Nazaré Canyon Reality Check

posted by / Blogs / October 31, 2013

100 feet, right?
It’s back, like a cold sore. Nazaré Canyon. The wave that sometimes isn’t a wave because a wave has a crest and a trough, and Nazaré often lacks the latter. The hype that comes with it is back too. “Biggest wave ever ridden?” “The 100-foot wave?” “I’m Ron Burgandy?” Those question marks express doubt, and rightfully so. It’s like a surfers version of a cheap philosophical question: If a wave breaks without a bottom, does it break a world record?

It stirs up a bigger question of how we measure waves, and the inevitable pitfalls flaws we run into in the process. A wave is measured as the vertical distance between the crest and the trough. Find the bottom. Find the top. Measure the distance. Should be easy. But when you’re looking at a wave straight on, especially from elevation, things can get tricky.

Nazaré Canyon is a caricature of this phenomena . At steep waves like Jaws or Maverick’s you can see that the lip is almost directly above the trough (or at least is in the frame). But at Nazaré, because the wave is so flat, the distance between the lip and the bottom of the wave might be a 100 feet long, while the wave height is actually more around 60 feet. See the above example of Carlos Burle’s wave at Nazaré on October 28. At first glance it’s the biggest wave ever ridden (or at least as big as either of Garrett’s from the same wave and same camera angle). The wave looks 100 feet because we’re seeing about 100 feet of face in the image, but that face isn’t vertical. Far from it. This is shown in the following graph, which illustrates a virtual cross cut of this wave.

When looking at waves from the side, like Alain Rioui’s wave at Belharra below, you can easily draw a vertical line from the bottom of the wave to meet a horizontal line drawn from the crest of the wave and measure the height that way. But that becomes impossible when you’re looking at a wave photographed from the front, because even if you found the bottom of the wave (a subjective location in most photographs), you can’t draw the horizontal line from the crest of the wave toward the bottom because you’d be entering a third dimension that a 2D photograph doesn’t allow.
Side angle.

What lessons can we take away?

1) Nazaré is a place where giant swells are ridden, but these aren’t 100-foot waves.
2) The wave is dangerous, as we saw with Maya’s broken ankle-to near drowning-combo.
3) We need a better way to measure waves, especially when they’re photographed from the front. If anyone is knows of any special technology, software or math that is available that might help with something like this, we’d love to hear about it. Leave your suggestions in the comments section below or email me at

—Taylor Paul

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  • Morgan

    First comment.

  • hmmm

    buy two long range laser range finders and connect them with a custom apparatus (see following description), or design your own based on the following description, though that’s much more pricey.

    two range finders are attached at the lower left corner by a hinge and directed at the surfer. This way they can pivot independently of each other but they will be measuring along the same vertical axis. OK, let’s call vertical Y, left/right (parallel to beach) is X, and depth is Z.

    The two range finders can pivot about the X-axis, meaning they can tilt up and down. But they will always be shooting in the Z direction, perfectly straight ahead. Point one at the top of the wave and one at the bottom (the further in front of the surfer the better). Get your readings.

    Your apparatus needs to be able to tell you the exact angle that the two range finders are tilted at (relative to one another). Then you’ve got Side Angle Side of a non-right triangle. Use law of cosines, sines, whatever the hell it is top figure out the rest. And from there you can figure out the height by breaking it down into a right triangle.

    believe that’s all you’d need. If my intuition is wrong, maybe you’d also need the measurer’s elevation. Easy enough with a decent GPS. Take a measurement at the beach once your done and subtract the difference.

    There’s probably already a device in existence that does what I described, maybe not. google ‘measure two points from a distance’ or ‘measure height from far away’ or something. IDK.

    That’s the pricey version. Plenty of cheaper ways that require more man-power and less laziness. But surefers (we) are lazy.

    Such as simply getting a committed camera man in the water, using some sort of buoy device, or kind of a remote controlled submarine type deal with gps on it, taking significant measurements (including elevation of photographer / distance to various buoy’s / locators) BEFORE one of these swell occasions to prep/practice your technique.

    Good call on calling out the measuring technique as BS though. I laughed out loud when I first saw that video where they explain how the Guinness/XXL guys figured out wave height based on one photo. Calling Garret’s last record 1 foot or whatever larger than the previous record is a complete joke with the amount of error introduced.

  • filipe

    Perfect. I think all these explanation make sense. Problable if there is a photo inside the line up should be easier to get the real size. It was big but not 100 feet.

  • Cristiano

    I think you are deadly wrong, this perspective u draw is totally wrong.

  • kyle

    3d-camera and simple trigonometry

  • Chris

    Please forward to Anderson Cooper. :)

  • JOHN

    Why are tow guys now messing with wider different snowboard thin stuff, I watch this and I am like, “a snowboarder rides a way steeper mountain in powder, fast, more control.” is there going to be different bindings? speed wobble tow strap stuff looks so not functional for what this specific type of surfing appears to need, total lay man on waves this big and I may be way off but it just looks really weird and awkward on big waves going slower than snowboarders but a lot. there has to be a gear fix to give them what they need. right? wakeboard style?

  • Chongo

    At Cristiano, please explain how this is wrong?

  • Nuno

    In order to be more precise I would recommend you to speak with Miguel Moreira in the Department of Sport Science, Faculty of Human Kinetics (FMH), who has developed software called SIMI Motion Twin, that doesn’t measure static images, using video instead and the length of the board. General media created this hype over 100 ft waves and Laird’s opinions added gasoline to the fire. No one in Portugal is trying to take the spotlight of Jaws or Mavericks, because we realize that they are different waves. But don’t take the credits out of Praia do Norte because it can have giant waves and tubes as well. Even Kelly Slater said that it could hold a WCT event. It’s a very special and unique location as Hawaiians Garret McNamara, S. Dorian and Mike Stewart confirm. I like your approach, but it lacks the surfers first hand opinion and a more scientific approach to it, that you will find with Mr. Moreira.

