Does Nazare not enthral? What many are calling the biggest day of the season went down yesterday – and we may yet see records fall for some of these rides. But this, one of the day of days, was no easy task for the hellmen and women who set about tackling Portugal's liquid mountain.
Before we get into it though, the day before, Hugo Vau was privy to a monster. The kind of wave that conjures up all sorts of superlatives. Captured by Polvo, the footage is hard to make out, except for the ski's wake on the left hand side. It is also a crisp and stark homage to scale and opportunity at Nazare. It was a tow day, too windy, too shifty to paddle – too voluminous. But Hugo's on this freight train somewhere and it certainly made us all snap to attention at MSW HQ.
But yesterday, the wind dropped as did the swell, and what emerged was quite possible some of the biggest rides seen this season at Nazare.
Amongst the hard charging crew was Sebastian Steudtner, Hugo, Alex Botelho, Axi Muniain, Maya Gaberia, who pulled into one of the biggest waves of the day, Benjamin Sanchis, who arguably did snag the biggest wave of the day, Ross Clarke-Jones and a few more.
Running down the past few days, Sebastian told MSW: “We expected Wednesday to be the biggest ever and surfable and Thursday to be big and clean. Because Jaws and Maverick's were big as well, a few days earlier, a lot of the guys went to the Pacific side of the world and couldn't come back.
“Wednesday started slow, with already big and clean waves in the morning and no one surfing. The wind picked up during the day and the waves got gigantic during the afternoon.
"Hugo Vau and Alex Botelho where frothing to surf the most and stayed out all afternoon trying to find a ridable wave. Hugo ended up surfing a monster in the late afternoon. Thursday morning was much cleaner but the waves started slow, long waits before the sets and a lot of current. It was not an easy day.
“In the midmorning, the sets started to pump and some crazy waves where ridden. Benjamin Sanchis and Ross Clarke Jones had a really good rhythm and vibe going on and surfed some of the biggest waves.
“Axi Muniain got a bomb at the end of the session, he is one of the guys that is always happy and frothing about everything, good dude. Overall the biggest day of the season so far and I am very stoked that everyone got their waves.”
On the ground, omni-present lensman Helio Antonio captured all the stills you see throughout. “Another epic day at Nazare,” he tells MSW. “A big crowd on the cliff ready to watch the action and waves were pumping.
“Around five or six teams charged Nazare early in the morning and, as usual, the show didn't let anyone down. Waves started a bit slow but as the tide started going up the monsters appeared.
“Benjamin Sanchis took the honours and surfed one of the biggest and the longest of the day. That wave broke really outside and it was a great ride for the french who probably will be a contender for Ride of the Year.
“Shortly after Sebastien Steudtner towed by Eric Rebiere surfed another monster left. This one broke closer to the beach and the German drew a beautiful line surfing the wave in all its potential. It's for moments like these that people come to Nazare.
“Ross Clarke Jones showed why he's one of the best of all time. The Australian surfed a big mountain on the first peak, always on the critical section.
"Maya Gabeira continues to astonish everyone, pulling into some huge beasts. Amazing, the tenacity and perseverance.
“In the afternoon the waves dropped significantly. I went for some photos on a jet ski and just being there in the channel... it's an unforgettable experience. So much water moving, so much power and I always have a hard time to believe people are surfing this beach.”