Brazilian Serginho Laus, 31, isn’t like most surfers, who clog the coastline in search of the next killer swell. But that didn’t stop him from capturing the 2005 Guinness Book of World Records title for longest distance surfed—an accolade he held for five years.
The wave Laus rode lasted 10 kilometers (7 miles), a distance made possible by a natural phenomenon known in the native Tupi language as pororoca, or “great destructive noise.” First surfed in 1997 by legends Eraldo Gueiros and Guga Arruda, the pororoca is a tidal bore that occurs only during full or new moons. When the forces of nature converge, Atlantic swells up to 4 meters (13 feet) travel up the Amazon River, destroying virtually everything in their path. “The first time we surfed the pororoca,” Laus says, “it felt like we were part of a video game. I surfed past obstacles like bamboo, rocks and parts of trees.”
Despite the dangers, in 2001 Laus and his river-surfing colleagues turned their passion for the pororoca into an internationally-recognized event called the Pororoca Circuit, which took surfers from all over the world to the Brazilian states of Amapá, Pará and Maranhão in search of waves. A decline in sponsorships in 2008 has temporarily halted the annual championship, but Laus is optimistic that they will restart soon. “We have been working on a bunch of new ideas to raise funds,” he says, “and tidal bore competitions in places like China have attracted up to 400,000 spectators.”
Whether Laus and his fellow surfers manage to restart the annual championships or not, nothing is going to stop them from pushing the limits of long-distance surfing. In 2010, U.S.-born Steve King set a new world record by surfing a whopping 12 kilometers (9 miles).