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Surfer Rides A Wave Like No Other: A 90-Foot Giant

What did you do this week? You still have one more day, of course — but you're not likely to run into the thrill encountered by surfer Garrett McNamara, as he surfed the face of a record-breaking 90-foot wave. Here's what that looked like:

The wave is estimated to be the largest ever surfed. McNamara, 44, is from Hawaii, but he found the mammoth swell off the coast of Praia do Norte, in Nazaré, Portugal.

Speaking to to ABC News, McNamara described what it was like to catch this rare wave — or to be caught by it:

"This wave was very different. This one just jacked up, broke, actually kind of barreled, and went to run me over, and somehow by the grace of God, I made it.

"When I rode the wave I didn't know how big it was and then it landed on me at the very end. ... It was like a ton of bricks on my shoulders and that's when I realized if I had fallen it could have been really bad."

In the area off of Portugal's coast where McNamara caught his wave — which he accomplished with the help of a jet-ski — the seafloor holds huge canyons, which spawn immense waves. Here's how Surfers Village explains it:

"The 'Nazare Canyon' is a rare geographical phenomenon, the biggest in Europe and one of the largest in the world, which can be explained as a gap on the continental plate with 170 kilometers (106 miles) of length and 5 kilometers (3.1 miles) of depth. The 'Nazare Canyon,' that is located right in front of Praia do Norte, receives the swells from the Atlantic Ocean and creates waves with abnormal size, compared to the rest of the Portuguese coast."

According to Surfer Today, the wave ridden by McNamara likely started out as an 8-meter swell — before entering the canyon. There, it was nurtured by unique tide and wind conditions to become a giant.

The previous record for the largest wave to be surfed, Surfer Today says, was 85 feet, held by Ken Bradshaw.

McNamara and other surfers will be at the Portuguese beach for most of this month, trying to catch more epic rides as part of the ZON North Canyon Project.

Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit


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