Imagine taking off on a surfboard down the face of the world’s most powerful wave. You’re at the famed surf break at Teahupo’o, Tahiti. Then imagine wiping out on your board and getting tossed into a rock reef like a rag doll. You barely have enough air to survive. Now imagine the entire world watching your wipeout.

That’s exactly what happened to big wave surfer Niccolo Porcella who survived what surfing experts are calling the world’s biggest wipeout. Caught on camera by a friend, the footage was submitted to the WSL Big Wave Awards.

“When the Surfing Life team first saw footage of the above wipeout, we were thinking, shit, that guy might be dead. Gone,” the magazine’s editor wrote.  “But then we got word that he wasn’t dead. In fact, he wasn’t even rattled.”

The Italian Porcella tells the magazine the near death experience was actually the second best day of his life behind marrying his wife.

“It was the most violent thing – I got annihilated,” he told the magazine in a Q&A. “I was bounced, pin-balled on the reef, the whole nine yards. Just up and over and up and over. It held me under pretty long. My life-vest got blown off right away, and then the second wave drilled me – I actually hit the bottom even harder. Hit my back, my knees, and then I got about four more waves on the head after that… washed over the reef…”

Having made a name for himself as a kitesurfer, Porcella has been pursuing big wave surfing, wing-suit flying and cliff jumping in recent years. As to how he survived the wipeout itself, able to hold his breath and withstand the beating for so long, Porcella credits his trainer.

“This is when I thank my trainer for just being there for me, because we really work on strength and flexibility and holding my breath, and really, just working on the mind,” he said. “Obviously the body can only do so much, then it comes down to the mind – you’ve gotta be able to say to yourself, keep calm, keep your core tight, and wait it out.”

Surviving a wipeout at Teahupo’o means surviving one of the world’s most powerful waves. When the break is pumping, swells create massive towers of water that are as thick as they are high overhead. It’s violent undercurrent creates a torrent of water that sucks boards out from underneath riders for a nail-biting tube ride.

Photo credit: Flickr CC