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Riding giants: the art of big wave surfing

At the start of the year, writer and former pro surfer Jamie Brisick visited the world’s premier big-wave contest. What he discovered was an event of biblical proportions: a place where daredevil disciples put their lives in the hands of an ocean at its most majestically unpredictable.

On the morning of Tuesday, February 11, 2020, giant teepee-shaped waves marched into Nazaré, the famous surf break on the west coast of Portugal. They moved in a latticed formation that looked deceptively organized. Only when a jet ski whipped a surfer into them could you see their otherworldly scale. The surfer would drop, drop, drop, and then drop some more in a kind of slow motion that defied the speeds at which they travelled, the bottom of the wave seeming to recede, or the crest of the wave continuing to grow taller – or both. It was spectacular to witness in person. The wave dwarfed each surfer so much they appeared ant-sized. I emailed a phone pic to my mum and wrote, ‘Zoom in to see surfer.’

I watched from atop of the cliff that overlooks Nazaré with a few thousand fellow spectators. One was Carina, from Austria, on her third trip to Nazaré this winter to see the big-waves. “I can’t get enough of it,” she said. Gary, a senior citizen from North Carolina, USA, was travelling around Portugal with his wife… read more >

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