I know about as much about big wave surfing as ducks do about the desert. I have just finished watching the first ever Nazare Challenge and wow, what an experience.
Right away when we arrived early this morning at Nazare I had an eerie kind of inclination that the whole place was holding it's breath. The calm before the storm if you like. What ensued when the start horn was sounded was a dizzying, wild and unprecedented display of courage, stupidity and skill.
As you walk down the hill from the spectators' parking lot, the first glimpse I had was through the pines trees of a gargantuan mass of white water. That can't be the ocean, I said to my wife. It was like looking up at a wave that, with every instinct as a surfer, made me want to run away, it was too much, dizzying, disorienting and just downright bizarre. I had to steady my feet as I felt my mind trying to adjust to seeing that much water moving around me.
As I made it to the beach, the whole scene came into play and what followed was a kind of sensory overload. I felt like there was almost no room in my head left for thought. Just for watching. My mind was stuck on record only.
As is always the case with watching a surf comp from the beach, you have very little idea what is going on, the scores, which heat is in the water and who is winning. Normally this would frustrate me to the point of thinking I might just watch it from home, but today I just did not care. It was not about the points, or about the winning, it was just about comprehending what the half brave, half stupid humans were doing.
There is no doubt in my mind that I have witnessed one of the most amazing things I have ever seen. If you have the chance to watch one of these events then make it happen, I can't say it enough times.
I am now at home, sat at my computer writing this and I am reading about the WSL contest at Pipeline that finished last night (congrats Michel Bourez). I am watching the heat analyser and listening to the interviews and surfers talking about points and winning and heat strategy. It all seems so petty and insignificant. I want to tell them to stop winning and go and surf some real waves.
I am, perhaps, still in shock as I normally follow the WSL tour with gusto, but from now on I WILL be tuning in to watch these guys charge live, day or night. Well done and thanks for the entertainment whoever won.