90 footer at Nazare!
Foto by Polvo/ Jorge Leal and Wilson Ribeiro
We are without are main safety ski and no helicopter back up. All we have is a ski to tow with another ski that doesn’t work in white water and Nicole spotting for us on the cliff top. This meant instead of yesterdays five man team on the water, we would only have three of us. We assessed the whole thing and decided we could safely attempt to ride what looked like the biggest Nazare we had ridden yet. I had finally got my confidence back after a couple of wobbly days on a new tow board and I was amping to ride some huge waves. I surfed first. The peaks today were coming at us from every angle imaginable and at times we felt completely surrounded out there. Both Cotty and I rode waves in the 60 foot range before Cotty lost his board. The white water was so chaotic we decided to not go looking for it. Thankfully it washed up on the beach about ten minutes later and didn’t get smashed into the cliff. The swell direction was making the cliff area really dangerous with waves smashing 100 feet up the sandstone rock face with a huge explosion.
It was Garrett’s turn to go on the rope. Ok, keep in mind Cotty and I had just ridden the set waves which were around 60 feet or so tall. Now do you know when you go surfing on a normal say 4 foot day and you might get a random 8 foot set? Well as if it was meant to be, a set of three waves stood up on the horizon. Nicole was going nuts on the radio “HUGE SET APPROACHING!” she proclaimed. Cotty pulled Garrett up and I followed closely behind on the safety ski. We have a system where the safety driver follows the other ski and as soon as the surfer goes on the wave, both skis go in one after another so that if the first ski misses the rescue the other is seconds behind them. Ok, so the sets so far were 60 foot plus. This set appeared to have at least another 20feet on that! I faded back and they headed out to swing round onto it. It was effortless on both Cottys and Garrett’s part. Garrett was in the perfect spot right on the peak of what looked to be the biggest wave about to be ridden at Nazare. I was sitting almost in front of the wave as Garrett started to make the perfect drop. He was going so fast. I was naturally concerned he might fall with so much speed. As the wave passed me, both Cotty and I went after it to get him before the next wave would mow him down. From the water perspective I reckoned Garrett’s wave was a solid 80feet but I knew that from a more direct angle it would probably measure somewhere in the 90 foot range. History was made today in Nazare. There is no doubt that was one of the biggest if not the biggest wave ever ridden. It was such an honour to be a part of the whole thing and support Garrett in his dream. When we watched the footage back we realised that when he climbed onto Cottys rescue sled after the ride he was obviously oblivious to what he had just ridden as his first comment was “ On the next one I wanna come from behind it more!”
There is no doubt we live for this stuff and it is a huge passion of all of ours to ride huge waves. Garrett is a living legend in the world of surfing and being out there with him is a huge inspiration to me. I used to watch videos and read about him in the surf mags when I was a little kid and now I’m out riding waves with him, what an honour.
I think it is really important to emphasise that although it may appear, in particular to the non surfers, that Garrett, CJ, Cotty and I and all the big wave riders for that matter, are reckless and throw caution to the wind. The truth could not be further from the truth. So much time, preparation and consideration of safety and planning for worst case scenarios to the finest detail is done before a wave is even ridden at any spot. Minute details in fins can affect how a board works on a certain wave and testing different skis in various conditions can mean the difference between saving someone or not. I know for a fact that it has taken years of preparation and planning and working with the knowledge of the local people for Garrett to achieve what he did today at Nazare, in particular, not to mention all the other things he has done in his career so far.
Garrett rode a wave that was like some sort of rogue set wave. As soon as that wave passed the ocean calmed down and we all sat out the back reflecting on what just happened, totally absorbed in the moment. A huge shoal of fish came to the surface. It was one of those moments that make you really stop and think, feel and take notice of your surroundings. Nicole came on the radio “Ok you guys, it’s time to head back to the harbour” there is a fine line between pushing it and over stepping it. It was time to go home.