It was always going to end in a big swell somewhere in Northern Europe.
Early last week the stage was set when a cold air mass smashed into a warm tropical one mid Atlantic. Mid system pressure rapidly fell to 958mb - isobars and fetch extending right the way across the Atlantic. Things wound up further as the week progressed, and by Sunday a 19 sec, 6m swell was set to hit West Coast UK and Ireland, with accompanying gale force winds.
The first day of winter here was split between watching in awe the roughest sea I have seen, to seeing what spots might possibly have a surfable wave.
Meanwhile in Portugal, as many of you now know, the fishing village of Nazaré was feeling the brunt of the swell train, but unlike here, there were strong cross offshores. I haven’t been to Nazare, but speaking to those that have, it’s basically a huge beach break. Because of the submarine canyon that extends out to sea, it can hold surf up to 80ft, without any reduced loss of power. The scary thing about a beach break is it’s unpredictability – it’s when, not if you’ll get caught out by a set.
We knew Finisterre ambassador and friend Carlos Burle was in Portugal, but only late on Sunday night did the world realise the full force of what he and his tow partner, Maya Gabeira, had been through. Not only had they towed each other into some of the biggest and scariest surf seen in a long time, with Carlos had actually surfing possibly the world’s first 100ft wave; he had done this after rescuing and resuscitating his tow partner, having pulled her out of the whitewater unconscious with a broken ankle. Resuscitation was successful, with Maya, regaining consciousness, having coughed up a load of water. Described as ‘the worst situation he has ever been in,’ the calmness of mind to go and surf the wave he did, having saved his close friend’s life is hard to fathom. Carlos also rode his wave straight in, not kicking out to the side.
On hand to catch some of the biggest waves were also local man Andrew Cotton and his tow partner Garrett McNamara.
Pioneering and scary stuff from all involved. Glad everyone made it.