The 5 scariest waves on the planet, in accordance with Kai Lenny

If Kai Lenny tells you a wave is scary, best believe it. The Maui native has dedicated his life to chasing waves and lives under the sun in almost all high-performance water sports. At 28 years old, Lenny received the WSL Big Wave Award 2019-20 for best overall men’s performance, the XXL Biggest Wave Award 2020 for his 70-foot ride in Nazaré, and is the youngest person to ever be inducted into the Surfers’ Hall of fame. While Lenny still has a lot to explore, he has gotten his share of heavy waves and has the stories and awards to prove it. Here are the five scariest waves in the world, according to Kai Lenny.

Pillar Point Harbor, California

Located north of Half Moon Bay, Mavericks is a deep water wave that has some of the best and biggest surf in California. The spot usually lights up between November and March and is best for a west to west-northwest swell when the wind is weak and the size is over 20 feet. Because of the unique rock contours on the ocean floor, Mavericks can be a tricky wave and are known to range in size from 20 feet to over 50 feet. The wave can be challenging even for the most seasoned big wave surfers, claiming the lives of Hawaiian Mark Foo in 1994 and Sion Milosky in 2011.

“Mavericks is an extremely scary, super big, cold wave,” says Lenny. “What makes it so gnarled is how all of the water converges into one point – it’s probably the loudest big wave on the planet because the cold water is a little denser. When you hear the lip hit the water, it almost sounds like a clap of thunder. “


Nazaré, Portugal

What was once a quiet fishing village is now considered home to one of the largest and scariest waves in the world. Located in front of the lighthouse in North Beach, Nazaré is a beach vacation that can create waves up to 30 meters in size. It usually works best from October through March with swell in the northwest or west. In 2018, Brazilian surfer Rodrigo Koxa set the Guinness World Record at the fabled spot on an 80-foot wave. Last year, Brazilian compatriot Maya Gabeira hit a 73.5-foot mark there to claim the biggest wave ever surfed by a woman (not to mention the biggest wave anyone surfed in 2020).

“It’s probably the highest wave on planet earth and it’s breaking everywhere,” says Lenny. “It’s terrifying because you can ride a wave perfectly, throw it out and break the biggest wave you’ve ever seen in your life. If your jet ski driver isn’t there to pick you up, you will be absolutely destroyed. “


Teahup’o, Tahiti

Unlike other big wave surf spots, Teahupo’o is known not for its height, but for its thickness and strength. The gem from the South Pacific breaks over a razor-sharp reef, offering long, hollow waves and perfect barrels. The spot produces the best waves during the dry season, May through August, and usually works best with a south-southwest swell, with south-southwest being most ideal. In 2000, Tahitian surfer Brice Taerea lost his life on the spot when a wave threw him against the reef.

“The wave itself won’t get very big, but it will be extremely thick and pretty close to the wheeled tsunami,” says Lenny. “It’s a wave coming over the reef and you’re basically surfing a wave that’s 30 feet thick, 30 feet high, and over six feet of the sharpest reef you’ve ever seen.”


Tavarua, Fiji

Beau Blake

Considered one of the 10 best and most challenging waves in the world, Cloudbreak is located on a protected reef just a few kilometers from Tavarua Island. The spot is a left reef break and although the waves typically reach 20 feet or less, they are fast and the reef is shallow and sharp. Fiji produces surfable waves year round, but Cloudbreak offers the best conditions during a south or south-west swell.

“Cloudbreak is probably the most perfect, lengthy wave I’ve ever surfed,” says Lenny. “It’s also extremely powerful and breaks along a really shallow reef. I saw it so big it tore out chunks of reef and smelled like dead fish. “


Paia, Maui

Jaws aka Pe’ahi is located on the north coast of Maui and is considered by many to be the best and best surfable big waves in the world. Ranging in size from 20 to 80 feet, the wave is consistent and versatile. It is therefore suitable for both paddle and tow-in surfing. The world-famous location works best during the winter months, with December usually being most ideal during a north-northwest swell.

“Jaws is one of the best big waves on the planet because not only is it the tallest and one of the thickest, but it’s also perfect in the sense that you can paddle into the biggest wave of your life and then do almost any sport from tow- In-surfing to windsurfing to foiling, ”says Lenny. “It’s probably the most brutal of annihilation too – it’s violent and holds you tight the longest.”

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