• Tarnie Simms

Nazare goes green! Tow surfing challenge

The green light for the Tow surfing championship was issued for the 11th of February in the wake of storm Ciara crossing the Atlantic. This meant that the waves were forecast at being over 24ft, which is the minimum required height for the competition to take place.

We were pretty amped when we went to bed early on the 10th, ready for a 6:00am start and the hour long drive to Nazare in Bumble.

There was a buzz in Narzare when we arrived a little before 8am, when the first heat was due to start. Food trucks were setting up on the descent to the fort and people were beginning to make there way down to the look out points to watch the potential carnage that may ensue. As we rounded the point I stopped dead in my tracks. The sheer size of the waves was something I had never envisaged and no photograph will do them justice. In the early morning the swell was still slightly messy and the sea mist hung heavy in the air, coating everything in its path and making visibility like looking through a dirty window.

As we scaled the cliff face to find a good vantage point, these awesome surfers were taking it in turns towing each other in by jet ski onto the mountains of water. The way the challenge works is for there to be 4 heats in which the teams compete, from which shortlist of best waves surfed in compiled. The decision on the awards is then made by a panel of the surfers peers. As the day progressed the waves became cleaner and grew in size to the point of disbelief.

Ordinarily the ski, piloted by a fellow surfer, will tow the surfer into a good position, the surfer will let go of the tow line and the jet ski will make a run to ensure they don’t get caught on the inside. The surfers will then take a line and go for it. Travelling at approximately 80km down 40ft ft of water the contestants are dwarfed. The sheer fact it takes seconds to make it down the wave shows just how big they are. It is truly like a blood sport of the modern era, with everyone craving more. This became apparent when Alex Botelho and his team mate hanging on to the back of the ski got caught in the impact zone and flung around like a leaf in a breeze. Botelho was fished out of the surf unconscious and rushed to hospital. Luckily thanks to the life vests all contestants wear he made a full recovery.

It was truly one of the most awesome displays of human bravery, athleticism and just the right amount of crazy that I have seen. I feel privileged to have seen it. Men's wave of the day went to Kai Lenny, Women's wave of the day to Justine Dupont and team winners went to the Young Bulls, who had apparently destroyed a couple of jet skis through the event. If you ever happen to be in Europe at the time the light goes green I recommend you make the effort to get there!

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