  • Jo

    Great article! In my opinion, the waves ridden at Nazare are nothing compared to Jaws, Mavericks, Todos Santos & Cortez. Nazare has no tube/barrels…no “top to bottom”. Nazare is just a big, sloping wave. I’m not taking anything away from the spot; it’s a heavy spot but not as heavy as Mavericks or Jaws. The world would s*** a brick if they saw a “100-foot wave” or the biggest wave ridden at Mavericks compared to Nazare.

  • SkinDog

    Ha ha ha Oooooo this will never be an easy task. No matter who measures a wave, there will always be someone to discredit them. Judging surfing will always be subjective. Jaws also photo graphs bigger that it is, because of the above sea level angle. Shooting from above, always photographs bigger. Funny how people want to discredit Portugals GIANT WAVES. Last Year nobody from the Surf Medias wanted to give credit to G Mac. But he set a World Record. The Surf Media has not really supported Big Wave Surfing all that much in the last decade, but things are changing quick, because Big Wave Surfing is reaching a bigger fan bass. I guess the best part of all this is Big Wave Surfing is getting a Sh!t load of publicity right now. GO BIG!!!

  • hmmm

    Or maybe the fact that it’s nearly impossible by modern technology, technically impossible if you consider the infinite variation in the exact lip and trough surfaces, is a statement to the intrinsic ambiguity of surfing. The same ambiguity that attracts many of us to the ocean to feel, experience, and attempt to ride each unique wave and causes us to fall in love with it all. Perhaps this ambiguity should be respected and regarded as a sign from mother nature that we simply shouldn’t be measuring large waves and competing with one another to top the next and gain fame and fortune. Kind of like how surfing does not belong in the Olympics. Listen to mother nature. Listen to her heart beat. Feel the warmth of her bosom upon your cheek and head to her infinite wisdom laid out before us.

  • scott

    Dose not matter he did not finish the ride he was wiped out by the second set of white water… thus no record… you need to complete the ride to get the record, the drop is only for photographers.

  • SurfingKook

    Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Ever since G-mac so-called broke the record at Nazare I have been telling friends the wave wasn’t even close to the record. The wave and camera angle combined make it an optical illusion. The wave doesn’t pitch and break to the bottom. I have disliked G-mac ever since because I saw him stutter in an interview on whether he thought it was the biggest wave ever and you could tell he knew it wasn’t. G-mac is a kook!

  • Ze Pedro Alvarez

    No bottom? Seriously? Have you been here? Do you know what you are talking about? Look below, from more than two miles away… Oh, have i told you these waves end up in the rocks?

  • Ze Pedro Alvarez

    oh… and another thing. When you came to Nazaré you will find it does not photographs bigger… but smaller tha it is. When you first come to the lighthouse in front of the wave you will find what big waves are all about.

  • zach wormhoudt

    Well said TP!

    In my view there is way too much attention on the numeric size of big waves.

    look at jeremy jones and friends snowboarding some of the worlds largest mountains in Alaska. They don’t get to the bottom of a run and go the was a 7,317 foot run, 1.5 feet bigger than so and so. They go that was critical, the guy was doing turns,etc. etc.
    and ironically they could do exact measurements, but they do not, because they know that is not what the ride is about.

  • Dirk

    These days it seems they are measuring the length of the longest side of the triangle that is a wave. When photographed from above and/or the front, because a photo can only be 2D, length is confused with height, therefore giving the impression that very long waves are bigger (higher) than they really are. I think that there have probably been larger waves ridden at spots where the wave is steeper like Jaws. The long side of the wave’s triangle looks smaller on photos -and maybe really is smaller-, but their height, which I think should be the relevant measure here, is larger. On top of that, waves like Nazare tend to be “mushy” (if such a term can be applied to these huge waves), so they break more “gently” than a wave like Jaws or Mavericks, meaning that the whole ride is less critical.

    In short, if you really want to be fair and objective with awards such as the largest wave ridden(if these awards should even exist is another question altogether), you should be able to measure the height of the wave. If the award focuses on the gnarliest or heaviest ride, the waves should be judged similarly to a normal surfing competition with criteria specific to big waves. Personally, I suspect I have seen higher waves ridden (can’t prove it though), but I’m sure I have seen more critical rides.

  • Salty

    Wave height could be had using a couple of Quadcopters fitted with radar altimeters for about 2-3000 bucks US. For Nazare and other waves further out from shore, a Schiebel S-100 camcopter fitted with an MRA radar altimeter could suss it out. it could be yours for a cool half a million dollars.

    With $6 billion in revenue last year, the surf industry can afford it. slap some Volcom stickers (better than the swoosh, right?) on the side and we’re all set to go wave hunting!

  • David Howard

    Though Laird’s criticisms may seem harsh, anybody who surfs sees a wave like this week’s Nazare and KNOWS this wave doesn’t define the “best and greatest” of our sport.

    So I am stoked that we are finally beginning to argue “size doesn’t matter”! We are in awe of the greatest man-vs-nature risk-takers in the sport, and size was just our first effort to single them out for their achievements. Pushing size aside for a moment, what might be next??

    THERE SHOULD BE AN XXL CONTEST FOR SUSTAINED AVERAGE WATERSPEED. Record acceleration and waterspeed on their boards and register the best 5-second slice of the ride.

