The northern hemi's big wave season has officially opened. Mullaghmore kicked off over the weekend and, although we've seen a few underwhelming days at Portugal's behemoth wave Nazare, yesterday marked the start of surfing something significant.
That's not to say Nazare is tame (check the charts, here), not by any stretch of the imagination. Any time a crew of big wave aficionados strap up to head into that torrid nightmare, it's a calculated gamble. But we haven't seen Nazare stand classically tall as of yet – well, up until 24 hours ago that is.
A full cast of Nazare royalty graced Praia do Norte yesterday including Francsico Porcella, Sebastian Steudtner, Andrew Cotton (yes! A return after horror wipeout last season) and Justine Dupont. In the mix as well was Irish big wave hellman Conor Maguire and Oz's own no-concept-of-fear Russell Bierke – who sampled Nazare for the first time yesterday. Bierke picked off a few, and copped a couplea mean looking ones on the head and Maguire too managed to huck into a few.
“A broad, complex area of low pressure had been dominating the North Atlantic over the last few days," says MSW forecaster about the swell that birthed this session. "A particularly strong peripheral disturbance developed on its northwest flank off Cape Farewell on Tuesday, resulting in an area of storm-force northwest winds in the mid North Atlantic. This moved slowly east over the past 24 hours before weakening just west of Ireland."
"Sometimes you just gotta go," says Cotty via Insty. "It was big and lumpy but all I wanted was a couple waves and to feel the power. I fell on this one and definitely felt the power all right! Sometimes all you need is a proper pounding to brush away the cobwebs and get the confidence back. Luckily I was fine but unfortunately my board didn’t survive to see another swell."
Our man on the ground, Helio Antonio said: "Everyone had big expectations for the first real swell of the season even though it was clear by the forecast that it wouldn't be a huge day like we've seen. Still, Nazare always has some surprises and when you least expect a monster comes out of nowhere.
"Russell Bierke had the wipeout of the day after dropping one of the monsters. He drew a line too much to the pocket of the wave and couldn't escape the guillotine. He got smashed and when he arrived at the surface took another one on the head that was in his own words "the biggest hold down" he ever endured. He arrived at the beach pretty messed up."
Now, have a run through of some of the best images out of Nazare from yesterday, courtesy of Helio.