How they measure big waves

The World Surf League and Guinness World Records have crowned a new holder for the biggest wave surf of all time.

It was in October 2020 when German rider Sebastian Studner scaled a monster off the coast of Nazareth in Portugal – the city that has become known as the home of the world’s largest waves in the last decade.

Determining the 26-meter-long Wave Studutner rod took 18 months and many, many hours of arduous research – at 86 feet, making it the largest surf on record.

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His effort surpassed that of Brazilian surfer Rodrigo Coca in Nazareth in 2017, with his wave reported to be 24 meters long.

“You don’t feel the shape,” Studutner said of his record waves.

“You feel the energy. I feel the most energy of any wave in Nazareth.”

The reason officials take so long to judge the height of the waves is because they use the bizarre surfing system to measure them.

Basically, Big Wave Surfing can only be judged if there is footage or still images surfing the waves.

In the Netflix documentary ‘100 Feet Wave’, English rider Andrew Cotton surfed a monster in Nazar, but there is no photographic evidence of this as all the cameras were pointed at the beach where a co-surfer appeared after a terrifying spill.

Judges – in this case WSL, some scientists and Guinness World Records – examine the still image and determine the bottom and top of the wave – or the trough and crest.

Once this is agreed upon, it is still essentially impossible to know the exact distance between the two points considering how far the camera is and the angle.

This is why surfers themselves are used as a measuring instrument. Judges must determine how long the surfer in the wave stands – taking into account that they will bend at the knees and torso – then determine how many surfers can match the face of the wave.

Big Wave surfers take in the view

Jet-skis – which are used by surfers to pull large waves on waves – have also been used as rulers. But the method was even more bizarre in the case of Studtner.

Experts from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California, San Diego, decided to use Steudtner’s lower back as a measuring tape, carefully measuring the distance between his shins and knees.

Once they had that number, they used it to calculate how many faces would fit in still images from its waves.

“This distance doesn’t change because you can’t bend your lower leg,” said Associate Professor Adam Fincham.

“When you’re looking for a record … you need a number. You can’t say, ‘That’s exactly what it was about.’ We’re comfortable with (this measure).”

During the 18-month process, Fincham himself traveled to Nazareth and checked where the cameras would be when filming the 2020 event, so he could get a better idea of ​​the angles towards the waves.

He stressed that no one could possibly say for sure what the biggest wave was so far.

But, for now, Studutner can boast of official records.

“No one is saying it was the biggest wave surf in the world,” Fincham said.

“It could be, of course, but it’s the biggest certified wave. There could be a big wave surfing; it has no pictures.”

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