    As a lifelong surfer over halfway to my 100th birthday, I read this article and it’s responses, and am astounded that I only see the word “speed” mentioned once, (John’s reference to “speed wobble”). Think about the best heart-in-your-throat waves of your life. You picked the deepest, riskiest line your skills could bear, and the direct result was more speed and/or acceleration through the water, yes?

    You’re taking off on a shallow dredger with the face rising faster than your board can descend the face… A much higher level of skill, courage and risk is required to take off on a grinding 10-footer at ‘Chopes than the biggest waves at Nazare, and I would bet your waterspeed would be higher too.

    Put another way, a shoulderhopper at any of the high-risk lineups would never register the waterspeed that Garret McNamara generates deep in the throat of the very same wave.

    A lazyman’s patent search proves that yes, there are many patents on the subject, and they cover a number of technologies including pitot tubes (would create a small amount of drag) and strain gauges (zero drag). I would bet a lot of us would love to have a device like this attached to our boards so we can see (and brag about) what we did on our best sessions.

    I wonder what they use in the America’s cup, probably a good place to start!

  • thatkid

    how steep the wave is has everything to do with it because of the shear balls it takes to make the drop, any surfer who has surfed anything head high or bigger understands that a steeper wave like east coast beach break barrels were its dumpy is entirely different than a flat wave like san onofre, if your not a surfer then look at it this way, if you skate down a 100ft long driveway its going to b entirely different than a skating down a 100ft vert ramp, also the wave has to made if your gonna make a claim, it would be like bragging about skating a 100ft vert ramp but u ate shit in the flats

  • Bruce

    Since triangulating GPS signals is used to measure small differences in height between continents, you would think the same approach could be used to measure vertical distance traveled by a surfer. Not sure if it would require two GPS receivers targeting different satellites. It would also be interesting to parse out vertical, horizontal, and distance-over-wave traveled. Isn’t something similar being done with guys flying the wing suits??

  • John

    Cristiano: “I think you are deadly wrong, this perspective u draw is totally wrong.”

    The illustration is NOT “totally wrong” it is exaggerated, but it give the correct idea that a high camera angle exaggerates the wave height.

  • http://kapwing Bodistapha

    Bell’s beach austrslia. During the 100 year storm.

  • Jimmicane

    @zach wormhoudt
    Fuck yeah. Very true. I can’t say I’d be anywhere near the water with waves like that but I was laughing at some of the video of them riding a non-breaking open ocean swell, then getting bucked off way out on the shoulder of a wave that still had not capped. Looked heinous.

    Meanwhile, Albee Layer and Shane Dorian get legitimately shacked and spit out of huge barrels on waves they paddled into. Skill + balls = way more respect, IMO.

    This tow-in shit is just balls. It isn’t surfing. It’s stunt work. It’s for show. It’s Evel Knievel. It’s only entertaining to watch because people love to see other people do stupid shit. Just like that show Ridiculousness. This should be on that show and we can all laugh then move on to watch an idiot try and jump over a moving car.

  • dylan

    stop claiming

  • Luke

    I don’t see why photogrammetry wouldn’t work.
    Take two or more overlapping photos from two separate locations at the exact same time using calibrated cameras (any camera can be calibrated). If you know the relationship between the two cameras (ie the distance and height difference between them and where they are pointing.) You can give a 3d coordinate to any pixel in the overlapping portion of the images relative to the camera coordinates.

  • Wilzilla

    Skindog – said it best regarding JAWS, the wave that made some many of the experts an authority. Jaws is almost always taken from well above sea level yet still gets the credit. So should waves be measured from sea level, or the bottom of the trough or the height of the whitewater. In small waves I think it should be measure from wherever the wave is approaching terminal vertical position in relation to apex of the crest. That allows for the account of below sea level troughs and irregularities in the wave.That is typically where the most energy is concentrated.It is essentially the same as the lowest part of the backside of the wave to the backside of the crest, Hawaiian Style measurements. It should be the same in large waves but for some reason there is another force we cant quite comprehend and we always want to measure it from the bottom of the face instead of the approaching vertices. As far as perspective is concerned it leaves a question of who is the person making a call on the position of the bottom of the trough and then calculated through the Pythagorean theory. But that is at best subjective because typically it is seen through a narrow view in photograph references to the true dimension of the overall swell length. Many times I have wondered if the angles in video parts make the waves look much bigger and the answer is YES. However the exact moment the photograph is taken the photographer can see the entire view and judgement is much better. This brings up a question of whether determining the wave height and size can even be determined from a photograph, and if not how can we have contest awards through that method. By the way for all of you picture enthusiast out there, 9 out of ten times that 10 foot slabbing barrel shot you see on covers of magazines is really a 4 foot beach break somewhere. Perspective is everything.

  • luke

    Americans are the biggest bunch of muppets going…

  • Kris Kerr

    Give three people watching cases of busch light and the first person to complete the wizard staff decides how big the waves are.

  • Filipe
  • Binnsie

    At Snapper one year the Top 34 had GPS devices in their jerseys tracking speeds attained, distances paddled etc. Surely there’s room in amongst all the inflatable wetsuits, life vests, mini oxygen bottles and energy drink stickers for one of these matchbox-sized tech gizmos to end this debate once and for all?

  • james

    you could use LIDAR which is 3 dimensional profiling,we use in surveying state of the art and extremely accurate

  • James Hamilton

    Having done a fair amount of moderate wave surfing my self over the past thirty year’s -Let me remind all you Big Wave Fella Hellas,It aint the vertical height that will get you way down! Remember this.It ‘s the volume of H2o that’s energizing that wave.E-Nuff said…Size??? tell me it really matters.,pffffttt.HamBonZ

    Laird, Back me up !!!

