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What Are The Biggest Surfing Competitions?

   April 28th, 2022   Posted In: Articles   Tags:

What Are The Biggest Surfing Competitions?

There are hundreds of surfing competitions each year but only a handful of them can claim that they are the biggest surfing competitions in the world.

To me, the next best thing to surfing is watching some of the best surfers in the world tame some of the most challenging waves that planet earth has to offer. There are thousands of pro surfers and certain big-name surfing competitions give these brave souls a chance to set themselves apart from the rest of the pack.

Whether it’s the ability to paddle into a 50-foot monster, get deep inside a barrel, or whip turns and catch air, the biggest surfing competitions allow the pros to show off certain skills. I will walk you through some of the most well-known comps that offer pro surfers a chance for the most prestigious awards while giving surfing fans the biggest thrills.

The Vans Triple Crown of Surfing

This competition has been heralded as one of the biggest surfing competitions because it is really three surfing competitions in one. It takes typically takes place each year in late fall and early winter in Hawaii on Oahu’s North Shore. It consists of the Reef Hawaiian Pro at Haleiwa Alii Beach Park, the Vans World Cup of Surfing at Sunset Beach, and the Billabong Pipe Masters at Banzai Pipeline. Pros and fans love this three-contest setup because each event features very different waves which can be mega-huge and mega-powerful. This surfing competition stands out because it forces competitors to have strength and the ability to adapt.

Eddie Aikau Big Wave Invitational

When it comes to the biggest surfing competitions, this contest is widely considered the biggest of them all simply because of the sheer size of the waves. Dozens of surfers gather at Waimea Bay in Hawaii to show off their fearlessness on commanding waves that can get up to 60-feet. It’s held each year sometime between December and February. The exact dates are announced last-minute based on the conditions and if they aren’t just right, the competition is canceled. It only happens when the waves are consistently at least 20-feet. It’s often referred to as simply “The Eddie”. It is named after Eddie Aikau who was an iconic Hawaiian surfer and lifeguard. Eddie saved hundreds of people from the raging waves.

Billabong Tahiti Pro Teahupoo

This is one of the most iconic surfing competitions for the World Surf League tour each year. One reason it is one of the biggest surfing competitions is because it is so recognizable. It takes place in a paradise-like setting with bright blue water and high-action waves. The shallow coral reef makes for steep drop-ins on hollow waves that allow surfers to get deep into the barrel. A wipeout in these conditions can lead to disastrous consequences. That risk factor is another reason the Tahiti Pro stands out compared to other WSL tour stops.

Margaret River Pro

Like Tahiti, this contest offers large waves breaking over shallow reef at the famous surf spot known as Surfer’s Point in Western Australia. This is considered one of the biggest surfing competitions not only because of the huge hollow waves and the dangers that lurk below, but because of the rawness of the area. It’s a three-hour drive from any major city which means only the truest surfers show up and only the purest fans make the trek.

Rip Curl WSL Finals

This contest can also be considered one of the biggest surfing competitions because it is a culmination of a year of tour stops for WSL competitors. It happens in September at Lower Trestles in San Clemente, California. The waves are not huge but they are considered to be some of the best waves for surfer performance. It’s an A-frame wave which means surfers have the option of heading right or left. And each direction allows the surfers to perform different types of maneuvers.

The right is more relaxed which allows surfers to get creative and push their imagination. The left is faster and more vertical which often provides fans with an aerial show from the competitors. On top of that, the location is one of the most popular in the world when it comes to the number of fans. The beach gets absolutely packed with surf enthusiasts who love to party.

Noosa Festival of Surfing

Some people consider this contest on the Sunshine Coast of Australia as the biggest surfing competition in the world based on the size of the competitor pool. More than 900 surfers converge in March of each year to show off their various skills. There is literally a contest division for every age group and every type of surfer including loads of longboard events. And it’s not just humans, the dog surfing event is one of the fan favorites. The event is also much more than just surfing. It’s loaded with art, music, and cultural events that draw spectators from all over the world.


This event in Half Moon Bay in Northern California is very fickle. But when it does take place it quickly becomes one of the biggest surfing competitions in the world. Waves easily top 50-feet. Unlike most of the other big wave surfing competitions, the water is bitterly cold. This forces the riders to gear up in full wetsuits. The event has switched names and organizers over the years for a number of reasons.

These are best expressed in an article I recently wrote. “The event has had a checkered past, partly because it has no firm date. It has only ever been held on a few days’ notice when surf forecasters could predict that the swell would produce the right waves, and some years it wasn’t held at all. The bigger problem, though, has been internal politics among organizers, local constraints, and business problems that plagued the event which began in 1999.”

Wes Severson is a fitness enthusiast and bodyboarder from San Francisco, CA who is always at Ocean Beach hitting the waves. He is also an Emmy Award-winning broadcast news writer and producer and a recording artist who goes by the name Wes Magic.

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