A former WCT competitor who’s successfully extended his pro career through his dedicated big wave and slab gig, Eric Rebière is one of the few European big wave hellmen to have pushed the envelope in waves of consequence over the past half-decade, leading the charge on the old continent both in tow-in and paddle surfing. Spending most of his time between a family home in Galicia, his own home in Ericeira and a holiday home in the Canaries, Eric’s always looking to tap into new, crazy unsurfed waves and at the same time has also taken his big wave game abroad to put everything into perspective. With all that in mind, we were interested to know which waves he considered most challenging.

“The first spot that comes to mind immediately, it’s the wave that’s most captivated my imagination the last few years… Nazaré. It’s a beach break that’s in a whole league of its own. Of course, considering the size of the waves we’ve been riding over there, all of our rides are dangerous but it’s not so much the wave in itself that’s dangerous, it’s the security conditions around the spot. A rescue operation is extremely complicated and risky for everyone, as dangerous for the surfer as for the jetski drivers. As Billabong Adventure division manager François Liets points out, “The inside shorebreak is just your worst nightmare”. There’s no channel, no lineup, no safety zone, whitewater turbulence and whirlpools that can potentially shutdown a jetski in seconds… and Maya Gabeira’s near-drowning there a few Novembers ago reminded everyone just how dangerous the place can be even with the assistance of jet-skis.”


It’s one of the most powerful waves in the world and of the waves in this list probably the most technically demanding. For Eric, the danger doesn’t just stem from the wave and shallow reef, at certain points lurking just a metre below the surface. “It’s the crowded competitive line-up that can at times push you to take unnecessary risks and consequently take off on un-makeable waves which you would never otherwise have gone on. The group pressure is daunting at the best of times, especially at this highly conspicuous spot where every move is being watched by both locals and international media. Plus very few waves go unridden by locals. There’s certain places on the reef that are sketchy, super shallow and that everyone knows about, and under no circumstance do you want to find yourself in those impact zones. Finally, the take-off is super critical, a challenge in itself.” Pipeline is the place that has claimed more lives than any other, both visiting surfers and locals alike, and the tragic death of Teahupoo local Malik Joyeux in 2005 is a constant reminder of how prudent you need to be at Pipe.


Mavericks, another really obvious choice for Eric who charged the notorious North Californian big wave spot for the first time a couple of winters ago, especially when you take into consideration the totally hostile nature of Half Moon Bay, the cliffs, the cold water, the rocky outcrops, the thickest of lips and threat of Great White sharks. It’s unquestionably a must-surf spot for anyone who considers themself a big wave paddle surfer. And much like Pipeline, Eric highlights the dangers of the crowded line-up and the added risks that result from battling for position. We’ve come a long way since Jeff Clark’s solo sessions out at Half Moon Bay, but Eric adds, “The real difference with Pipeline is that you can be held down for consecutive waves and wind up being smashed into the rocks…” It’s another wave that has claimed lives, with Hawaii’s Mark Foo drowning there in 1994 and more recently Kauaian charger Sion Milosky in 2011.


In a category of its own, Teahpoo has many faces but remains completely unique in the mutant monsters it’s at times known to produce. Surfed by a handful of fearless chargers for several decades before being revealed to the world during a WQS competition. Eric emphasises the raw power of the wave and also its size (girth as well as height), even though he’s mainly paddled Chopes. “The wave is so hollow and powerful that you never really know just how hard you might hit the bottom.” As one of the most intense waves in the world, which draws so much water off the shelf that surfers end up riding below-sea-level, Teahupoo has surprisingly claimed very few victims (only Tahitian Briece Taerea to our knowledge) but without question holds the title of the most mesmerising wave on the list.

5.The South West of France

No, Eric’s not talking about Belharra or even La Gravière. No, he’s talking about mid-summer French holiday mayhem in the South West of France, like probably mid-August, when the beaches and line-ups are completely rammed. “Millions of beginner surfers, and what I mean by that is that it’s the other people in the water that scare me the most, possibly more so than all the above waves I’ve listed. An out-of-control 8-foot mini-mal has to be one of the most dangerous things in surfing, especially when you’ve got legions of beginners who have absolutely no clue as to what they’re doing…”