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The Search for a 100ft wave

Over the next week, we will recount some epic, dangerous, death defying surf stories to get you in the mood for our next ten tenners event - Surf 'n' Turf (RSVP here).

For many years, the idea of a 100ft wave was considered a fisherman's tale told by the select few that had gone out to sea and survived an encounter with a wave that dwarfed their boat. Many people considered it an exaggeration. A myth. But stories of the 100ft wave still sent chills down sailors spines and kept many men confined to the safety of the shore.

Well, apart from a few nutters who decided to seek out a 100ft wave and, erm, surf it.

Searching for a Sea Monster

It started as a picture. In 2005, Dino Casimiro, a teacher in the fishing village of Nazaré, Portugal, snapped a photo of what he had long observed from the seaside cliffs: swells in the Atlantic the size of buildings, so feared and unpredictable it seemed everyone in town knew of someone who had been lost at sea. The image was as haunting as it was beautiful. A wave that appeared so big that it was the size of a cliff.

“I immediately thought that I need to do something,” Casimiro recalls in 100 Foot Wave, a documentary series on HBO.

That something was to email Garret McNamara, the man who surfed a Tsunami wave in Alaska, who had been on a ten year search for the elusive 100ft wave. McNamara travelled to Portugal to see if he could finally land his sea monster.


Nazaré is unique. Waves the height of multistorey buildings regularly roll in throughout the Portuguese winter because of its unique geography. Below the surface is a huge ocean canyon, 125 miles long and three times as deep as the Grand Canyon.

Unlike the more famous big wave spots, Nazare produces chaotic, unpredictable and relentless waves. You are never safe when surfing a wave here. Every surfer who rides a wave here looks like a tiny speck on the side of Everest, often travelling at 50 miles an hour down the equivalent of a 10-storey building.

Oceans Everest

Footage from each big-wave season at Nazaré evinces the growing spotlight on the town of 10,000 residents, but the 100ft creature has remained, to date, elusive to the big-wave surfers including McNamara who decamp for Portugal each winter. Photos show that people have come pretty close - some even contest that they have surfed the 100ft wave.

The current official record is held by Sebastian Steudtner - a measly 86 feet. This is contested with some beliveing that Lucas Chianca surfed a 97.3 feet wave. But the search for the 100 ft wave goes on.

*For those of you joining us at Rest Bay you can be sure (bar the rapture) that you will not be the one to find the 100ft wave. Sorry about that. But the current forecast is good so expect to have a cracking time anyway. To join us RSVP here. Remember, if you sign up before 5pm on Saturday 13th April, you can win your surfboard and wetsuit hire!

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