Former SURFER Editor/Author
Garrett McNamara Biggest Wave Ever 90 Foot Portugal

The Kinetics Institute for Body Movement reported Garrett McNamara's wave height as 28 meters – which pencils out to 91 feet 10.36 inches.

The Inertia

In 2010, the surfing world was under the misguided impression that Greg Long’s victory at the Quiksilver Big Wave Invitational in Memory of Eddie Aikau was founded on a one hundred point ride for taking off on a closeout. The wave that everyone saw, was Long bravely hucking himself super-duper late on a closeout, that probably would have atomized him if it had landed on him.

Despite what everyone thought, this wasn’t his one hundred point ride. Long was aware of what the surfing world was thinking and it bugged him, but he is as mild-mannered on land as he is fearless in the water. He didn’t want to raise a stink until a former surf journalist urged him to clear the air. Telling him, “You have to nip these things in the bud, before the history books get set in cement.”

On February 6, 2010, Mike Cianciulli and Surfline did clear the air, and explained that the hundred point wave was one that Long rode while all the cameras were pointed at Bruce Irons – who was shooting the Waimea shorebreak.

Greg Long smiled quietly to himself and felt better about the whole deal.

And is probably still glad that closeout didn’t hit him.

Now that the 2012 Billabong XXL Big Wave Awards nominees have been announced, it’s time to clear the air about one of the waves that has been nominated in two categories: Biggest Wave, and The Ride.

In November of 2011, the Portuguese coastal town of Nazare invited Garret McNamara to prove what a lot of surfers (including this writer, who saw Nazare in 1984 on a giant day) had suspected for a long time: That the Atlantic swells that broke along Praia do Norte were competitive with the biggest waves in the world. According to a press release by the town of Nazare: “The Hydrographic Institute of the Portuguese Navy provided a report on how the Nazaré Canyon has a special effect on the swells and could easily produce a wave of such a size on the November 1st swell.”

On November 1, a giant, clean Atlantic swell was bombing the beach at Praia do Norte. Garrett was there with two lovely British lads – Englishman Andrew Colton and Irishman Al Mennie. On two skis – one for towing and one for safety – they motored out of the harbor at Nazare and into a heaving ocean. They gave the point at Pedro de Gulhim a wide berth and then encountered the Atlantic in full fury along the long beach at Praia do Norte.

Cotton and Mennie both rode waves in the 60-foot range, and then Mennie was in the channel on a ski when Cotton towed Garrett into a bomb.

“Everything seemed to be perfect – the weather, the waves,” Mennie was quoted in a press release from the Nazare City Hall, “when Garrett got on the rope, a wave – maybe 30 feet bigger – came out of the canyon. It was meant to be. I had the best seat in the house as he dropped down the face of the biggest wave I’ve ever seen.”

Garrett’s ride was videoed by Jorge Leal and because this is the modern world, that moose of a wave seen around the world very quickly. Everyone from CNN to ESPN showed the video of what was being described as “a world-record wave” or “the biggest wave ever ridden” or  “a 90-foot wave” and other hyperbole that raised the hackles of the surfing world.

Just as Greg Long didn’t want to raise a stink about his hundred-point Eddie wave, and had to be goaded into setting the record straight, Garrett’s handler Nicole Macias is downplaying the noise that erupted after Garrett’s wave was tagged as a 90 footer. “The bottom line is that people are saying Garrett claimed a 90-foot wave – those words have never come out of his mouth,” Macias said. “And also that Nazare is claiming a world record for their promotion and that there is this huge budget where everyone is getting paid – no one is getting paid!”

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