Was it 93.73 ft? Maybe. And if you want to break a record, it might not be this one. Photo: Porsche

The Inertia

Recently, Sebastian Steudtner claimed that he’d surfed the biggest wave ever ridden. New drone technology developed with his sponsor Porsche measured a wave at Nazaré of 28.57 meters on the metric scale or 93.73 feet on the “fuck-that’s-massive” scale. If ratified by the Guinness World Records, this would eclipse his current high bar of 86.4 feet, also surfed at Nazaré in 2020. 

It had me thinking of surfing world records and what records are out there for the common surfer? Trying to break the German’s effort could be difficult. I’d need a tow partner. And a German car partner. I haven’t even got a life partner. Let’s put that in the impossible realm. But in the not-quite-too-hard basket, there are some achievable world records out there begging to be beaten. 

You should start with surfboards on the roof. The record of 282 surfboards has stood since way back in 1998 when some Santa Barbara surfers strapped the boards to a Humvee and drove for 100 feet. An attempt to beat that record was last managed at the World Masters Surf Titles in Taranaki, New Zealand in 2003. The collection of old pros managed 150 surfboards; all be it strapped on a standard car. However, seeing as the event was sponsored by the beer company Fosters, trying a few high-speed donuts midway through the attempt couldn’t have helped.

Endurance is another category where ordinary folk have been found to do extraordinary things. Last year Cronulla surfer Blake Johnson surfed for 40 hours to smash the existing “surfing marathon” record by 10 hours. He surfed more than 600 waves, raised over $200,000 Australian for mental health charities and dedicated the record to his dad, who committed suicide 10 years previously. However, he later admitted that “Everything hurts. I’m stoked, but I’m cooked.” 

If you don’t fancy the mental and physical anguish, you could play the long game and tackle Dale Webster’s record. For 40 years, from September 3, 1975, to October 4, 2015, Dale caught at least three waves to shore at Bodega Bay. That made him the dual record-setter for the “most consecutive days spent surfing” and most waves caught with 43,923 confirmed waves. Dale also showed that these records don’t have to be done for purely altruistic reasons. He initially started his quest after his wetsuit was damaged and he wanted to surf for a full year to force the manufacturer into replacing it, having incorrectly interpreted the warranty. He didn’t even get a free wetty.

An easier, less exhaustive option with a quicker claim to fame is to tackle the most turns on a wave. Cristobal de Col had the record for 34 carves at Chicama in 2016. However, that could be topped by Dylan Graves who submitted a wave with 40 turns whilst surfing the Bono tidal bore in Indonesia last year. Impressive, though both should lose points for a lack of variety. 

Dylan’s wave didn’t threaten the current world record for the longest wave ever surfed. That is held by the UK’s Steve King for a 9.25-mile ride on a tidal bore up the Severn River in Great Britain. The judges were still clearly valuing length-of-ride over speed and flow. 

However, compared to Gary Saavedra, King’s wave looks a closeout at the Wedge. Saavedra rode a wake behind a boat for 43.1 miles along the Panama Canal in 2011. For that feat of crouching, he claimed the world record for the longest wave surfed, and the longest time spent surfing one “wave.” And no, we don’t know why he did it either. And, uhm, for the record, the longest wave surfed by a dog (open water) is 351.7 feet by Abbie Girl at Ocean Beach’s “Dog Beach” back in 2011. If only Abbie Girl knew about tidal bores. 

More explosive was Layne Beachley who in 2011 claimed the prized record of “Fastest Speed for a Surfboard Towed by a Car.” The Aussie icon was clocked at 78.26 km/h (48.62 mph), whilst filming for the TV show Top Gear Australia. Imagine how upset she was then when serial record go-getter Josh Enslin (he’d set a surfing marathon record of 30 hours in 2014) reached a top speed of 81 kilometres per hour (50.3 mph) in 2017 to claim the coveted fastest human on a surfboard moniker. Layne was more pissed at that than when Steph Gilmore, with her eighth world title, eclipsed her other world record of most world titles held by a woman. 

Elsewhere there’s no point trying to beat Ben Gravy’s new record of surfing all of America’s 50 states unless serious geopolitical chaos or a second Trump presidency delivers a 51st State. Better still, just bide your time. Japanese surfer Seiichi Sano was 88 years and 288 days old when Guinness World Records verified him as the oldest surfer. Sano didn’t even start surfing until he was 80, just after he had climbed Mt Fuji. 

I could go on, but I may break some type of record for boring The Inertia readers. There are currently more than 60,000 records registered on the Guinness World database. You could try for the longest time standing on one leg blindfolded (31min 14sec), the fastest time to roll an orange one mile with your nose (22min 41sec), or the longest fingernails (42ft 10.4in). Or, keep it simple, and just go and ride a 100-foot wave. 


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