  • Chad Bonsack

    Everyone why don’t we let Garrett answer this question he was there. Garrett has the current record. Let him tell us. The camera angle we see tells us nothing. No matter what Carlos kudos for Charging it . Awesome.

  • I wasnt there

    Was the author at both of these waves to make a judgmental opinion ?

  • ivan

    Obviously there is no exact science here. There can’t be. Maybe it’s just not meant to be. These XXL awards and records estimate wave heights to the foot. That’s quite a bit of precision here that is unrealistic. So someone paddled into a 66 foot wave an next year, someone does it in a 67 foot wave. Really? So now we are to agree that these two monsters were only different by one lonely foot? I love the ride of the year, wipeout of the year, barrel – for some reason the “holly crap” factor indicates the winner. We just can’t measure waves and be that precise. It would be cool to figure it out mathematically in some kind of way but we are far from it. These big wave guys are cool – we are always trying to give them a hard time about their personalities, etc. It would be so much fun to sit and kick back to some cold beers with some of these guys and hear some cool big wave stories. Just a bunch of big kids with a passion for something that the majority of us can only wish for. Keep putting on a show, be safe, and entertain us. I don’t know or care if Carlos broke any records. Regardless of the type of wave Nazare is, it was quite an awesome site.

  • leo

    so dude, i was surfing this, like, huge 6 foot swell and stuff. then, then, this like, huge rogue set, appeared in the horizon, I swear, something like 23 miles away. I saw it!! Then I paddled so fast to the horizon telling everyone to come but they didn’t listen. So I paddle what I estimate to be like, 1.6 miles, and then realized I was in position. I was so far out I couldn’t tell what color shirt my girlfriend was wearing at the beach. So I paddled and paddle and was, dude, elevated like at least 300 feet – I could see the highway and stuff. Nobody believes me but this wave let me in! My friends said they saw a bug on the face of this wave, but it was me!! It was me!!!! So like, I started going down the face and I hit this bump and thought why not try an air. So I swung my frame around and next thing I know I was spinning like a helicopter. Wow. I mean this was so different than my typical airs. So then, I landed it, and kept going down the wave face for like, I don’t know, like a minute or something. Then.. I went past my buddies and got so barreled. It was like being being inside of a museum. Soooo radical dude. I came out of the barrels and this barf thing spat and threw my hair on my face. I was like – wow. My girlfriend was so excited. We had coffee and everything. But her phone gave out and she didn’t take a picture. But you can ask anyone. I mean go ahead. My dad was so mad I missed school but I told him about this story. He was like: “boy, I’m so proud of you.”

  • matt hale

    Every surfer worth his salt knows that judging a wave’s size from the front is infinitely more accurate that judging it from the side, whether it’s a canyon or not. And most, if not all, of the big wave surfers in the world who saw that video acknowledge that wave as gigantic and probably the biggest ever ridden. therefore, your argument is completely full of shit.

  • Tubarão

    Carlos surfed the wave all the way, lip to the bottom ! 100ft wave !! 100% !!! The experts in Portugal measured !!

  • ofuami

    stop using the word STOKE it is like the word ALOHA and like supposed 100ft waves measured by STOKED ALOHA people. They are MYTHICAL & PRETEND…tell it to DISNEY~

  • Briand

    50% of everything is showing up. Maya and Carlos showed up. It’s great for the sport period. Listening to surfers argue about wave size, Laird’s obvious fear of rivalry and the negative coverage of the US corporate surfing establishment is all such a waste.

    Grow up and encourage our friends who charge, wherever it may be.

  • Ztrois

    According to Miguel Moreira, Coordinator of Postgraduate Surf the Faculty of Human Kinetics (FMH) and author of “Surfing: From Science to Practice” (FMH Editions, 2009), the SIMI Motion Twin is a software where you can synchronize pictures different executions, override these same images, as well as measuring angles and distances, which allows you to find explanations and solutions to the problems experienced (in practice) by athletes and their coaches. “According to Miguel Moreira, using the same method and software, the wave surfed by Carlos Burle can reach 36m (110 ft).

  • Rob

    Being both a snowboarder and a surfer, I can agree with John…I’ve clocked speeds in excess of 60mph on steeps. I admit, I was never as good a surfer as I am a snowboarder, but I know I never hit the kind of speed on a wave as I have on a 55 degree slope.

    I think the wave height should be measured as a proportion to the amount of shit in your shorts when your kick out.

  • ztphoto

    Seems like everyone is looking for the wave size description to be a simple thing. “head high” is a great description when your going surfing with your buddy’s, but when your engaged in a competition that is about wave size, “really big” just isn’t enough information. What about a measuring waves like a roof is measured. (e.g. 8 foot with a 3 to 1 pitch) and then add in wave speed. Even then the wave difficulty is subjective.

  • hmmm

    @ Ztrois

    One of my pet peeves is when people instill blind trust in anyone of scientific authority without questioning the accuracy of their analysis, or figuring out whether what they did is actually any more scientific or accurate than what anyone else is doing.

    By simply glancing at the graphic on the web page you linked and blowing up the image it’s clear that Miguel Moreira estimated the rider height at 188.76 centimeters, which translates to exactly 6’2″.

    So obviously he looked up Carlos’ height and completely disregarded the fact that he is in a squatted position in the photograph, which introduces say, one foot of error. Then that foot is multiplied by (110/6.166 = 17.8) meaning he’s already introduced 20 ft of error into his calculation.

    There’s also the fact that the surfer is certainly not perpendicular to the camera face, meaning he is tilted towards the camera. Thus, estimating his height as 6’2″ is in actuality more than one foot off. It’s 1 foot plus whatever height is lost due to the surfer’s actual angle. Way too lazy to calculate an accurate approximation right now but let’s estimate it at another 8 inches of inaccuracy. So that’s another (8/12 * 17.8 = 11.86) 12 feet of inaccuracy added to the calculated wave height. Actually it’s probably more like 14 inches or so but whatever.

