7 of the world’s scariest waves to ride

Feeling fearless? Best check yourself before you wreck yourself on these bone-crunching waves.
By Josh Sampiero

Big waves mean big adventure. After all, that's the one of the reasons Red Bull Storm Chase exists. As we lead up to the contest's open period, we thought we'd take a peak at some of the most fearsome mega-sized waves elsewhere on the planet – the kind that'll chew you up and (hopefully) spit you out. 

‘Ours’ – Sydney’s fearsome locals only wave

Location: Sydney, Australia
Fear factor:

Can you ride it: Almost definitely not

The reason this beast is called Ours is because notorious Australian surf gang the Bra Boys claims ownership of the mean slab in Sydney's Botany Bay. While it was the site of the recent Red Bull Cape Fear contest, it's pretty much off-limits for any normal surfer, and with good reason – it breaks onto shallow reef, just a few feet from the rocks. Gulp. 

Nelscott Reef – The place to dodge a great white

A kayaker rides the freezing waves at Nelscott Reef off the coast of Oregon, USA
This wave is over a mile off shore © Richard Hallman/Red Bull Content Pool

Location: Oregon, USA
Fear factor:
7
Can you ride it: If you can get through the shore break  

This wave may not look that scary –  there IS a kayaker on it, after all. What's below the surface might give you the shivers though. Not only is the wave nearly a kilometre offshore, the water temp hovers around 10ºC year round. Oh yeah, there's great whites cruising around.

Teahupo’o – The world’s most famous wave

Surfer Carlos Nogales rides into an XXL wave at Teahupo'o, Tahiti
Carlos Nogales rides into an XXL wave in Tahiti © Tim McKenna/Red Bull Content Pool

Location: Tahiti
Fear factor:

Can you ride it? Not likely

Teahupo'o, often known as Chopes is most likely the world's most famous wave. How scary is it? The name is loosely translated as 'to sever the head' or 'place of skulls'.

How does it work? The ocean approaching the reef is incredibly deep, but the reef itself is very shallow. On a big swell, water is pulled off the reef and then quickly re-deposited back on it. Hopefully without you. Has it been windsurfed? You bet – by big wave hunter Jason Polakow, who's even had quite the wipe-out there. 

Pedra Branca – An off-shore monster down under

Alastair McLeod windsurfs at Pedra Branca, a wave located 26 nautical miles off the coat of Tasmania
That’s one thick lip © The Construction Site

Location: Tasmanian Ocean
Fear factor:
 8
Can you ride it? How far are you willing to go? 

Deep in the Tasmanian Ocean, 26 nautical miles off the coast, stands the wave known as Pedra Branca. Ridden by very surfers few, Aussie windsurfer Alastair McLeod was the first to tackle the wave with a sail, last year.

What does McLeod have to say about the wave? "Everyone who surfed here and wiped out has had a serious injury," says the 23-year-old. "Broken legs, being knocked unconscious, torn muscles – the truth is, death is a real possibility if you go over the falls."

Nazaré – Europe’s megawave mainstage 

Location: Nazaré, Portugal
Fear factor:
9
Can you ride it? If you're brave enough, maybe

Brought to worldwide attention when Hawaiian hellman Garrett McNamara picked off a massive bomb that measured at 24m from trough to crest, Nazaré is now Europe's biggest big-wave attraction. Easy viewing from the cliff means that any time the wave breaks, the show is on. 

Jaws – The original megawave 

Location: Maui, Hawaii
Fear factor: 6
Can you ride it: Maybe...

The world's mega-wave was discovered on the North Coast of Maui by windsurfers in the 1990s. Well before big-wave surfing got where it was today, fearless waterman like Dave Kalama and Laird Hamilton windsurfed upwind from Ho'okipa Beach Park to score bombs at what locals called Peahi.

Nicknaming the break 'Jaws', it quickly gained notoriety as tow-surfers began to tackle it on glassy days. These days, very few waves go un-ridden at Jaws, as any winter swell brings a crowd of wave riders waiting to test their mettle. 

Shipstern’s Bluff – Meet the mutant 

Surfer Mick Fanning rides a giant wave at Shipstern's Bluffs break in Tasmania
Better stick it © Adam Gibson/Red Bull Content Pool

Location: Tasmania, Australia
Fear factor:
10
Can you ride it: Take our advice and skip this one 

If the first wave of big-wave surfing was tow-surfing, following by paddling in to monsters on big-wave guns, then we're officially in the 'slab era' – where performance surfing is defined by the brave souls willing to explore double-up lips, vertical drops, and everything inbetween. One of the most famous examples? Shipstern's Bluff, seen above, where Mick Fanning is dropping into a bone-cruncher. 

Waves can be even more fun with wind... 

Dany Bruch in cold bitter storm conditions
Dany Bruch out in some cold crunchy surf © Sebastian Marko/Red Bull Content Pool

Let's not forget, big waves are fun, but when you add in the element of Force 10 wind, you get bigger waves, and bigger air. That's what Red Bull Storm Chase is all about – and it's coming in early 2017, when the first Force 10 storm of the year hits the northern hemisphere. 

Stay up to date at Redbullstormchase.com or the Red Bull Storm Chase Facebook page – and when the action's on, be sure to tune in! 

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