Skip to main content

Monster ride: Surfer catches 'world's biggest wave'

By Frances Cha, CNN
January 30, 2013 -- Updated 0739 GMT (1539 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Garret McNamara's wave believed to be 100 feet high
  • Small Portuguese fishing village has some of the world's most dangerous surf
  • Giant swells generated by unique deep water canyons

(CNN) -- He is but a dot in the ocean, gathering speed and rapidly rising as a mammoth wall of water expands below and behind him.

Simultaneously fearsome and awesome, this may be the moment Hawaiian rider Garret McNamara on Monday broke his own record for the largest wave ever surfed.

Caught off the coast of the small fishing village of Nazaré, Portugal, the monster wave was reported to be more than 100 feet high, or 30.5 meters.

Anderson Cooper interviews McNamara

"It was just this endless drop and my feet were popping out of the straps," McNamara told CNN's Anderson Cooper. "It was like my whole body was shattering. It was really difficult."

If accurate, the wave towers over his 2011 surf of a 78-footer (24 meter) at the same location. Nazaré officials have requested an impartial verification of a possible new world record.

Thanks to one of the only deep water canyons in the world that connects to shore, Praia do Norte -- the north beach of Nazaré -- sees abnormally large waves.

McNamara: \
McNamara: "One of the hardest, longest drops."

A group of extreme surfers descended on the Portugal coast this past week, providing some amazing experiences for onshore observers and some very social media-friendly video and photos.

McNamara was first invited by the Nazaré Town Hall in 2010 as part of a three-year project to explore the local coast's unique geomorphic phenomenon and to bring more awareness to the area as a destination for big-wave enthusiasts.

Though onlookers were spellbound by McNamara's ride, the surfer said he didn't get that much of a rush.

"I don't know what's wrong with me. There's definitely something wrong," McNamara said in his interview with Cooper.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
July 2, 2014 -- Updated 1634 GMT (0034 HKT)
In honor of Canada Day, a look at some of the country's most incredible manmade and natural beauties.
July 6, 2014 -- Updated 2140 GMT (0540 HKT)
A 666-meter-long bridge shaped like a fire-breathing dragon heralds a new era of prosperity in Da Nang, Vietnam.
July 9, 2014 -- Updated 1249 GMT (2049 HKT)
There's a chance of being trampled or even gored, but thousands flock annually to the Spanish fiesta immortalized by Ernest Hemingway
July 3, 2014 -- Updated 0854 GMT (1654 HKT)
Alcazar castle in Spain will stand in for Water Gardens of Dorne in the popular HBO series.
July 2, 2014 -- Updated 1638 GMT (0038 HKT)
Before you join the masses in the hopes of snapping a geisha on her way to work, it's worth learning a few unwritten rules.
July 3, 2014 -- Updated 0808 GMT (1608 HKT)
Baptiste Dubanchet poses with food he's recovered from a trash can.
To highlight food waste, Frenchman travels across Europe fueled only by food recovered from trash cans.
July 2, 2014 -- Updated 0731 GMT (1531 HKT)
Tour companies are cashing in on demand from timid thrill seekers who want to safely experience Bangkok's infamously raunchy nightlife.
July 3, 2014 -- Updated 1657 GMT (0057 HKT)
Dreading airport security, lost luggage or that middle seat? These travel headaches could be a thing of the past by 2024, according to a new report on the future of travel.
June 30, 2014 -- Updated 1253 GMT (2053 HKT)
Latest model of aircraft affectionately known as the Queen of the Skies gets the red ribbon treatment, but jumbo jets are facing tough times
June 30, 2014 -- Updated 1229 GMT (2029 HKT)
A former soldier plans to trek every country in the world, having been diagnosed with PTSD.
June 30, 2014 -- Updated 0004 GMT (0804 HKT)
Sometimes the travel industry gets it right, sometimes it leaves us with a pillow chocolate stuck to our face.
June 28, 2014 -- Updated 0039 GMT (0839 HKT)
A rocky, battle-scarred island, a beach that looks like a cathedral and a watery gold mine make new list of Spanish national treasures.
June 26, 2014 -- Updated 1144 GMT (1944 HKT)
Architects hope their design for a one-kilometer tall building in the Chinese city of Wuhan will be completed by 2017.
June 23, 2014 -- Updated 1153 GMT (1953 HKT)
From holy water in ancient Egypt to burritos and gold bars -- how vending machines have evolved.
June 30, 2014 -- Updated 0150 GMT (0950 HKT)
Featuring white beaches and turquoise waters, Cambodia's islands are finally starting to get the attention they deserve.
ADVERTISEMENT