Big Wednesday. Do you ever wonder if John Milius, director of the 1978 iconic movie, knew that this moniker would be rolled out for years to come? It is almost prophetic in a way; with the largest wave ever ridden on a Wednesday, November 8, 2017 as navigated by Rodrigo Koxa at Nazare. And as soon as the figures began showing on the buoys for today's swell, Portugal's premier big wave was once again teed up for those superlatives it's so used to bearing.
Yet, while today's 'Big Wednesday' may not have been as tall, as meaty or as heart-in-throat as that world record session two-years-ago, it was still big (by the standards of mere mortals) and shifty, a hulking tirade of liquid fervour pounding the shores of Praia do Norte - with near flawless wind, grooming those monstrous faces to baby smooth.
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But not big enough to see the likes of anyone surf Big Mama, aka, the Portuguese legend that depicts the mother of all waves. As dizzying as Koxa's wave was back then (and still is) and as crazy as some of the rides were today (and last week) it's not yet known if the limits of this wave's size have been reached. Or, maybe, it has already. Time will tell.
Anyway, today was tow only. Too all over the place, too big to paddle, because, well, look at it.
First peak was fickle and rarely breaking, the second semi-consistent but the third and fourth were cooking, waves jacking right into the XXL range. In the water? Lucas Chumbo, Sebastian Steudtner, Tom Butler, Andrew Cotton, Rodrigo Koxa, Maya Gabeira, Rafael Tapia – and more. We're told at least one ski was lost (and a Red camera, as well).
"Today was really big, lots of nice waves ridden," says Chumbo, a couple of hours after the swell wound down. "Got some bombs, but it felt like a training day. Perfect but overall everyone got some waves." Meanwhile, Justine Dupont, who has been charging at Nazare recently, was grounded after her ski got some rubbish stuck on the impeller. Day was over before it even began.
"It was one of those strange Nazare days, wasn't one of those big dangerous sessions in front of the rocks that we dream of," said Chilean charger Rafael Tapia. "It was firing on third, fourth, fifth peak though, looked like an outer reef in Hawaii, super glassy, long rights even lefts. You got the odd barrel. Maybe 40-50ft, beautiful surf but very different from the normal Nazare. There were a couple every now and then on first and second peak - but it is getting a lot more crowded.
"There was a good team with Nic Von Rupp and Sergio Cosme. Sergio pulled me out of a crazy situation, pretty stoked they were around."
The swell for this one capped out at 15.5ft@19secs, angled from the WNW. But it is the deep underwater canyon that runs just around from Nazare's main peak. Thanks to this, the actual face of the wave can jack up to three, four, five times the offshore deepwater height – but that is massively dependent on the swell direction.
There is also much shallower ridges of the canyon, of course, and the way it bends and winds away from the coast have some impact on the swell. It really is a complex mix of refracting and converging waves.
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Direction is just as important to swell period at Nazare – too much north and the canyon will have some trouble refracting the swell back the way it came, which means there will be less energy, producing smaller waves.
Too much west, and the swell will line up to the coast more and not have as much convergence from waves refracting from the canyon. Like we said, it really is complex.
As for this swell, MSW forecaster Tony Butt explained how the direction may have been a slight problem in the run up to this session, “Wave heights at Nazaré were well over 20 feet, but the direction was bordering on being too west to create really spectacular A-frame peaks.” For reference, Nazare prefers a long-period swell from the WNW.
And still, there's more on the way for Nazare. Tomorrow, though less size, looks like it could be another giant session. Keep an eye on the forecast, HERE.