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The World's Best Surf Spots
For beginners, there are plenty of great places to surf- all you need is some nice waves. But for the experienced, a steady supply of three foot waves isn't going to cut it- they need some major swells. These 11 spots, from Hawaii to Europe to Indonesia to South Africa, are among the best of the best, and should be on every surfer's "to ride before I die" list.
Like the rest of the southern hemisphere, the Maldives are a great place for a northerner to spend a winter vacation on the waves. Pasta Point is best left to advanced riders; with "world class" waves and a reef coral just below the surface, things can get hairy. If you're interested, book a trip soon: as a warming climate causes sea level rise, more and more of the island nation is finding itself under water.
Called Pe'ahi in Hawaiian, Jaws is ones of the biggest, baddest surf spots in the world: Waves can reach a staggering 120 feet. Before Laird Hamilton came up with tow-in surfing, the reef break couldn't be reached by surfers. Now the swell is well known but respected; note the surfer's life jacket in the photo.
READ MORE: Hawaii's Top 13 Surfing Spots
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Cloudbreak isn't a wave you can just paddle up to and ride; it's only accessible to visitors to the Tavarua Surf Resort, on the eponymous island in Fiji. You still need to catch a boat ride out to the reef, about a mile offshore. The wave breaks down into three sections, according to the Big Wave Blog: the top, the middle, and "shish kabobs" -- the middle part that sends surfers over a sharp, shallow reef.
READ MORE: Gorgeous Surf Video Will Make You Want to Move to Fiji
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Ireland may conjure images of leprechauns and castles, but it has a few surf spots up its sleeve as well. North of the beach where 50 foot swells hit just in time for St Patrick's Day, Bundoran Beach in County Donegal proves that the Atlantic Ocean can produces waves on par with the Pacific's. Your vacation may not be the stuff of mai thais and white sand beaches, but if the waves are great, who cares?
READ MORE: Gorgeous Images of Ireland That Will Make You Wish You Were There
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West of Port Elizabeth on South Africa's south coast, Jeffreys Bay plays host to the Billabong Pro Series in July. If you want to be involved but aren't a world class professional surfer, you can enter the Supertubes One Shot contest: Take the best photo of the 2012 competition and you could win $2,000 and get your shot on the event poster.
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As the name implies, this wave on Siargao Island in the Philippines will make any talented surfer a happy camper. Discovered in the 1980s, the tube is hollow and thick, and home to the occasional Billabong competition. Cloud Nine gets extra points for offering night surfing, lit with a 50 foot tower strung up with ten 1,000 watt flood lights.
If you know anything about world class surfing, you're familiar with Teahupoo (pronounced CHO-PO), the surf break in Tahiti that last summer produced waves that were too big to surf. Waves that can top two story buildings aren't a rare sight- but you can only really appreciate what it's like by getting in the tube yourself.
READ MORE: Surfers Ignore a "Code Red" Alert to Catch Dangerous, Yet Epic Waves (Video)
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Running from Snapper Rocks, the rocky outcrop on Australia's Gold Coast in Queensland, for just over a mile, the Superbank is actually a manmade surf heaven. A 1995 landscaping project to make the nearby mouth of the Tweed River suitable ended up extending the beaches seaward, yielding a new sandbar and thus a new surf break. You have to be really lucky to catch a wave that runs for the full mile, but dreams can come true, right?
Simply known as "Pipe," the Banzai Pipeline on Oahu's North Shore is literally a killer wave; it claimed the life of Tahitian pro surfer Malik Joyeux in 2005, along with four others in the past eight years alone. But the dangerous reputation doesn't keep the best surfers from trying to catch some of the best tubes on the planet. Photo: surfglassy / Creative Commons
If Ireland is little known for its surf spots, France is even less so. The distinctly non-French sounding Hossegor sits on the southwest coast, where large sandy beaches stretch as far as the eye can see. The "hollow, consistent breaks" are among the world's best, and certainly the best in the land of baguettes. Photo: Gaël LE HIR / Creative Commons
The Mentawai Islands, off the western coast off the main Indonesian island of Sumatra, are a fantastic tropical surfing destination. They were also in the path of destruction caused by a massive tsunami that killed hundreds in 2010. The 70 islands provide 100 miles of quality surfing beaches and 49 distinct, named surf breaks. Bet you can't ride them all! Follow Alex on Twitter. Photo: colmsurf / Creative Commons
Portugal is hosting some scary big waves this week. After performing CPR on surfing champion Maya Gabeira, who lost consciousness during a wipe-out, big-wave surfer and fellow Brazilian Carlos Burle went on to catch what might be the highest wave ever ridden.
Burle’s achievement is estimated to have reached beyond 100 feet. But the surfing community may have awhile to wait for official height measurements to return from the Guinness World Records. The organization still has not confirmed if Garrett McNamara in January this year broke his own 78-foot record wave, set in 2011, surfing what many reported was a 100-foot wave in the same location off the coast of Nazaré.
As Burle told Surfer Today, echoing what McNamara said of his earlier achievements, catching the big one has a lot to do with luck — even at the now famous Praia del Norte beach where an underwater canyon helps to force storm waves into vertigo-inducing heights. This week the pounding is coming from Britain’s St Jude’s storm — which left 660,000 homes in the United Kingdom and 65,000 homes in Northern France without power on Monday, and is now traveling across northern Europe.
Reported Burle: “It was luck. We never know when we will be catching the wave. I still hadn’t surfed any wave and everyone had already had their rides. Maya almost died. For me, it was a big adrenaline moment to get back there after what happened.”
Gabeira posted to Facebook that she too expects to return and face the challenges of surfing the world’s largest waves. “Thank you for your love and care. Nothing more than a broken ankle. I am recovering well. Keep supporting. I will be back shortly. Love you all.”