There are beaches suitable for those who casually surf and like to ride waves without much drama, and then there are the beaches with waves that are so big it’s only right to call them extreme. Surfing in such waters is a dangerous thrill that the most daring expert surfers dream of. In no particular order, here are the top ten big wave beaches in the world.
1. Mentawai Islands, Indonesia
Off Sumatra’s west coast lies the 70 chain Mentawai Islands. Few knew about it 20 years ago, but today the Mentawai Islands has claimed its rightful place among the world’s best surfing locations. Big waves just ripe for surfing are easiest to find at Siberut, Pagi, and Siparo, and June through September provides the best opportunity to catch big swells. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that the natural scenery surrounding the islands is truly breathtaking. Lance’s Right and Lance’s Left — named for surfer Lance Knight — Bankvaults, and Macaronis are the Islands’ top waves. You’ll need to charter a boat or ferry to get there, but it’s definitely worth it.
2. Banzai Pipeline, Hawaii
Often hailed as one of the best spots to surf in the United States, Oahu’s Banzai Pipeline, most often just referred to as The Pipeline, is quite popular with expert and professional surfers. Winter brings the most notorious waves here, and this is one of the most iconic big wave beaches on the planet. Blue Crush (2002) and The Banzai Pipeline episode of the 70s hit Hawaii Five-O were filmed there. It’s also where some of the best surfing competitions are held including the Pipeline Bodysurfing Classic and The Billabong Pipeline Masters, and many famous surfers have earned their reputations in Oahu Pipeline’s heavy waves.
3. Mullaghmore Head, Ireland
Big, fast, strong barrels can easily be found at Mullaghmore Head. It’s common to catch 20 to 25 foot waves here, and if you visit during March and happen to arrive during a Viking storm, you may be in for waves nearly twice the normal size — the largest recorded in the area was nearly 50 feet high. Mullaghmore Head also happens to be the site of Ireland’s first big wave surf contest, and it’s definitely one of the world’s best big wave beaches.
4. Teahupoo, Tahiti
The Tahitian town of Teahupoo is quiet, but it’s home to some loud and heavy waves. It’s not unheard of for the waves here to reach 23 feet, and the barrels in Teahupoo’s waters are quite consistent. Teahupoo hosts Billabong’s Pro Tahiti competition.
5. Shipstern Bluff, Australia
Shipstern Bluff, also known as Devils Point, lies on Tasmania’s southeastern coast. To get there, you’ll need to enter by boat or take an hours long hike through Tasman National Park. Once you arrive you’ll be greeted by a brutal and dangerous break. That notorious break is why some call this surf spot Devils Point, but the name Shipstern Bluff comes from the jagged granite cliff that prominently sticks out of a headland near the water.