    18 + 12 is 30 feet of inaccuracy meaning the wave is probably closer to 80 feet, based on his software which apparently has magical powers that we common folk can’t comprehend.

    Don’t be fooled by senseless technical jargon, bs is bs no matter who says it :/

  • Linc

    Ja I agree, massive, powerful, but not what you could honestly call 100ft wave, I remember watching the video’s and how they cheat edited it, not giving a good and long enough side view to really see the shape or height, only the front view which makes it look bigger. The wave ‘caps’ just at the top, doesnt even break…
    You can fool some people sometimes, but you cant fool all the people all the time. -Bob Marley

  • Armindo

    If the waves are all bullshit here.

    Why do all the big wave riders who’ve actually been here in Nazare say the waves are huge and love the place. And plan to come back.

    And by the way. Even tho it is offline now for whatever reason. Last year during the largest waves ever surfed they had actual reading from actual buoys measuring the swells:
    (not the reading from the big day but the last day online)
    This is an official and maritime institute of the Portuguese government/navy.

    And not to mention that since everybody taking the time to travel to Nazare can see and experience those waves by themselves and confirm their size and volume. So I rather see the criticism from people who have actually been there.

  • Armindo

    And by the way. The waves here in Nazare don’t look anything like the Graphic you showed. They are actual huge triangles with very steep faces/drops (and I have seen countless pics and vidz showing the surfers almost drop vertically on these waves).

    The moment they start to break it seems they actually jump up.

    And I saw them actually surf the wave and I was maybe only 8 to 10m above above the water since you can go down the stairs in front of that lighthouse in front of that rock (and get wet!).

  • Armindo

    And to hmmm’s comment above the riders height.

    That is not the measurement of the riders height that is the measurement of the Board he was riding on.

    Carlos is actually a pretty small dude…certainly not 1m88.

  • Diogo
  • Nelly

    It’ a contest that involves money as a reward for the task, all this big wave hype is fueled by the sponsors, the spot they are surfing is big and a messed up . If the reward money wasn’t put into the mix, all thing might have been different.

  • Aaron

    I agree with your approach, height should be measured by the vertical component of a breaking wave.
    I think your level of accuracy is in error.
    You’re probably closer to 5 foot of accuracy.
    I know this is not your point but it’s at the core of the discussion.
    I believe you could get close to 1 foot of accuracy with 2, or better yet 3, simultaneous camera angles. Each needs to see a horizon line and the crest of the wave at the peaking moment. Two or three cameras/photogs staged on skis and or land and one trigger.
    My understanding of big wave surfing suggests that a more advanced tech is not financially feasible.
    30 years in ocean / civil engineer

  • Ze Pedro Alvarez

    Reality check… lol, you are so ridiculous.
    Why don`t you send someone there to check out instead of wrinting bull****
    January will be much bigger in the North Canyon.
    Last monday there was much bigger waves than the ones surfed.

  • Ze Pedro Alvarez

    ohhh, and for the ones who are constantly talking about Dorian`s balls. He have been in Nazaré last Winter, He surfed there… Ask him why don`t he comes back, and maybe he tells you the story about a portuguese in the water patrol who saved his life.

  • Ron Burgandy

    A photo of a wave taken face-on accurately portrays the wave’s height. In the first diagram, the wave’s face throws a “shadow” of its three-dimensional shape onto the vertical camera lense such that its depth becomes invisible, leaving only its true width and height. Using triangulation you can find those exact distances pretty quickly, and there are many programs that can do it instantly; one I know of is LoggerPro.
    The illusion created in the diagram results from an incorrect distance being prescribed to the diagonal line (hypotenuse). How does the author of the diagram know exactly how far it is from the crest forward and down to the trough? I say that that distance is much longer than speculated.

  • owen

    Armindo, there’s no way carlos’s board is that short though.

  • The Larsgeb

    Did she live

  • Ztrois

    One of the proposals comes from the portuguese Miguel Moreira, Coordinator of Postgraduate Surf the Faculty of Human Kinetics (FMH) and author of “Surfing: From Science to Practice” (FMH Editions, 2009), which had filed a scientific measurement to wave the Hawaiian Garrett McNamara surfed in Nazareth in 2011 (the current world record for largest wave surfed), through a specific software for the purpose.
    “The SIMI Motion Twin is a software where you can synchronize images from different executions overlap those same pictures as well as measure angles and distances, which allows you to find explanations and solutions to the problems experienced (in practice) by athletes and their coaches “

  • Klonapin Keith

    MEDIA BULLSHIT yeah it’s a 100ft face, NOT 100ft AMPLITUDE. More like 60ft amplitude thus a 60 ft wave

  • waves

    If it was in the states…100FT or More(!!!)For sureeee!!! But the real problem is… it´s in Europe… OMG, how´s this possible? What about Maverics? Cortez Bank? Now, everybody talks about Nazaré!!!!!!! And…and…what about the states?? muaahhhh, i´m gonna cry!!!

  • waves

    minute 2:53

    Sooo, it doesn´t touch the bottom… hummm

  • Chris

    Sorry Mr Taylor Paul, your scientific analysis of the matter is totally pitiful. Although you have a point suggesting how to calculate the height of the wave, compare it with the french wave from Riou is not a basis for analysis. When you have a collection of pictures of waves ridden at Nazare taken from the same angle as the Belharra ones and you find a pattern, you can reopen your case. Untill then, stop being a hater…

  • Helder Bras

    Mr. Taylor would you have the same opinion if this wave break in a US location?? Did anyone measured the wave that Mike Parsons rode in Cortês Bank the way that you sugest?? Sometimes jornalists are so full of sh**!!

