There Was More to Nazare than GMac…
Ok, so the title got your attention. But, having said that, I must acknowledge that everyone in the Portuguese surf community admires and respects Garrett McNamara and what he has done. For some perspective on the whole deal here’s a little background on Nazaré’s place in Portuguese surfing.
Nazaré is your typical fishing town, facing the sea but with an almost morbid relationship to it. As far as anyone can remember, most inhabitants and its families live off the ocean. Throughout the decades, a lot of fisherman would drown due to heavy waves and storms. Families would lose their livelihood and widows would wear black for the rest of their lives. They would be constant reminder that the ocean gives, and takes.
There has never been a huge surf community in Nazaré, although it might be one of the most consistent surf areas on the whole globe. There are, of course, some bodyboarders and a few surfers. Being as consistent as it is, some surfers from the Lisbon area would drive for up to an hour and half to Nazaré on smaller days to surf some fun uncrowded waves. Some would go there when the surf got a bit bigger too, to catch some (again) uncrowded A-frames. But when it got really big, it just looked nasty, perfect but nasty.
Sometime in 2005, when tow-in surfing made its debut in Portugal with a huge session in the Cascais area, the French and Basque surfers who came along to share some of their tow-in knowledge were blown away when they checked Nazaré, but the wind was too strong and the local crew too raw to have a safe go at it. A few months later the Portuguese crew surfed with success, even though the waves weren’t huge. Throughout the years some local and European surfers would tow at Nazaré, but nothing in the XXL category.
And then there was GMac. The residents invited him, they told him some of the biggest waves in the world were there. He believed in them, came over, studied the bathymetry, saw huge swells and agreed. The North Canyon Project was born, backed by the City Hall of Nazaré and one of the largest media holding companies in the country, Zon. Garrett McNamara was provided with means to successfully put Nazaré on the map, and that he did. With his huge ride in 2011 he earned his way into the Guiness Book Records, won Billabong XXL awards, and got Nazaré’s on the global consciousness.
But that was not enough. And then there was Big Monday (28th of January 2013). The waves were expected to be gigantic, and they were. Everybody knew, and most spectators arrive around 9 AM. By then GMac had already ridden an amazing wave. It was a beautiful ride and Portuguese photographer TóMané got an epic shot. But the wave kind of…never really broke! Not while Garrett was riding it. Some say it will break all records, some say it never really broke.
A few other surfers were out that day and the session got ”viral” really fast. But most non-specialized media sort of missed a lot of what happened. 27 year old Portuguese free surfer António Silva, caught a bomb and charged it, but most of the news was about GMac, even when they played Antonio’s wave instead of Garrett’s. But soon enough the Portuguese surf media was on it and gave the guy some credit!
A day later, a lot was still going on at Nazaré, but Silva was looking for waves somewhere else. I caught up with him in the evening to get a little interview for onfiresurfmag.com. António was stoked and humble as always, and gave me his take on the whole situation.
Here are some excerpts from the interview.
António, how was the Nazaré session yesterday?
It wasn’t a real project. I just went surfing with some Moroccan and some Basque friends who were in town for a tow-in session.
Had you surfed it before?
Not really. I had towed on a big day at my local break, but that was it. It was my first time in Nazaré.
Could you tell how big it was when you arrived?
I saw Garrett’s wave just as I arrived; it was gigantic, I’d never seen anything like it in my life, not even in videos. When I got to the dock, where they were taking off from, I saw all the preparation that a lot of the guys had, oxygen cans and special floatation vests, I got a bit scared there…
Did you at any time consider not going?
No, Garrett was out there, I was going!