Almost a year after my first session here and experiencing a very memorable day at Nazaré, I answered the call for a favorable forecast and came back to the world-famous wave. The first time around, I ended up being hit in the face by my board. This little accident had consequences for my health. A deviation in the nasal septum affected my breathing permanently, and every time I’ve inhaled since that day I have a reason to think of Nazaré. It was a pretty hefty price to pay, but I’ve always felt like it was worth it. On the one hand, it gave me confidence. But on the other hand, it raised doubts about whether or not I would ever go back to face waves of that same size and power.
Every bit of that experience was surreal for me. I’m a 44-year-old surfer with no financial support to chase waves like this, equipment, or professional training to make it all happen. What I do have are dreams and a willingness to make them come true. I like stories of overcoming obstacles, so I count mine as one such story; I’d overcome fear. And maybe that alone could motivate others to do the same. Being rational is not always the only option choice, nor is it often the best choice when it comes to being happy. Staying in your comfort zone may be the safe route, but it can easily deprive us of many experiences and it can certainly stunt our growth.
Now, when I invite friends to surf Nazaré I’m usually met with a “That’s not for me” or a more direct “No chance, I know my limits.” But does anyone really know their true limits? Or is it that the person who believes so is simply creating them? See, my story isn’t about Nazaré, giant waves, and big wave surfers. It’s about the joy of flying down that wave face, our need to face fears, and not measuring those experiences by how many meters that wave face measures. Truthfully, the size of any wave is all relative. It’s a simple abstract concept.
I do have a lot of respect and admiration for big wave surfers. They are real warriors in a harrowing battle. And compared to them I’m just playing and surfing in another universe altogether. But I did return to Praia do Norte on November 15, 2017, expecting great waves. Sure enough, on the 16th, I walked along the beach greeted by 10 to 12-foot waves and offshore winds. Once again, I felt the adrenaline rush through my body. It was quite a sight to see those perfect waves forming and to hear people on the beach whistling, alerting the surfers in the water whenever a set was suddenly approaching as fast as a train.
The waves that day were still heavy, giving me another great lesson in humility – something I’ll surely find useful moving forward in life. I do plan to come back for more, knowing that there will always be another goal to chase here and a mission to accomplish with this wave.