The video: Last November, 44-year-old pro surfer Garrett McNamara captured the world's attention when he came face-to-face with a monstrous wave just off the coast of Nazare, Portugal. Now, the Guinness Book of World Records has officially recognized the 78-foot slab of ocean as the largest wave ever ridden; McNamara narrowly edges out the previous record, set by Mike Parsons back in 2008, by a foot. With the aid of a jet-ski to tow him in (waves this size are impossible to paddle into manually), McNamara says he first glimpsed the record-setter rumbling in the horizon behind a smaller wave. (Watch a video below.) "The guy tried to drive me into the first wave and I'm all, 'No, number 2. Number 2!' There was just this monster," he said. McNamara, who has surfed professionally since 17, says he was more concerned about avoiding the rocks straight ahead than winning a record. "If you fall, there's not much chance of survival."
The reaction: "Some things just make you feel small," says Chris Paine at The Australian. "This is one of those things." Hats off to McNamara, a genuinely "nice guy" who just happens to surf "crazy-big waves." What makes these particular Portuguese beasts so massive is a deep undersea canyon, says Shane McGlaun at Slashgear, which intensifies swells at a specific point. Riding a wave so huge is on par with pitching a perfect game in baseball, McNamara tells the Associated Press. "But add to that the fact that the stadium could collapse on you at any second." McNamara looks like a "tiny speck" on the wave's surface, says McGlaun. Talk about "giant balls-o-steel." Take a look: