There is war in the North Atlantic this week. Multiple storms have marched across the ocean, competing for space above and into the Bay of Biscay. Some of those surf-generating behemoths merged over the past few days, some stood solo. But what it meant for yesterday was a day of waves from Ireland down. And for some of the world's best big wave surfers, it meant a warm up session at Nazare.
A total of four different low pressure systems were swirling around yesterday. The mighty shores of Portugal were enshrouded with swell, and what this meant was it's the ideal opportunity to feel out equipment, feel out their tow partnerships and check in with themselves, how's their mind set going into this season? Because the opening XL session of the season is at the door, teeing up for a Sunday evening or Monday morning blast off.
For most, this was fun-sized; a day to see everyone. A day to relax into the swing of life in Portugal's tiny town with big heart. Whenever's there's swell for Nazare, it draws people all over the globe; it is an eclectic mix of diverse surfers and spectators.
For the likes of Twiggy, yesterday was putting new boards to sea for the first time, get the feet in the wax. On Tuesday, the South African world champ was in Spain's Basque Country to pick up a couple of boards from the Pukas factory, before making his way to Nazare – and then paddled out from the beach around 10am. “Yeah, that was wild and wooly,” he said. “Caught a few, then Vini Dos Santos came out on the ski, I stopped paddling and we towed each other in to a few.”
As the morning went on, the conditions switched around a bit, the waves went glassy and that inside current stopped threatening to pull you in directions you really don't want to go. “Nothing big out there,” said Twiggy. “15ft Hawaiian if not bigger. I got out about midday.”
“Lots of triangles out there, over first and second peak there was that strong current,” added Vini. “Good warm up session. Right now, just want to start connecting with towing. Good to drive and get the ski, hear the engine and get ready for what is coming.”
While Vini and Twig were bouncing off each other like a couple frothed our groms, Tony Laureano and Justine Dupont were doing exactly the same thing. “Feeling really confident with Justine, we're ready for the swell that is coming,” said Tony.
And the feeling is mutual: “The team, the ski, everything is ready, we're feeling good and feeling good for the winter and looks like we've got plenty of waves. Sunday and Monday, here we go.” In fact, Justine too was feeling a new board out there, having recently picked up a fresh big wave sled from Dylan Shapes. “Didn't get a chance to use it last season, but today, it felt good. And yeah, I checked in with myself. I'm ready.”
Nazare, beautiful yesterday in the morning light. As captured by our live cam.
Our North Atlantic swell chart, showing what's just happened at the start, to what's coming on Sunday
MSW's Tony Butt breaks this this down -- like, where did this swell come from? "The swell originated from a large area of strong westerly winds across the middle of the North Atlantic, between relatively high pressure in the south and a complex area of low pressure in the north," he said.
"On Monday 31st and Tuesday 1st a better-defined centre of low pressure developed west of Ireland together with an area of high pressure pushing up from Macaronesia. As a result, the windfield intensified and moved eastwards, passing north of the Azores, and generating a pulse of swell which arrived overnight Tuesday-Wednesday and filled in during Wednesday.
"The high pressure moved east and ended up over the Iberian Peninsula at the same time as the peak of the swell, meaning clean conditions in France, Spain and Portugal. In southwest France, winds were light southeast for most of the day and wave heights around six to eight feet.
"The fact that the swell was not generated super far away meant that peak periods were quite short, and, more importantly, there was a moderate amount of directional spread. This can be an advantage for beachbreaks such as those in southwest France, as the interference between swells coming in from different directions helps to create good A-frame peaks.
"In Portugal it was a similar story, with wave heights around six to eight feet and light variable winds, and excellent beachbreak surf. The WNW swell direction meant that spots such as Supertubos received a decent amount of swell. At Nazaré, even though the direction wasn’t ideal (NW is better), wave heights were still much bigger, exceeding ten feet for most of Wednesday."