Cotty and I were invited to take part in The North Canyon Tow in Contest at Nazare, Portugal. We have been lucky enough to have surfed lots of big waves at this spot now and had some great experiences out there so to compete there just had to be the next step for us so we were stoked to get the invite.
Praia do Norte is an unusual place to ride giant waves. For any non surfers reading this, in most cases, big wave surfing takes place at a well defined reef break over submerged rock shelves giving some pattern to the breaking waves. Praia do Norte is far from normal. Waves approach the headland from a deep water canyon that is 1000 feet deep just of the headland. The waves peak and break onto sand bars which means they generally break in random places very close to shore. This presents all kinds of issues for big wave surfers wanting ride the waves so to hold a contest there, adds yet another dimension. In photos and video the waves look tame compared to some of the big waves we ride but believe me, this place is the craziest! You really cant comprehend it until you go out there. The beach is huge but when I’m out there amongst the waves it feels so tiny with the giant peaking teepee waves coming from every angle. It’s really difficult to explain and then there is the driving the ski side to the surf. In one sentence …If you can drive a ski here, I honestly think you could drive it anywhere. Lots of the teams lost skis during the contest. I’m talking about Europes best and most experienced big wave riders and even then, skis get lost. I’m trying to explain how intense the place is but I’m finding it difficult!
The format of the contest was that the 6 invited teams of surfers from all over Europe would compete in two rounds were they would be scored overall on 4 waves per team out of a total 400 in two opening rounds of 45 mins each. By the end of the 2nd round Cotty and I were leading with 290/400 to The Basque teams 230/400. We felt so good and on form. We have competed in quite a few big wave events now but never felt as on form as we did in this one. Cotty rode a giant one early in the day really close to the cliff which got the ball rolling and later we both got a couple of barrells under our belts and some big steep left handers. In the hour long final it seemed our luck ran out. Our cumulative scores were not significant anymore as the rules were that the winners of the final would be the champion which meant there was no room for mistakes. With changing winds and conditions making it difficult for all of us to find the good waves we all struggled to post high scoring rides. The Basque team of Axi Muniain and Pablo Garcia however picked off a bomb and sealed the deal. Axi is without doubt one of the best surfers I know. We have surfed lots together in Ireland and in Spain and I have so much respect for him. Axi is a full waterman and looks so natural in the water, like he was born to be in it. Axi and his partner Pablo Garcia, another well respected big wave rider, scored a well deserved win! The Portuguese teams and CJ Macias put on a great performance too with some high performance surfing throughout the event.
I’m happy with just being able to surf the waves out there for yet another time! When we left Nazare to go to the airport we arrived to find out that a strike at the airport meant our flight was cancelled and we wouldn’t be able to fly until Saturday! Stuck in Portugal for two days with good waves, good people and good weather…not bad!
There are so many people I’d like to thank for all of this that I can’t possibly name for fear of forgetting someone but I am so thankful for all who have been a part of and included us in The North Canyon Project and all of you who support me and follow what we do from home everytime we go away! Thanks everyone!