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Feature photo: REUTERS/Mike Hutchings / Photo above: kanaka

With super advanced equipment, tow-in access, and internet swell tracking, a growing number of surfers are getting rides on incredibly powerful waves.

What makes a wave dangerous? Is sheer size an accurate indicator for how hazardous a surf spot is? Read on for our roundup of the top ten most dangerous waves in the world.

1. Cyclops (remote south coast Western Australia)

This ultra square-shaped, below sea level, one-eyed monster tops the list for good reasons. It’s impossible to paddle into on a surfboard and almost unrideable towing behind a jet ski.

If you blow a wave here you’ll be washed straight onto the dry rocks, which is a bummer because the nearest medical help is hours away.

Photo: REUTERS/Mike Hutchings

2. Teahupoo (Tahiti)

The scary thing about Teahupoo (pronounced Cho-poo) is that as the swell gets beyond 10 feet the wave doesn’t so much get taller, it just gets more enormous, often looking like the entire ocean is peeling over with the lip.

Falling off here is almost a guarantee of hitting the razor sharp coral reef below, which wouldn’t be so bad if the locals didn’t insist on using fresh Tahitian lime juice to sterilise the reef cuts. Ouch.

3. Shipsterns (Tasmania, Australia)

Set along a remote length of pristine Tasmanian coastline, you could almost call this area picturesque if the wave itself wasn’t so ugly.

Raw Antarctic swells come out of deep ocean and jack up into a roaring righthander in front of the cliff which gives the spot its name. The uneven reef causes weird steps and bubbles in the wave, which are always an unpleasant surprise when you’re still trying to navigate the drop down the face.

Photo: jurvetson

4. Dungeons (Cape Town, South Africa)

It’s not that shallow and it doesn’t break in front of any rocks, but it is located off the tip of South Africa in the freezing Southern Ocean in shark-infested waters. Dungeons regularly holds waves up to 70 feet, which is why organisers have chosen to put on the annual Big Wave Africa contest here since 1999.

5. Pipeline (Oahu, Hawaii)

The shallow lava reef that shapes Pipe’s famous round tube is actually full of trenches and bumps — meaning a nasty old time for anyone falling out of the lip from 12 feet above. Which happens with surprisingly regularity, even to the experienced locals.

Perhaps almost as dangerous are the insane crowds that flock to Pipe any time it gets good, with fearless Hawaiians competing with pros, wannabes, and tourists for the set waves.

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About The Author

Rhys Stacker

Rhys Stacker is an Australian surfer currently based in landlocked London. When he is not on surf trips abroad he enjoys photography and riding his bike in the city.

  • JimMcDish

    Dude, Cape town SA is SICK! I got to see them last year on vacation. totalyl wicked dude. JT http://www.FireMe.To/udi

  • free xbox 360 elite

    Those are some amazing waves. The pictures are great. I would love to see some videos of these waves in action.

  • rails

    Teahupoo is not pronounced "chopes" it's pronounced "Cho-pu." the name "Chopes" is it's nickname.

  • bigwinner

    Those look really fun

  • Bill T

    I'm curious how you would rank Cortez Bank along these other rides

  • Harry Jarvis

    Really? No Mavericks?

  • Josh B

    No Hughmunga Cowabunga from Downunda?

  • JRWS

    What about Mavericks?!! Half Moon Bay, CA, USA should have been on this list too…

  • d from bay area, ca

    no mavricks?

  • max a

    No Mavricks ??? what kind of list is this???

  • chandler Bluesoul

    Wow these are some great pics of some huge waves. Glad I found this , I will for sure bookmark! Being from Alabama I don't get to see many waves like these!

  • Robijoe

    what about Jaws, Cortes Bank and Mavericks??? come on !!!

  • Hulo

    I'm a bit bummed about the lack of photos. "Top 10" implies there's gonna be 10 items. I see 10 things in the list but only 4 pics. WTF? Seriously. You couldn't even find 10 photos on all the surf sites around the world? I also agree with the comments about Mavericks. Serious fail.

  • Coreafrica

    yip, glad you liked them dude :) Core Africa Experiences

  • robmo sf

    That photo under #1 is actually from Dungeons. It showed up last week.

  • hoss

    no maverick = fail

  • MSG

    I've heard many pro's and photographers say that Pipeline is more dangerous than Chopes. In terms of deaths, Pipeline has killed or seriously injured more people than any other wave. Nothing even comes close.

  • Fresh

    No Mavericks? Of course the author is from Oz. :)

  • 6 foot

    The photo for Cyclops is incorrect, it's Dungeons in Cape Town, and the surfer is Anthony Tashnick of the U.S.

  • Rick Kane

    This reads as if it were written by a complete kook. Lunada Bay? WTF? The photos are all over the place too. Seriously though, stay out of California.

  • PW Herman

    The writers here need to pay attention to detail but some of the blame must lie with the editors. They obviously don't fact check and trust too much in the writers to self-edit. There is way too much emphasis in these lists. Who among us is really qualified to make a list of the world's best anything? Try creating some content that explains your choices instead of posting photos you collected on the internet. It is the editors who need to offer better leadership here. It is my believe that lists are lazy…by and large. And they are taking over this website. Maybe create a seperate page: http://www.matadorlists.comand let trips get back to promoting creative destination features and good writing?!

  • Kelly

    Awesome article…makes me wanna jump on my board and start paddling out…..

  • dg

    List is WAY off!!! Do a little more research bro…Tarqua in Nigeria? I'm sure Laird Hamilton and Co. is all over that one…how about Cortez Bank, Jaws, and massive Puerto Escondido? Those waves will make you shit your boardshorts.

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  • lee shepard

    the pictures should correlate with the waves way better… pretty incoherent and confusing as is… Good work though Rhys, London huh, …hope she's worth it

  • danny


  • peter pan

    Photo #2 is actually Mavericks!

  • eh

    Photo #3 used for Shipsterns is the real mavericks according to wiki

  • Anonymous

    WOOOOOOOOOW!!! Amazing… I am speachless.

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  • myz

    Where is the Right

  • RJPK

    Pico Alto, Peru from 7 to 24+ meters doesn't mean something?

  • RJPK

    doesn't mean anything?

  • ronaldo

    skip u guys

  • edo
  • jason Kempshall

    I would have probably put OURS and shark island up in the top 5 for sure! nice list though!

  • Croc

    The picture from Cave wave in Portugal is wrong… it’s a right, not a left!
    Go and see:

    • Hal

      Hey Croc, photo is from Desert Point, not the Cave. Sorry for the confusion.

  • http://dangerouswaves star_light


  • http://dangerouswaves Nabiha Roshan

    to much danger




  • Craig

    Cape Town’s (South Africa) – Dungeons seems to be ranking very high on the big wave circuit winning the Billabong XXL 2009. Also won in 2007 and in the finals for 2008.

  • eddie

    “latino locals” in portugal?

  • Marty

    I think some people forget to factor in Sharks and Cold water. Cold water is desnser and hits harder,,and great whites eat you whole.
    This has to put shipsterns bluff up there?
    Marty from the World Boardriders Club

  • charlie the big surfer

    you dude

    check out cardiff bay

    waves are bigger than any of the above….

    we aint welsh for nothing !

    yo dudes keep safe

    charlie the surfer

  • stout

    How can you not inculde Mavericks. Please don’t use a title like “Top 10 Most Dangerous Waves in the World” that shows up first on a google search when you don’t have a clue mate

  • http://kimmmmy kimmmmmmmy:)

    when im older im going to be like kelly slater but as a girl :)
    wish me luck?

  • Dave

    Great ARticle but terrible photos …

    Please try and get some clearer photos if you can,

  • meganizer

    It’s a bit out of date. Aileens is probably one of the worlds most dangerous too.

