Historic XXL swell ignites Nazaré

January 10, 2022 | Surfing
Praia do Norte: on January 8, 2022, Nazaré delivered some of the biggest waves of the century | Photo: Hélio António/Praia do Norte

Thousands of people flocked to Nazaré to witness one of the most epic big wave surfing days in the history of Praia do Norte.

The infamous Portuguese beach break welcomed one of the most powerful groundswells of the century, courtesy of the North Atlantic.

The stakes were high as dozens of professional surfers, jet ski drivers, safety and rescue teams, and medical personnel woke up to a wind-affected lineup and foggy atmosphere.

At 7 am, and despite the still-not-perfect conditions, there was already heavy traffic in the agitated waters of Praia do Norte.

However, a few hours later, the scenario was completely different, with clean, 60-to-80-foot-plus wave faces breaking in front of the iconic lighthouse.

Surf forecasters expected one of the strongest storms the North Atlantic could produce this winter - and they were right.

Fuelled by the local underwater canyon, the perfectly organized swell lines reached the coastline in full fury and XXL height.

In the harbor, you could feel the teams' anxiety, tension, and excitement.

Meanwhile, fans occupied every square meter of the natural, spectator-friendly amphitheater surrounding the extreme surfing arena.

And you could also easily spot hundreds of photographers and videographers professionals eager to capture the best pictures and footage of the day.

Interestingly, and in the digital era, more non-surfers are taking economic advantage of Nazaré's gold mine than the number of riders who put their lives at risk.

And if you add to it the indirect jobs and tourism activities, Praia do Norte has really become a source of income for hundreds - if not thousands - of families.

Has the town got what it deserves in return? Well, that's another interesting parallel discussion.

CJ Macias: Garrett McNamara's brother-in-law suffered 'the worst wipeout Nazaré has seen' | Photo: Hélio António/Praia do Norte

Impressive Rides and Scary Wipeouts

The January 8, 2022 swell attracted some of the world's greatest big wave surfers to the fishing village in search of fame and fortune.

Andrew Cotton, António Laureano, CJ Macias, Gabriel Sampaio, João de Macedo, Justine Dupont, Lourenço Katzenstein, Lucas "Chumbo" Chianca, Maya Gabeira, Nic von Rupp, Pedro Scooby, Rodrigo Koxa, were some of the stars descending the massive morphing walls of water.

But Nazaré can be heaven and hell, dreams and nightmares.

There were superb rides, spectacular kick-outs, and close calls and, eventually, the first accident took place at dawn.

Pierre Rollet went over the falls, lost consciousness, and was rushed to the hospital with two broken ribs and an injured shoulder.

Later, Garrett McNamara's brother-in-law CJ Macias wiped out, dislocated his elbow, and ruptured his eardrum.

"We welcomed the New Year with lessons on the fragility of life. Some say it was the worst wipeout Nazaré has seen," noted McNamara.

"The truly scary part was not being able to find him for over five minutes with two safety drivers and two spotters on the cliff."

Justine Dupont took a serious beating and needed help to get out of the whitewater inferno and near the rocky section.

The French woman later revealed she experienced "the biggest scare of my life at the end of this wave."

World-record holder Rodrigo Koxa also suffered the consequences of playing hard at one of the heaviest waves on the planet.

"It was the first time I hit the bottom. I even lost my boots!" said the Brazilian, who ended up with an aching knee, injured foot, and wounded ribs.

The free surfing sessions were also intertwined with Gigantes de Nazaré, the annual tow-in surf contest powered by Brazil's TV Globo network.

Out the back, the ocean kept pumping thick and fast-breaking cylinders of water, with everyone wondering whether someone had just broken a new Guinness World Record.

Lucas Chianca caught one of the largest waves of the day, but the quest for the 100-foot wave continues at Praia do Norte.

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