Brazilian surfer Rodrigo Koxa nearly lost his life trying to ride a wave off the coast of Nazaré, Portugal, in 2014. That experience gave him nightmares and caused him other issues for many months afterward.
In November, Koxa found himself at the same beach trying to ride another monster wave. This time he made it through unscathed — and eventually in possession of a new world record.
The World Surf League determined that the wave Koxa rode that day reached a height of 80 feet, which is the Guinness world record for biggest wave ever surfed. The league announced Koxa’s record at its annual Big Wave Awards in Santa Monica, where Koxa won the Biggest Wave award and a $25,000 prize.
“I try to surf big waves all my life, and I had a huge experience in 2014 where I almost died at Nazaré,” Koxa said at the awards show. “Four months later, I had bad dreams, I didn’t travel, I got scared, and my wife helped me psychologically. Now, I’m just so happy, and this is the best day of my life. Thank you to WSL, it’s a dream come true.”
Koxa was towed up the wave by a motorized water craft before being released for the ride of his life.
In the video, the motorized craft is the larger image off to the right, while Koxa can be seen by following a diagonal trail in the water from left to right toward the middle of the screen. He momentarily vanishes from sight as the wave appears to crash over him, but the surfer can be spotted upright on his board a second or two later.
American Garrett McNamara set the previous world record of 78 feet in 2011.