  • Tiare Roa

    Teahupo’o is pronounced chopo not chopoo (or chopu), you’re supposed to say the “teahu” part fast so it sounds like a “ch” sound. Locals won’t get offended if you pronounce Teahupo’o wrong but they do appreciate it if you at least try to get it right.

  • Martin

    I honestly think Puerto Escondido should be on that list!!! that spot scares the life outa me, more than pipeline! awesome list!

  • dede

    whoa dude those R some sick waves but i been on bigger 1s i have once been on a tsunami! so if you think those R big u should of seen the 1 i was on holy crap it was amazing!

  • Will

    I’m sorry, but this article is a mess. Like Eddie said, “latino locals in Portugal”?

  • Paul

    Great article and well written. Obviously everybody cannot be satisfied with the list but a good attempt with a bit of humour in the last choice. There are a lot more spots of course but it’s hard to accept that a lot of the tradtional big wave spots are now taking the back seat (I have n’t surfed Mavs so I could be wrong) to spots like ‘Ours’ where drowning is no longer an option… will be pulverised in 5 seconds without a chance to drown if anything goes wrong. But it is nice to know that more big wave spots are being surfed for the first time commomly now. In the future heaviness will probably judged from the amount of injuries or deaths there….oh no!

  • http://yahoo Tia

    this is supposed to be top 10 not top 5! However well written.

  • Sean

    Tia try reading the whole list before making those comments.
    Little page 1 and 2 should be a given.

  • Jessica99

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  • Basti_sixtynine

    grabeee na etech

  • Dick Hertzer

    Seal Beach, CA wasn’t mentioned. Don’t know why.  The waves are killer.

  • Simo012001

    What makes a wave dangerous? Before asking this question, we must ask the following question: why there are big waves in some places of the earth and we cannot see it in other places. I believe that there are three things that can be the fact of creating those kinds of waves:
    - The weather and I mean the changing from low to the high atmospheric pressure weather or a stormy weather with strong wind.
    - The position of the sun moon and the earth.
    - The tectonic reaction in the ocean floor as volcanoes and earthquakes especially as we know that earthquake even major or minor in Richter scale level can happen every second in the ocean floor even we don’t feel it,  also we know that the major big waves happen more in the countries like east cost of Australia new Zealand Japan west cost of use and all  the west cost of the American continent, those countries is surrounding the pacific ocean and this area it call ring of fire because the volcano and earthquake activities that try to happen every second, this can lead to create big waves that sometimes can be a tsunami disaster, also phenomena we can see it in Hawaii island because this island is a land of  volcano and earthquakes in that island and the pacific floor,  also big waves we can see it in the Caribbean countries it’s because the earthquake in the Caribbean see floor and also because the weather especially during the hurricane season.     

  • Teahutevarua

    FYI: Teahupo’o isn’t pronounced Cho-poo.  IT is prononced  Te-a-hu-po-o  (tay-uh-who-po-oh).the “Te” as the the Te-in Te-nnis, “a”  as “a” in all, “hu” as in Hula, “po” as in pole, and “o”as in Oh.  Please get it right!  Thanks

  • Chocolicious Shane

    This is ridiculous. I’ve just come back from Ireland and the waves off the north-west are enormous. In fact, Al Mennie, has even recorded them at 120 feet on a good day. When I’ve gone there they were not so big but were definitely the biggest I’ve seen…..and I’ve been all over. These things were giants. Amazing waves. Back soon again.

  • Saturn7

    Half Moon Bay Ca.?? Dangerous waves? Mavericks anyone?

  • Cali Brian

    Word i was gonna say Mavericks! Word Mark Foo died in the Mavericks comp in 94. And they do not even mention the Cortes Banks? UM 100 foot faces, 6 hour boat ride in the middle of pacific, shark infested waters? Um sounds super dangerous and sketch to me! I would put Cortes and Mavericks at 1 and 2!

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