  • Been There

    Taylor Paul – You sound like the typical egocentric SoCal kook. You need to have prime media pony up the funds to fly you to portugal so can check out this wave that “isn’t a wave” yourself.

    I have stood on the beach and seen it with my own eyes. The wave is a mutant. Imagine the wedge maxing out. Now imagine the wedge 5X to 10X larger than making out. Throw a cliff in front of it and a lot of rocks.

    When you say “The wave that sometimes isn’t a wave because a wave has a crest and a trough, and Nazaré often lacks the latter.” only shows your ignorance. The wave barrels. Especially the rights. It’s a giant A-frame.

  • Been There

    Rather than try to used some bogus california math to disprove that the wave is a real wave… I urge you to go tow the place. Take off on a 20 ft right and pull in into the barrel right in front of the cliff.


    Can we please just get some pictures from anywhere but 550ft above the beach? Thats all. Jaws from a helicopter looks 150ft. This wave is huge, but its as wide as its tall. Tough one. And Shanos balls hang to the ground by the way.

  • Fernando

    Maybe 100 ft waves don´t break same way as 50ft or 60ft?
    Maybe the water and energy needt for a 100ft wave will always be more flat.
    I´m just gessing,maybe the bigger more flat it is?

  • RP

    Hey waves, seems to me you are the only one crying and using this medium to take out your pent up frustration and jealosy. Its not just the US who is doubting the 100ft measurement kook! Now go change your diapers and wipe your sniffly nose

  • Filipe
  • Nuno

    This is ridiculous, so much money involve in records and xxl surfing and we are measuring waves by photos….this is stupid to say the least

  • D rock

    Maybe start measuring waves at the magnitude in elevation relative to sea level . However u might do that . With a helicopter or something

  • D rock

    Like with a satellite elevation gauge that keeps record of a high for that day . Reset each time they paddle out . Slap it on the wrist . Monitor from a computer onshore .Bam! U got proof of your biggest wave of the day . Lot of work but it will solve yo problems

  • Andy Lukey

    There are cameras that measure the distance that light travels too and from every point(pixel)of the photograph they take. This info can then be used to render a 3d image. I was at a tech conference 5 years ago and they were developing the technology then.

  • Nuno Alves

    The wave is flat at Nazaré? Checkout G-Mac yesterday.
    Really flat, uh?

  • Fred

    Thanks for this post, but you are totally wrong here :

    “The wave looks 100 feet because we’re seeing about 100 feet of face in the image”

    If the picture is shot from the front, then it’s not the 100 feet that you see, it’s the 60 feet. Just sit down and look at table in your room from a distance, and you’ll understand what I mean : the “depth” component disappear, the only things you can really evaluate are width and hight.

    And actually, the fact that the picture is shot from above the wave might even make it look a bit smaller than it really is.

  • Armindo

    To owen:

    “utilizando a medida da prancha como escala para inferir a real dimensão da onda.”

    “using the dimensions of the board to infer the real size of the wave.”

    I have no way of knowing where he got this measurement from.

    From RP’s video link:

    Shane Dorians quote from video:
    “As far as intensity, power and size goes you could compare this wave to anywhere, whether its Cortez Bank or Jaws or Mavericks,” said Dorian. “The waves I saw today were absolutely enormous and if you had paddled into the biggest waves today, you would have paddled into the biggest wave ever paddled. I have no doubt about that.”

    And here you have quite a few side angles to see the actual shape of the wave.

    And I have seen other clips of other surfers talking about these waves too so, a little bit of research before you write an article?

    So the premise of this Surfing Mag story is all wrong by comparing apples and pears.

    I don’t have an opinion about this wave being the biggest ever surfed. I really don’t care. They are big and powerful and I have been watching them my whole life but I cannot compare them to any other place in the world. I love to feel the ground tremble when they break. You can feel the power.

    You all should come and see for yourself! :)

    These waves surfed weren’t even the biggest waves out there that day. By far.

  • RobH

    Use shore-based stereo imagery to measure 3D locations of a crest point and a prior trough point. You would have to record continuously two cameras for post analysis, but the algorithms are pretty standard.

  • G’broagfran

    These are silly arguments. The height of a wave is simply that, a measurement from the lowest part of the wave to the highest, straight up, not a measurement of the length of the face. They don’t measure mountains by the length of the face. Some waves have the lowest point below sea level and sea level is constantly changing, anyway. There is no doubt that these waves have very long faces and don’t throw as much as say, Teahupoo. The tallest wave is not necessarily the most massive, meanest, or hardest to ride. Granted, these waves are giant, and dangerous, but are far from the tallest. I am not particularly in favor of splitting hairs over who will be the first to catch the biggest wave. I think we can all see that these waves were consequential, but far, far from the most gnarly waves ever ridden. A surfers, we all know who has ridden the gnarliest waves ever. On the biggest, most perfect day at this spot, someone could get a giant and also, mega-consequential wave, no doubt. This particular day was too slopey to go in the books of the greatest waves ever surfed. Those surfers were charging, and Carlos does constantly surf giant waves, world-wide, but the talk of some kind of record is lame.

  • Cameron

    If you put the sensor in the right place a large wave’s size could be captured in 3D profile using a laser area scanner (Sick Inc. LMS or LiDAR). And yes, the name of my company is Sick. The resulting 3D image would provide extremely accurate height and even mass of the wave. This equiptment is not cheap, but if they are handing out prize money and world records, they should have an accurate way to quanitify the parameters.
    Beyond that I think there should be a “steepness” factor added to the wave height. It seems like a 60 footer barreling at Jaws is unloading way more power than a 60 footer burger crumbling from the top.

