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Greatest Surf Records



The new film Chasing Mavericks, coming to theaters later this month, whisks you to the edge of one of the world’s wildest surf breaks. Big wave legend Jay Moriarty is portrayed battling the monster Northern California swell capable of upsetting even the deftest riders.

Surfing exploits make for thrilling movie theater action, and there are several riders besides Moriarty whose feats are worthy of the big screen.

Here are some of the greatest surf records in history.

Largest Wave Surfed

We mentioned in May how big wave surfer Garrett McNamara set the largest wave record. Picture a soaring 78-foot (24-meter) wall of water, which he caught at Nazare, Portugal while “totally in the moment.”

According to Guinness, McNamara beat the old Guinness World Record set in 2008 by surfing legend Mike Parsons at Cortes Bank in California by over one foot.

McNamara, who has surfed professionally since age 17, said friends woke him early and convinced him to come with them. Reuters reported that he went reluctantly, feeling “beat up” from the previous day.

McNamara added that he just surfs for the love of it — he was not looking to win the record or any prizes.

“One of the main reasons I’m doing this is to hopefully inspire at least one person to do what they love, to do what they are passionate about,” McNamara said. “I am living proof you can do what you love as a career.”

Most Consecutive Days Surfing

Are you a diehard surfer? Meet American rider Dale Webster, whose devotion to the sport led him to do something wholly unheard of. He went surfing every single day from the start of September 1975 until February 29, 2004 — 10,407 consecutive days.

He set a goal of 28 and a half years, targeting February 29, 2004 because he believed that stretch added up to the length of a lunar year. Webster stuck with that goal even after eventually learning that a lunar year is 18 and a half years. Talk about obsessed.

Webster established the rule that a surf session consisted of catching at least three waves to shore each time. After the feat, he took a day off from his epic surfing streak. But his nickname remains The Daily Wavester. He has a part in the classic surfing flick, Step into Liquid.

His record is all the more impressive because he was riding sharky Northern California waters.

Longest Distance Wave Surfed

The longest-distance wave surfed on open water was 43.1 miles (66.47 km). The location: Panama Canal, Panama City, Panama. The athlete: Panama’s Gary Saavedra.

Saavedra broke the record on March 19, 2011 by riding a wave made by a powerboat, covering the distance in 3 hours, 55 minutes and 2 seconds. In the process, he also broke a record for the longest time spent surfing a wave.

“Surfing a static wave is not easy and can be pretty exhausting,” commented Surfer Today. The previous world record was held by the UK’s Steve King, who lasted 1 hour and 6 minutes on the same kind of wave.

Saavedra clearly has a knack for setting precedents. On top of the two feats cited, he was the first person the Panama Canal Authority let surf the waterway.

Oh, and Saavedra is a 13-time national surfing champion in Panama. Few Aussie or American surfers can match his stellar surfing résumé.

Biggest Group Surf

The record for the most surfers riding the same wave simultaneously is 110, in an event organised by Kahuna Promotions at Muizenberg Beach, Cape Town, South Africa. The bid was made in conjunction with the Earthwave Beach Festival to boost awareness of climate change.

The record was broken on October 4, 2009, a day when weather and wind conditions were just right. From mid-morning on, the beach was crammed with surfers of all ages signing up to join the successful bid.

On September 29 and 30 this year, a 300-strong team of surfers put together by the same promotional organization had another crack at the record at the same spot. Despite equally good conditions and devoted support from a packed beach, the Cape Town surfing community fell short. The best tally posted was 84.

This recent shortfall just shows how hard records are to break.

Cover Photo Credit: Daniel Flower

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