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World record wave gets surfed in Portugal

Chris St. Clair, Weather Forecaster
May 14, 2012 — An American now holds a world record for surfing the biggest wave ever.

The wave measured 23.77 metres
The wave measured 23.77 metres

Last week the folks at The Guinness Book of World Records made it official that 44 year old Garrett McNamara of Hawaii surfed a massive wave that measured 78 feet or 23.77 metres. Garrett was surfing in a competition near Portugal when the wave snuck up behind him, yet he managed to stay on his surfboard.

Garrett has been surfing big waves since he was 11 years old, so it’s not a surprise that he would someday take on a colossal wave and end up in the record books.    

Measuring the wave was almost as challenging as surfing it. The wave’s height was determined by measuring the length of Garrett’s tibia, while he was in a crouch position on the wave. Then, using the video of the event, and some simple mathematics, Guinness determined and verified the size of the wave.

This giant wave formed last November near Nazare, Portugal, just north of Lisbon in the North Atlantic Ocean. At the time, the energy of a decaying storm, hundreds of kilometres off the Portuguese coast helped to create a series of large swells. As these waves neared the coastline, they grew in size. 

The wave formed last November near Nazare, Portugal
The wave formed last November near Nazare, Portugal

The ocean floor at Nazare, Portugal has a natural deep undersea canyon that narrows, and then ends abruptly. This small geographic feature on the seafloor ensures that this is one of the best places in the world to find big waves in the late autumn months.

Location and time of year are critical to formation of such a large wave.
November is the tail end of Atlantic hurricane season which runs from June 1st to November 30th. Very often the remnants of hurricanes decay in the Atlantic Ocean near the Azores. Hurricanes disburse a lot of energy which create huge swells or waves in the ocean. As this large volume of water races toward the coast, the seafloor rises and in shallow waters waves grow in size, as massive volumes of water rise.  

This video is one of the most popular videos on The Weather Network this week.

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