While Nazare served up its 'greatest-ever paddle day' on Thursday, a couple of chargers decided to switch things up, packed a couple of boards and headed about an hour down the road to take a swing at this hell slab – and when we say hell slab, we mean; it's probably one of the most dangerous waves in the world.
“It's a super gnarly wave, man, it's one of those waves that can end your career," said Nic Von Rupp about this session. "I always ask myself why I keep going back, you know? It's one of those waves that can screw you up.
“It was good but not as good as Nazare I guess, you just got to roll the dice and sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. Nazare was all-time on this swell and we thought this slab was going to be insane but it was just a little bit too north maybe. I don't think I really got any good waves.”
That's just not true. Peep Nic's wave in the edit above. We had to ask though, why choose here over Nazare on Thursday, then? “Yeah, man, I asked myself that too,” said NVR. “I just wanted something different, you know. Obviously you don't want to miss the day of days but you gotta take the gamble."
Remember a couple of weeks back when Nic Von Rupp dropped an edit from his time hunting slabs around Scotland? Remember he was shown around by 16-year-old Ben Larg? Well, Nic's actually returned the favour and has been giving Ben a tour around Portugal during this swell. And yeah, Ben put in the hours at this firing slab session. And yeah, Ben surfed Nazare too, but we'll bring you more about that in a few days' time.
Meanwhile, Californian Nate Zoller was also there for the session. And as you can see from the first wave in the edit above, went on to put his own stamp on this slab. “Coming to Portugal I had a few waves I really wanted to check out, this being one of them,” he said. “A couple swells came through earlier in the week but didn’t line up for the spot. The third swell showed up with offshore winds all day and an ideal direction for this slab.
“It’s a crazy powerful wave that breaks onto dry reef at a certain point, so you really don’t want to fall. I paddled it with Tom Lowe in between tows and there weren’t many we could even get close to. I was happy not to hit the reef on my waves and make it out of both the sessions unscathed. Truly one of the most dangerous waves in the world. What a day.”
Miguel Blanc is living proof that Portugal creates excellent, technical barrel riders, which, again, is evidenced in the edit at the top of this piece. "It is one of the finest waves in Europe," he said. "It's so challenging, so scary, the rocks coming out... I was pulling Antonio Silva into the waves way more because I've currently got stitches in my face."
Wait, what? "Yeah, I got hit by a ski a couple of days before, nothing major though, it was already on the shore. So I wasn't really surfing much. Then I got two waves in the morning and three waves in the afternoon. I tried to be more selective and it really paid off for me. Just a great session, that little gang are reforming and being joined by Ben and Nate, it was a really great session."
Big, scary Portuguese slabs? Yeah, you know Tom Lowe's in there. "This wave is messed up, let alone on your backhand," he said. "It is probably the most dangerous place I've surfed. Only caught a few waves there and I've been based in Portugal for six winters now. I just never fancied it.
"Then, Antonio [Silva] and Nic Von Rupp got me fired up the other week. I paddled a small one and it got me wanting more. This swell looked insane, so I committed to it. Plus, I'd spent a whole week up at Nazare and was over the whole survival mode vibe. It takes so much energy to paddle Nazare every day.
"I paddled out with videographer Joao Tudella and sat out the back. Everyone was saying it was so low but this nug came my way so I went for it. Ended up being my only paddle wave."
And how that felt? "Pretty epic to be honest," said Lowey. "Didn't make it out the barrel but was stoked. Everyone went full beast mode then fading deep as you can on bomb after bomb. Vibes were sick, we were all screaming each other in."
I'd spent a whole week up at Nazare and was over the whole survival mode vibe. It takes so much energy to paddle Nazare every day
Standouts? "Nic owned it," added Tom. "Antonio was high-fiving me as he was dropping down the double ups. So chilled, that was nuts. Miguel was ripping. Nate was over and both paddled and towed bombs all day. Then young Ben wasn't fazed at all. All-in-all a beautiful day."
We asked MSW's wave wizard Tony Butt to break down this swell. "The swell originated from an area of westerly winds between the southern flank of a low pressure centred just west of Iceland, and a large anticyclone west of Biscay," he said.
"The fetch reached peak intensity northwest of Ireland on Tuesday November 16. It generated a large swell and strong westerly winds for Ireland and western Scotland, and a medium-to-largish, long-period swell that propagated down into southern areas.
"The swell reached Portugal on Thursday 18th, at the same time as the anticyclone shifted northeast towards the Celtic Sea, which meant that local winds were from an easterly quarter. Wave heights off the Portuguese coast were around six to eight feet and super-clean, with periods up to 17 secs and no interference from residual swells." And what that means? It was bound to pump.