For those who haven't heard of Rio's hell slab Shock, here's the TL;DR version; a heavy, heaving mutant, that'll sooner chew you up than spit you out, crashing on and washing over rocks off the coast of Itacoatiara.
Are you still with us? Great, because this thing is a beast – and wholly deserving of a few humble column inches. Oh, you already know slab hunting can be a fickle pursuit, sure as hell isn't like your local beachie, where you can have a bit of leeway in the conditions (maybe the wind's a bit funky? Still peaks to be had!). Here, though, you need certain golden numbers to start stacking up right across the board, before this chugging pit even begins to rear its head.
Spot guide: Brazil
“This slab is, to say the least, challenging,” says photographer Matheus Couto, when I ask about this recent session from a few days back.
“The wave itself is already quite hard to read, add in side and backwash at waist-to-chest-deep water. Assuming you get to the end of the wave, where most people get blown or tossed up by the shake up, there are these sizeable rock heads sticking out of the water making even the safest wipeouts difficult to rescue the surfer.”
But what about this particular day, how'd it go down? “Well, the day started off with sets at a disappointing size and interval, but we had been trying to get lucky for around four swells in a row, so Gabriel Sampaio, my tow partner, and I simply decided we had had enough of checking tides or conditions or whatever it was any longer...and we just might as well wait for any waves out in the water and it'd be what it'd be.
Read more: Surfing Shock Is Damn Impossible
“Felipe 'Gordo' Cesarano, a long frequenter of Shock, was already on his way with his friend Marcelo, who was tackling Shock for the first time. Throughout the day Daniel Rodrigues and Gutemberg Goulart (who often charge slabs alongside us) and some other locals such as Igor Queiroz and Marcelo Ribeiro showed up to give it a shot. Even though the swell was nothing close to what we've already seen in the past couple years, it was still moderate-sized and, surprisingly, building up as the tide was dropping out.
“After towing Gabriel for nearly 30min, dealing with our own mental morning sickness, we switched. The first wave that came to me on that day, we were close to the rocks and the wave swung wide quickly, so we had to make a few split second adjustments.
Read more: The Return of Shock
“When I let go of the cable, all I could think about was trying to highline the wave for the longest possible time, so when it'd bowl up, I'd come down knifing it as fast as I could to make the barrel. That's when I get surprised by a series of side-washes - even though by now we should be used to that shit - and my rail and fins lost all its traction and, I promise, I felt like Kai Lenny doing that massive floater in Jaws [laughs]. I held my stance as hard as I could and, I don't know how, I kept my rail and eventually "made it out" of the barrel while simultaneously being launched by another side-wash. It was a great kick-off for everyone's session.”
Kudos to the hard-charging local crew who rip this beast apart when it's on. But also, what's it like to shoot from the water? “Shock... it's such a crazy wave to shoot, because it has lot of water moving around,” says Matheus. “But it's super cool to be out there with the boys charging - Gabriel Sampaio, Ziul Andueza, Igor Queiroz, Gutemberg Goulart, Daniel Rodrigues, Felipe Cesarano, Ian Vaz, Caio Vaz, Daniel Rangel and Eric de Souza – all ripping.”