from the impact zone after they ride the waves or rescuing them when they go down.
As a place to surf, Nazare itself is distinguished by its bathymetry, or the shape of the land under the water. In front of the beach lies a steep underwater canyon that funnels the ocean’s energy onto a shallow sandbar. When large storm systems kick swell towards the Portuguese coast, that pent-up energy gets released abruptly over the shallow water, creating some of the largest rideable waves in the world.
The risks of surfing at Nazare are serious, though. Andrew Cotton, a professional big-wave rider, broke his back surfing the same day Koxa caught his wave. Cotton called the wipeout “the worst of his life,” according to The Guardian. He received WSL’s distinction of having the “Wipeout of The Year,” according to judges.
Watch Koxa’s record-setting ride:
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