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The Inertia

At certain spots these days, every single wave is well-documented. Nazaré in particular will often have multiple angles of every wave—from the cliff, a drone, the beach, and if we’re lucky, a few water angles. Pipeline is similar in that regard. “[Jamie O’Brien] and I were talking in the water about how many ridden waves at Pipe go un-filmed,” Kelly Slater wrote on Instagram about a Backdoor wave he caught. “We figured very rarely does one sneak by, left to the imagination, as evidenced by three angles on this one (and a couple others I saw online). You’d have to travel far and wide these days if you wanna make a surf film nobody has seen every wave from before it comes out.”

The wave you see above, however, is a rare one, and not only because of its size. It’s rare because there seems to only be this one angle of it. And, as you can tell, it’s a massive wave. In a space where hyperbole is thrown around like rice at a wedding, some are calling this the biggest wave ever surfed at Nazaré. Officially, it’s Garrett McNamara’s 78-footer that holds that record, but as is often the case, that could be up for debate. In the footage above, it’s nearly impossible to see where Vau is. For a brief moment, one can see him and Botehlo towing into it on the left side of the screen, but they soon disappear in a sea of mist and light. “This is an actual wave breaking today at Nazare,” wrote McNamara on Facebook. “Believe it or not my brother from another mother Hugo Vau is on this wave riding thanks to his driver Alex Botelho and safety Marcelo Luna. Can’t really tell what is going on which makes it even more ominous and incredible that someone is riding this monster. If anyone has put their time in at Nazare and deserves this bomb, it’s Hugo!”

“The team was Hugo Vau and Alex Botelho as jetski driver and Marcelo as backup safety,” videographer Jorge Leal told The Inertia.

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“I was the spotter and filming also,” Leal told us. “We went in the morning, and we spent more or less four hours for that wave, because we knew the peak of the swell was around the afternoon – almost around sunset. Around 4 PM I called Hugo to let him know about a giant set at a place that we call ‘Big Momma.” It’s a spot that only breaks with special conditions. After the call, I start filming blind, because of the mist created by the waves before. Even so, we spotted Hugo and Alex’s jetski on the left corner of the clip. For those surfers that saw the wave on the water, they said it was the biggest ever seen at North Beach.”

“It was the biggest wave I’ve ever seen surfed at Nazaré and all the other guys in the water said the same thing,” Alex Botelho told the WSL. “I won’t go into the size of it, that is almost impossible to measure, but the feeling or the emotion of the wave was pretty strong.”

For his part, Vau doesn’t seem too concerned about the apparent lack of footage. “What will stay for life is the happiness and the experience that me and Alex shared,” he said. “That can never be taken away from us. So it’s in our memory files. And maybe it wasn’t supposed to be captured, maybe it was just for us. Look, in the old days you would pass on your experiences and that’s how stories were shared and kept alive. Now if you don’t have a picture, it doesn’t count. However for us, and the all the guys that saw the wave from the channel, we all think it was the biggest wave we’ve seen at Nazaré. It is what it is. The main thing is the joy we took from the day and that we are all safe. Nothing else matters.”

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