We're well accustomed to the various faces of Nazaré, but this is just plain nasty.
"I’ve been around Nazaré for many years now, and this was the gnarliest day I’ve ever seen there," explains filmmaker Pedro Miranda. "Nazaré is the world’s stage for the biggest waves ever ridden, most of the memorable rides so far were all during big days with favourable or at least sufficient conditions for surfers and safety teams to ride and operate. When conditions go beyond that point, we call it Black Naza."
The biggest swell of the season arrived with strong onshores and a hostile tone. But it didn't keep the Aussies at bay.
If it was good enough for Tapia to leave paradise, our 150km drive shouldn't be so bad on the risk to reward ratio.
"I talked with Mick Corbett the night before so I knew he'd be there. Rafael Tapia also said he'd left Hawaii and was on his way to Nazaré to chase this swell," says Pedro. "If it was good enough for Tapia to leave paradise, our 150km drive shouldn't be so bad on the risk to reward ratio. So we left Lisbon at approximately 5am. It was really cold, raining, stormy with thunder, a true winter's day."
En route, word was already spreading that conditions were far from ideal. The realisation of getting skunked weighing heavily upon him and already halfway there. Was it worth it?
"I checked Instagram at about 6am and Rafael Tapia had posted a small video from the lighthouse, saying that conditions were big, nasty and unridable and that he would rush really quick back to Hawaii because a swell was also arriving there. Bummer," he says. "But there's an adrenaline rush which only Nazaré can give you, so we decided to keep going. Worst case scenario we'd shoot some lifestyle and storm footage, which is always cool."
It was what we call Black Naza and nobody surfs Black Naza...ever.
Upon arrival, fears materialised. There was plenty of swell but plenty of wind, making for a bumpy, war zone of a lineup with maxed out waves closing out across Praia do Norte.
"At that point we thought nobody would surf," remembers Pedro. "It was what we call Black Naza and nobody surfs Black Naza...ever. But then we saw a couple of jet-skis leaving the harbour. History was made after that."
Since December, Mick Corbett and Jarryd Foster from WA had been pitched up in Nazaré getting amongst it as often as physically possible. "They basically charged into every single swell that hit the coast, good, big and ugly. Everything," says Pedro. "They were there for a reason and I don’t recall seeing so much perseverance and persistence there."
It's near-impossible to get in and out on the ski when it's this big and messy.
Regardless of the clearly treacherous conditions and a likely lack of success, it was just another day in their hell-for-leather season. "It’s such a thrill to watch them here testing the limits even in days like this, their approach to Nazaré is hardcore. They ride the unridable."
But when Portugal's most ridiculous beachbreak gets as chaotic as this, even ski safety goes out the window. When they lost Mick's board there was no chance of chasing it with the inevitability of getting caught inside.
“We had to drive back to the harbour, get in the car and drive to the beach to pick it up. Then drive back to the harbour and go back out," said Mick. "It's near-impossible to get in and out on the ski when it's this big and messy.”
Though he was joined by Jarryd Foster, Nuno Santos and Alessandro Marciano, Mick was the only surfer to ride a wave of which two he didn't make. "The biggest ones were killers so the waves he got were the mid-size ones from the session," says Pedro. "That was that kind of day where you’re not expecting them to go in. It was a sick show to watch, big respect to the Aussies."
Ten days after the chaos of a heavy humbling, Mick collected his reward in the shape of the big, perfect session he'd been banking on all winter. "He eventually got the biggest wave that Nazaré delivered this year," he says. "Mick got his monster."
The Winter Session window is officially closed. But with a torrent of last minute entries we’re extending it into March by a week (no new entries please) before starting to crown our third Winter Session winner. Thanks for everything.