  • Sal

    Now people…

    I would agree with the author IF Nazare would be that kind of wave… THE PROBLEM IS: Nazare is damn steep! The freakin’ wave barrels for Christ sake…

    Do you really think this wave is just an “easy” ramp?

    This wave is a mutant !

    Here’s one of those “easy” ramps for you:

    Not steep at all right?

  • sam

    Why all this cock measuring ? Just enjoy. There’s probably far more accurate measures.of skill than skimming the edge of a huge wave ( after a tow its more like wakeboarding anyway ) .

  • Armindo

    Please check out all these vidz! And listen to the interviews of Shane Dorian, Garrett McNamara, Andrew Cotton, Maya Gabeira, Carlos Burle…etc…etc

    Hear it directly from their mouths.

  • William

    Taylor paul should recheck those fomulas he developed to calculate wave height. They are invalade an will produce big errors. Calos did surf 100ft wave or maybe even bigger. Go Brasil!

  • Mentalidade

    The lesson I learned is that those monster waves are too far from California, so they got to be small.
    It makes financial sense to me, erh common sense!

  • John

    I did my analysis of a good clear still photo of Carlos Burle’s wave on 10-28-13. On my pc screen the wave could not be taller than about 5″. Carlos would be 1/2″ standing up straight. That means only 10 times overhead and Carlos is no taller than 5’8″. That means the wave is less than 60 feet tall by my analysis. It could never be taller than 70′ even if I am WAY under in my estimation. This is a giant wave never-the-less, but not even close to a world record. Garrett’s wave of 2011 was only about 65 feet tall. Mike Parson’s wave of 2008 was calculated from a water angle photo.

  • John

    I did my analysis of this wave on my pc screen the wave could not be taller than about 5″. Carlos would be 1/2″ standing up straight. That means 10 times overhead and Carlos is no taller than 5’8″. That means the wave is less than 60 feet tall by my analysis. It could not be taller than 70′ even if I am WAY under in my estimation. A giant wave but not even close to a world record and further from 100 foot!

    Analyze the wave yourself using the ruler on the pc screen and a calculator.

  • John

    Sorry for the near duplicate posts. My first post did not show up for about 15 minutes, so I posted again, then both of them show up together.

    Yes Garrett McNamara rode a 65 foot wave in 2011 and the idiots judging the Billabong XXL did not compensate for the V E R Y high camera angle, so said it was 78 feet and Guiness Book of Records believed them.

  • John

    I did my analysis of the photo above on my pc screen. The wave could not be taller than about 5″. Carlos would be 1/2″ standing up straight. That means 10 TIMES overhead and Carlos is no taller than 5’8″. That means the wave is less than 60 feet tall. It could not be taller than 70′ even if I am WAY under in my estimation. A giant wave, but not even close to a world record, and further from 100 foot.

  • John

    Please delete my last post. Again all my posts disappeared then reappeared.

  • Ben Hamilton

    In response to request for suggestions on how to measure the wave. I suggest multiple methods. One is estimate by experienced surfer from direct frontal view. Better will be combination of front and side view photographs or videos with level tripod mounted cameras. For a better understanding that might include some understanding of the power of the waves, we should have a couple of measurements to indicate force and the steepness of the wave where ridden. My largest face is in the neighborhood of about 30 ft. and riding that wave would have been impossible without being in good company with some old timers, and having had a bit of coaching from Mickey a few weeks before at Leo. I do not pretend expertise, but when it comes to measurements, I suggest we look toward some experts at NASA, JPL, the US Navy, and the Army Corps of Engineers. What say experts at these agencys and bureaus? Can you loan us a Satellite for wave height measurement and issue some grants for landside laser readings? Perhaps the loan of a droan for low level photos for real intelligence purposes!
    Bless the boys and girls out there and keep looking out for each other! That keeps it a bit safer, but remember how lonely the point can be! And how cold. BBB

  • buranimal

    this sounds kinda like a penis measuring debate to me….

  • buranimal

    length plus width plus height … duh

  • francisco

    Technically, it is quite simple to measure wave heights. Equipments exist for decades and are several. Field equipments are mostly “point-equipments”, i.e, they measure the time variation of the free surface elevation at a single point. One disadvantage is that you need either to place it in advance at the “right place to be”, or to put several of them (which costs more) along the wave track.
    Satellite or air-born equipment can give “spatial” information, but are usually more expensive and needed to “be there” at the right time – satellites don’t aim at Nazaré all the time!
    IMHO, given the media and the fuss about this, placing a few (2 or 3) pressure sensors at the bottom for the season would cost probably less then the cost of the helicopter hours, shooting the scene! Alternatively, a “wave buoy” is a more expensive option. Bottom mounted Acoustic doppler current profilers (ADCP) with surface wave measuring capabilities are a third option, but one of this costs the price of 3 or 4 pressure transducers.
    On the other hand, perhaps an accurate measurement is unwanted!

  • A. Betamio de Almeida

    Dear friends
    When Is saw the Nazare wave photo in The Times and Time and others media I understood that the wave “height” should not be so high. It is an illusion due to several factors.
    A few months later I went to Nazare and I investigate very carefully the site and the conditions for the photo with my own camera. At the end of the day I was 98% sure of position from where the photo was taken: a buiding at a distance from the old fort of about 620 m and at 110 m over the average sea level.The opening angle is, I believe, about 6-7º. By simple triangle calculations i think that the wave can be 16-17 m height (not 34m!). But there is another factor that a specilist knows very well: the zooming effect that increases even more the relative height of objets behind.
    Betâmio de Almeida
    Emeritus Professor
    Tec. Univ of Lisbon Portugal

  • Gonzalo

    For what I see, you don’t even know how Nazare’s waves are.

