The Olympics welcomed surfing for the first time this year, but the sport has a centuries-long history, and some are pushing it to new extremes. In the 1940s and 1950s, big wave surfing took off, and people began riding 20-plus foot waves off the shores of Hawaii’s north-facing beaches. In the 1990s, tow-in surfing rose in popularity. Surfers were towed into waves that reached 50, 60, or even 70 feet high.
Big wave surfer Garrett McNamara went on a mission to find and surf the biggest waves ever a few years ago. His quest took him to a small fishing village in Portugal called Nazare. The journey is the subject of a new HBO docuseries called “100 Foot Wave.”
“I would draw pictures of these giant waves with these teeny little guys just skateboarding all over the waves. And I never thought it would be a reality. All of a sudden, those cartoon characters I used to draw were real. It was happening,” says Garrett McNamara.