Garrett McNamara breaks world record surfing 100-foot wave

by Kelsey Shirriff

45-year-old Hawaiian surfer Garrett McNamara reportedly broke the world record for largest wave ever surfed after crushing a 100-footer in Nazaré, Portugal on Monday. If the claims are validated, he will have beaten the previous record of a 78-foot wave, achieved in the same spot in 2011 by none other than himself.

This astonishing photo taken from the shoreline shows the scale of the monstrous swell, which TIME says most photographers couldn't quite capture from a close vantage point. 

It's the physics of Nazaré that create the perilous — and heavenly — conditions for the most fearless surfers. According to McNamara, a canyon begins about 10 miles from the coast and narrows as it approaches the shore, compressing the waves upwards. "In Nazaré, Portugal, the ocean is known as a place of death, not of riding waves," he said.

McNamara was born in Massachusetts but moved to Hawaii with his family when he was 11. He took up surfing and turned pro six years later. After breaking the record in 2011, he is quoted as saying "I'm not sure I want to ride that peak again." Looks like he changed his mind.