The waves of Nazare, Portugal have long been feared and respected by surfers, fishermen and the local community. A deep water canyon, over 200m deep, just off shore funnels swell in from the atlantic before projecting it at the coastline. The result is huge a frame style peaking waves with extreme power.
Al and Garrett had been in contact as they watched the same swell in the Atlantic from two different shores. Garrett with his mind fixed firmly on Nazare and Al with his on the wild Irish coast. It was decided that Cotton and Mennie would fly into Lisbon on Wednesday 17, November to be ready to surf at first light, thursday morning. Both Cotty and Al had been at various events and xxl awards that Garrett was also at in the past but had never actually met him so all they had to go on was his unrivalled reputation as a waterman.
Both Cotty and Al knew that if Garrett is calling it ‘on’ then based on what they knew and had seen of him then they were in for some pretty crazy waves the next morning.
As morning broke the guys checked the surf from the light house on the headland. Huge peaking waves were exploding on the outside. The area between the break and the shore was the main point of concern. Huge wedging whitewater was rushing at speed towards shore from almost every angle causing the surf zone to be trecherous for driving the ski to do pick ups of fallen surfers. Then when the surf hits the shore, all the water runs south into the corner of the cliff and the beach before it enters a huge rip current which looked almost impassable for a ski which meant if someone falls and gets sucked in there it was going to require expertise to get them out. Safety is paramount in big wave surfing and all these guys have lots of experience in that field. Quite often the wave riding is never discussed before the session but the rescue plans, for if something goes wrong, are dealt with in detail.
The guys suited up and headed out there with three skis and two of Portrugals best surfers Jose Gragario and Reuben Gonzales. Al rode on the ski with Garrett. After rounding the headland, huge pyramids of water were standing tall before exploding. Garrett was frothing. Within seconds he was screaming at Al “Get ready, get ready, I will put you on one”. This was Al’s first time at this spot, it had only been light about for an hour and before he knew it, Garrett had him on a rope being flung into bombs! They all agreed; one team would tow, one ski would be used to hold all the extra boards and equipment and the other ski would be the safety ski. All the guys rotated between driving the surfer, surfing and doing safety. The swell was due to peak at noon with the peak of the tide so Garrett saved himself for that so surfed last when it was due to be biggest. Garrett is a very determined person and there is no doubt he wants to ride the biggest wave he can find. The quote of the day has to have been when there weren’t really any sets coming through and a lot of the waves weren’t breaking properly. Al wanted to make sure Garrett got a few while waiting for a huge one. Garretts response was “Unless it says Holy Shit on it, don’t put me on it!” That just about sums it up. He only wanted a giant one and nothing else was going to give him the rush he needed.
The session was definitely eventful for everyone involved, Reuben got smashed by a bomb as no one could get to him before it hit him, Al rode a huge one, Garrett was going so fast on one the bumps were sending him airborne down the face of waves that grew so tall they never seemed to have a bottom to them, Cotty did some excellent pick ups under pressure and charged a few bombs and Gregario rode arguably the biggest wave of the day.
Garrett and the local Portuguese community plan to run a tow in event at Nazare in the future. It is a great location to test the skills of any big wave rider. All the guys have surfed huge waves all over the planet yet they all agree that Nazare is one of, if not thee biggest and most powerful and challenging beach break on earth.