    You are telling this on a photo, and not on reailty. You have giant waves there (not only giant swells), you just need to be unbiased and study the Nazare waves better.

    They can really be like any other waves, just bigger.

    I show you a photo that someone shared here:

  • Gonzalo

    Anyway most of the people here forget that this wave is very long, so a big part of it isn’t visible in the photo, but the wave really reached the height, but the wave itself got heighned by the water level, because the wave is very long in this case and so what you see in the photo is just a part of the wave.

    Nevertheless, I think that Garret’s wave in 2012 (the one that didn’t participate in Billabong) was bigger than the one in 2011, and that the one in 2011 is more of a wave than this one, this one isn’t as perfect as the one as Garrett rode, and he didn’t finished the wave.

    But yes, there are really 30 meter waves and bigger, in Nazaré. Those who live there have photos taken from aside where you can really see how big they get. But the biggest surfed I think it’s the one from 2012, and not the one from 2011 which is on the Guiness book.

  • John

    Just from analyzing video of people standing on the cliff, near that old fort, I measured the people on my pc screen at about 3/32″ and their height above sea level at 4.5″. Divide 4.5/0.9375 = 48 times overhead. 48 X 6′ = 288 feet. The video of Carlos is even higher, so a camera angle of over 300 feet is a VERY high camera angle. This will severely distort the true proportions. Carlos rode a 60 foot wave. It may be the tallest of the year.

  • Henrick

    The waves at nazare vary. Some waves like the one from mc namarra 2011 and also the one surfed by Felipé Cesarano (wich is worth checking out ) recently where obviously very steep waves to wich this “reality check” does not apply.
    From what i see ( im not an expert ) the waves of mc Namara 2012 and Burle where not bigger than the world record 2011.
    The one wich acctually could be bigger is the one surfed by Felipé Cesarano. I thing you could sens some envy in this whole debate

  • ray reyns

    Great to see all this controversy and all this identity on and energy to discredit people with the courage to get out on Nazare big. I think you have to see it to get what a monster it is. and it does break big and it is a vertical curl drop at that moment. Perhaps measurement will always be difficult as waves are shaped differently everywhere but to dis these guys for these rides in a bit dumb in my opinion. I was there last sunday and………..unreal power and size. 100 feet, 80 feet, 65 feet??? depends on what you want to believe before you start measuring.

  • Horus

    Well, I only say this: go there, see it with your own eyes, and then you can properly compare it with Jaws and Mavericks.

  • Stuki

    Even if measurements of wave height were standardized to only measure the vertical component of the wave from peak to through, it would still vastly overestimate the break ferocity of longer, more gradual breaks, versus sharper breaking waves.

    Judging solely by the picture referenced above, this wave could easily be modeled as a breaking twenty footer (or even 10) on top of a 40 foot non breaking swell. It may well have steepened later, but being a canyon break onto cliffs, it may also not. So, I’m just going by the picture here.

    Coming to this more from a “survivability of small boats in surf” than a big wave surfing perspective; this break is very, very different, and much more benign (hence inherently “dangerous” and deserving of worlds biggest balls trophies) than a 60 foot vertical wall of water crashing down like some giant version of the famous North Shore breaks the Hawaiians seem to cherish and use as a yardstick.

    Based on that, if the goal is to measure the ballsiest wave to actually drop into and surf, I’d suggest ranking the peak “vertical break height”; as in the largest vertical projection between the breaking portion, and the underlying swell vertically beneath it. (Without being able to resort to drawings, it is a bit hard to explain. Try to think about it as the max height from the top of a pipeline to the surface vertically beneath it. Or if no pipeline, the max height of a genuinely vertical wave front just before it crumbles.)

    It doesn’t mean a surfer has to drop vertically down this breaking face at the instant it reaches the peak height (I’d suggest he avoid it….), but at some point, the breaking lip should be this far vertically above the underlying swell. That’s the force that will break boats (and surfboards. And surfers…) into pieces. Not the rather uneventful slow rise in water level that may precede the break at selected locations depending on underseas geography.

    While the numbers attained by measuring wave height (really break height) this way would certainly sound less impressive in print, and may look less impressive in photos from ideal angles, I’d be surprised if it didn’t translate better to the level of “sh… I’m gonna die” feeling a surfer gets when dropping in to a big wave than any measurement that allows for adding endless, non breaking feet to the reported stats.

  • Pedro Miranda

    Taylor Paul (and the rest of the non-believers) should really go to Nazaré and see the beast with their own eyes, feel the ground shaking, before talking so much about it… Otherwise for anyone who knows the place it’s just a joke listening to all this B.S., and for anyone who don’t know the place is just misinformation.

    Don’t you ask yourself why everybody from the Big Wave community who have ACTUALLY been in Nazaré have a completely different opinion?

    Shane Dorian (2013/Jan) about his first day in Nazaré (on a not so big day):
    “The waves I saw today were absolutely enormous and if you had paddled into the biggest waves today, you would have paddled into the biggest wave ever paddled. I have no doubt about that.”

    regards from Portugal !

  • taylor swift is an asshole

    My sugestion is you show up you keyboard warrior or else shut the fuck up you assfuck

  • seldom seen smith

    Really looks a lot like Belmar, NJ.

  • Mick f.

    To make a blog just to criticize Nazaré wave, it’s something that gives even more credit to it. Why? Couse theres no chance of changing the measure of this wave, wich gets to 100 ft. So why not create a fake blog since the reality isnt possible to change?