“Does Morocco Boast the Biggest Rideable Wave on Earth? This Group of Chargers Thinks So” by Ben Mondy via The Inertia

“Does Morocco Boast the Biggest Rideable Wave on Earth? This Group of Chargers Thinks So” by Ben Mondy via The Inertia

Big? Yeah, that big. Mr. Kemper, sampling the goods. Photo: Tim Bonython

The Inertia

In 2020, off the coast of the Moroccan port city of Safi, archaeologists found evidence of a centuries-old, submerged city. With the remnants dating back to the second century B.C., one theory was that they had discovered the lost city of Tiraline. This was the place Hanno the Navigator was said to have stopped his fleet to build a place of worship dedicated to Poseidon, the deity of seas and storms. 

In early November 2023, another fleet arrived to search for a hidden jewel of Tiraline. The posse included big wave surfers Billy Kemper, Lucas “Chumbo” Chianca, Garrett McNamara, Axi Muniain, Dylan LongbottomAndrew Cotton and filmmaker Tim Bonython. It was led by another Moroccan seafarer, navigator and big-wave surfer, Jerome Sahyoun. This time the jewels weren’t lying beneath the Atlantic Ocean but towering above. 

“I’ve been saying it for years, but having surfed this wave, Garrett and Billy said the same thing,” Sahyoun told The Inertia. “This is where the biggest wave will be surfed.” Sahyoun first surfed it with his Basque big wave partner Axi Muniain back in 2013 and called it Miky Miky. 

The wave is visible from the road as you drive to the famed point break at Safi, and mid-session at the point, the pair drove the ski down to explore. They caught what Jerome calls “maybe 40- or 50-foot-high waves,” but had to cut it short due to a lack of petrol. 

The next year was the infamous Hercules swell winter and Jerome invited Mark Healey, Ian Walsh and Alex Gray to surf the outer reefs. “There’s two sections; an inside and an outside bowl we call Big Mama,” explained Sahyoun. “We didn’t get the peak of the Hercules swell as it came during the night, but that morning I saw two waves that jacked and tubed from top-to-bottom. They were giant, easily 100-foot faces, and glassy. Mark Healy called them the biggest waves he’d ever seen. Which is saying something.” 

Does Morocco Boast the Biggest Rideable Wave on Earth? This Group of Chargers Thinks So 

Probably tow only at this size. Photo: Tim Bonython

Sahyoun and Muniain have surfed the wave at least half a dozen times since. However, with no nearby harbor, a treacherous rocky coastline and no one else to run safety, Sahyoun had largely stayed away in recent years deeming it too risky. However, when a swell appeared last month that could potentially eclipse the Hercules swell, and with HBO’s 100 Foot Wave crew and the best big wave surfers and safety teams keen to come, Sahyoun pulled the trigger. 

“Watching Jerome in action is a wonderful thing,” said Tim Bonython, who has chased and documented almost every major swell event of the past 40 years. “There were a dozen jet skis, as many surfers, plus cameramen and crew. It’s miles from anywhere, with no channels and some of the biggest waves I’ve seen. He was like the conductor of an orchestra.”  

Sahyoun however downplayed these logistics. After all, the business started by his grandfather and now run by his father is a huge civil engineering firm that has built most of the harbors and ports in Morocco, and other huge coastal infrastructure projects in Africa. Sayhoun is well-known for making shit happen. Especially when there are big waves involved. 

A bigger, newer concern was that his 14-year-old son Liam was with him and wanted to surf. “I’ve never said no to any of his surfing dreams, so I couldn’t really start then,” said Jerome. He asked his best mate and frequent slab surf partner Dylan Longbottom to tow Liam in, so he could be first on hand for safety if anything went wrong. It didn’t and the grom caught two big waves before Jerome ordered him to quit while he was ahead as the swell increased.

Does Morocco Boast the Biggest Rideable Wave on Earth? This Group of Chargers Thinks So 

Biggest on Earth? Maybe. Photo: Tim Bonython

“On the first one, for a moment he disappeared in the whitewater and it was the longest second of my life,” he said. “When he finished, I hugged and kissed him, I’ve never had so much relief, joy and stress in a big wave session. When he left to get another, I started to cry. I haven’t cried since I was a kid!”

In what might be a group of family firsts, Dylan and his daughter Summa also surfed the wave, as did Garrett McNamara and his son Titus. However, it was another young Moroccan, Teva Bouchgua, who stood out from the stellar cast, riding the biggest wave of the day. The talented goofy who finished at the top of the European QS rankings has been mentored by Jerome since he was a kid and is treated like family. 

Does Morocco Boast the Biggest Rideable Wave on Earth? This Group of Chargers Thinks So 

Lots of talent on those sleds. Photo: Tim Bonython

Meanwhile, Chumbo was treating the 50-foot faces like a fun park, zipping left and right, and doing his trademark mid-wave aerial rotations. Billy Kemper was more focused, sitting way out the back on the outside section, waiting for the biggest barrels he could find. Until a wave clamped and he broke his foot. 

In his three visits to Morocco, Kemper has now broken his hip, suffered a concussion after hitting his head on a sand bottomed point and done his foot. He might need to start praying to Poseidon. If and when the next storm comes, this wave could provide the planet’s biggest rideable waves. You just know Kemper will want to be there. 

“With all those great surfers and great safety teams, the potential is unlimited,” concludes Sahyoun. “On the right swell, with a high tide and good winds, this is where records will be broken. If they are ready to come back, I’ll take them. Tiraline isn’t a myth. It’s out there waiting.” 

Founded in 2010, The Inertia is the definitive voice of surf and outdoors. They approach the natural world and its devoted culture with curiosity, optimism, and respect. They take pride in bringing their passion for the oceans and mountains to life through original films, reporting, and monumental gatherings. They aim to make a positive impact on the planet through partnerships with nonprofits working hard to preserve earth’s sacred places. Be sure to visit The Inertia website to view valuable Surfing and Outdoor related News and Resourceful Articles regularly.

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