Why Nuno Santos Plays the Violin While Surfing XXL Nazare

Jason Lock

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Updated 198d ago

Nazare ain't no cake walk. Reality will settle in pretty sharpish when it jacks to XXL and you're eyeballing a 50, 60, 100ft juggernaut. So why would you want to play a violin during that fizzing, life or death mix?

For the past 10 or-so-years, Praia do Norte local Nuno Santos has been surfing with his violin as part of his “A Violin in the Most Unlikely Places'' project. Why? Well, for Santos, it's a unique way to blend his passions. For the spectators, it's something they may not have ever seen before. For us? Seems to fringe the line of being absolutely nuts and impressive – but raises some questions we just had to ask.

Like, why? And what's he playing as he drops into mega Nazare? There's no doubt Nuno's a talented, eloquent gentleman but how did this all come about? And, as he's just released a fresh highlight reel, we'd thought it best to check in.

Why would you want to play a violin while surfing Nazare and how did this come about? It's an interesting idea.
The concept of the project "A Violin In The Most Unlikely Places" has always been about the challenge of playing the violin in extreme settings, such as on the highest mountains or in biggest waves around the world.

This requires the best of me hence it's something that I believe makes me a better person; it helps to know myself better, it teaches me about the very fine balance between confidence, humbleness, effort and patience, and reminds me not to have too many expectations on the outcome, regardless of how much commitment I've put into the process.

But just to put it simple, it's a way to combine my passions and to differentiate myself.

You've just released a new edit, what do you hope people will take away from it after watching?
The video is a synopsis of this last winter and the message I want to pass on is about the importance of finding a balance between what we want to do and what we should do. It's an ethical approach to the way we take on different aspects of our lives, and it's about how we can cope with these challenges in the best way possible.

My latest album "Elements" is exactly about this question, the balance between elements air, water. fire and earth and quintessence represents, metaphorically, the capacity to find our essence. 

Where are you from and where are you based now?
I'm a local surfer from Nazaré, and that's where I live. I travelled for a few years, but ended up returning home to start a career and a family life. Nazaré is a small place and it can be a challenge to find professional opportunities, however it's a place that offers a quality of life like nowhere else I've been.

© 2017 - Manuel Ricardo

How long have you been doing this?
I've been playing the violin in unlikely places for over 10-years.

What's your favourite place to play violin and surf?
For obvious reasons, Nazaré is my favorite place. But the objective for the next years is to play the violin in the biggest waves and on the highest mountains around the world. Easier said than done, but the dream exists and I believe that eventually will happen.

What sort of music are you playing, or does it change spot by spot?
I've now started working on a new idea to record Portugal's national anthem whilst surfing some bombs in Praia do Norte. As a country, we've been through some difficult times so the idea is to produce a video that can raise our self confidence and make people believe that everything is possible.I've now started working on a new idea to record Portugal's national anthem whilst surfing some bombs The lyrics of the anthem refer the courage it takes to march against the canyons, and that's exactly why I want to take on Nazaré canyon whilst playing the national anthem.

What're peoples' reactions been like after they see you pull into a 20ft wave with a violin?
The feedback I've been getting has been great. Everyone who goes to Praia do Norte and sees a guy there playing a violin whilst surfing big waves, ends up looking for videos and photos, and when they realize that it's for real, they love it. Some people question if I'm actually playing; to answer that just check my YouTube page or Instagram.

Nuno's been surfing giant Nazare for years, such as here, sans violin.

Nuno's been surfing giant Nazare for years, such as here, sans violin.

© 2017 - Rafael Riancho.

A lot of the times, places like Nazare are about survival, throwing a violin into the mix sounds crazy. How do you cope when the waves are firing and you've also got to concentrate on performing?
Believe it or not, when I'm focusing on playing I easily forget how scary the wave might be.

But there's obviously a lot of preparation in it, and I do take things very seriously because my life is at risk. I've been surfing here since I was a kid, hence local knowledge together with a methodic and strict approach, and a team of people that knows exactly what they're doing is paramount for this to happen.

How do you paddle out with a violin?
In Nazare, it's difficult if not impossible to paddle out from the beach on big days. So we use a jetski that tows me into the wave, and then it's all about letting the music flow.

Thanks Nuno and good luck.