Five-wave hold-downs are not a problem for Toby Cunningham

February 14, 2019 | Surfing
Toby Cunningham: he loves wiping out | Video Still: Maquina Voadora

The crew at Nazaré is enjoying the last big swells of the 2018/2019 winter season.

And while there are still a few bombs arriving at the north canyon, there are also wipeouts that some riders won't forget.

Toby Cunningham is a big wave surfing veteran. The athlete from San Diego won the first ever XXL award for the biggest paddle wave, a 56-foot beast ridden at Todos Santos in Mexico.

At 41, the Californian is used to two and three-wave hold-downs, but this one at Nazaré's Praia do Norte must have been special.

Special, not because it was particularly enjoyable, but because Cunningham took five waves on the head.

Toby's wipeout is similar to many we've seen at the Portuguese surf break. The surfer gets towed into a massive wave, rides it flawlessly, and then gets caught by the giant whitewater and falls off the surfboard in the impact zone.

The Love of Getting Pounded

This time, however, jet ski drivers were not able to rescue immediately. Waves were continually rolling in leaving Cunningham with no option but to duck dive.

At some point, Cunningham signals his teammate, Glyn Ovens, not to attempt to rescue him, as another wave was about to send him underwater.

Toby kept cool and never panicked, despite getting pounded two, three, four, and five times.

When the waves got a bit smaller, and he was closer to the shore, the intrepid big wave charger started joyfully waving his arms as if he was having fun.

And he probably was. Soon after, Ian Cosenza - another jet ski driver who was on the scene - joined the rescue and brought Toby Cunningham safe and sound back to dry sand.

"Nazaré makes everything I've ever surfed in the past look small. A wipeout at Praia do Norte can be either a fun or daunting experience," Cunningham told Máquina Voadora.

"It depends on your mindset. I love when I don't have control over what it's happening. This time, I chose to enjoy the uncontrolled flips underwater."

There's nothing 25 years of experience in extreme surf won't solve.

The Summer Surf Gear Guide 2019