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Conqueror of Giants

November, 16 2017

Interview with Eleveight team rider Nuno about the “Big Wednesday” in Nazare.

 

Q: Hi Nuno and congratulations from the whole Eleveight team to your outstanding session in Nazaré. The kiteboarding community calls it the BIGGEST WAVE EVER kitesurfed. I think the current footage and pictures says everything.

But tell us how big were those monsters – 40ft+?

Hi there!

Thanks a lot. I got asked a lot and of course it is really hard to say how big it was. You never know for sure when you drop into such a wave. It was for sure one of the gnarliest days of the year. So I think it was something between 15 to 20 meters.

Q: As a north Portuguese local you are used to XL surf conditions but how do you prepare yourself for a XXL day like this?

I have been checking Nazaré for six years. It is a crazy wave that takes time to understand. So I was out there on smaller days, checking the spot. Also I do lots of Yoga and breathing exercises. It helped me stay calm and in control. Lately I took towing courses to learn more about jet skis tow ins and know how to rescue and be rescued. And of course I kite a lot in all the conditions Portugal has to offer.

Q: Before the sessions what were your thoughts? Were you very excited or did you try to stay as calm as possible.

Before I went to the beach I called my Partner Jorge Leal who does all the planing such as the video and the jet skis. So I called him before and asked him if everything is prepared. And he tells me that my backup on the water, Andrew Cotty, had to go to the hospital and couldn’t make it. But I was already determined to go so I called another good friend, Rafa Tapia, a kitesurfer and crazy big wave rider. He told me he just had the biggest session of his life and almost drowned and that the wind isn’t good yet. I told him that it will pick up and that I am committed, nothing would stop me. So he was in.

Q: Tell us a little bit more about the technical part of big wave kitesufing. Do you have any modification on your gear?

I modified my gear a bit. For example, there is no big wave kite-flotation vest. So I had to make one myself as it has to fit with the harness. And also my harness has extra foam, specially made for me. With another vest underneath my wetsuit I had enough foam to be sure I will float in case of a wipe out. Still I made sure I could move around easy enough.

The first time I was at Nazaré I took a light board and that didn’t work well, so this time I took a heavy big wave board. It was custom made for me and weights about 7 kg and is equipped with footstraps. It is perfect for such conditions.

While the vest and the board are custom made, I didn’t have any modification on my kite or bar, other than taking off the stopper ball for extended depower.

I went with my 9 meter Eleveight WS kite as it starts really early and can handle a lot of wind.  I considered line extensions for that session but in the end the kite felt great so I just went with the standard setup and it worked perfectly for me. In the beginning I had to jump over the shorebreak to make it out there and the kite was perfect for that. Towards the end of the session I was a little overpowered as the wind picked up.

Q: I assume if you are out there you are very concentrated on the conditions and any possible changes. How big is the fear factor in that moment? Or in other words, is fear your friend or your enemy in these situations.

My mental stage was concentrated on the five things that I had to do.

  1. First I had to go to my beach, which is 4 km from the peak. There I had time to figure out how to jump over the shore break and set everything up.
  2. The second thing I had to do was a downwinder to Nazaré. It was like a little warm up and I also had the confirmation that my gear was all fine for what lay ahead.
  3. When I arrived the third thing I had to do was figure out where the waves are breaking. Nazaré has three peaks and you never know where exactly they break.
  4. Riding the waves.
  5. I had to exit at a safe place. Last time I went out on a big day I just went to the closest beach and it almost ended bad. So this time I knew better…

 

The fear made me feel awake. In the beginning of the session I had no fear and enjoyed my time, I was really concentrated. And towards the end I felt like I am in a place I shouldn’t be. I am very proud that I did it all alone without the need of the jet ski. I entered the water by myself, rode crazy waves and then came out alone.

Q: What can we expect next from you? Any plans for the winter?

For now I want to enjoy myself. I got some request to do some kite clinics so maybe I will do some trips. I might also go up to Nazaré again to support the guys on the big days but I don’t think I will have another session. I never saw Nazaré like that and I don’t think the combination of swell, tide, period, wind and directions will line up like that again any time soon. 18 seconds, 25 knots and exactly the wind direction you need. That was epic. Maybe it won’t be like that again in this lifetime.

 

Interview by J-Bomb and RB

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