The Gnarliest Waves in the World

It’s the question as old as Gerry Lopez. What is the gnarliest wave in the world? The problem with the question is one of ego, timing and your definition of gnarly. So many things can go into someone’s definition of gnarly and everyone’s right. Localism, size, power – whichever you believe is the most important…. you’re probably right. But before I get too deep into this philosophy barrel here are the gnarliest waves in the world.



Yeah Pipe, Pipeline, or Banzai Pipeline if you’re not a fan of the whole brevity thing. Native Hawaiians and the Mainlanders that have lived there for over two years maintain that Pipe is the gnarliest. Granted more people have expired on that wave than any other, but when there is 75 people surfing 20 foot waves the law of averages rears its ugly head.

Puerto Escondidio

Calling this spot “Mexican Pipeline” doesn’t do it justice, because there is no comparison. Puerto is consistently heavier, gnarlier, and more dangerous than walking through Tijuana slums at four in the morning. And don’t get me started on the paddle out.


Pronounced “chopes” by Californians who feel like they have to shorten everything, Teahupoo makes the list because of the reef that’s shallower than a college girl at State. It’s also known for being mildly heavy.


Mavericks personified would be a cold-blooded serial killer. Mavericks lies off the coast of Northern California in scary dark water with sharks and rocks lurking underneath your board waiting for you to wipeout. Not every wave has a Russell Crowe movie made after it… or was it Matthew McConaughey?


I just love watching this wave. Heavy and unpredictable I’ve seen surfers have to do the equivalent of a six-stair ollie over a secondary wave to make it inside this freak.


This is an honorable mention. Not because it’s not that gnarly (it is), but because a movie has been made about this wave and its surfers as well. The movie was called Bra Boys, a documentary featuring a bunch of kooks that wanted to be gang members. Instant Classic

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