No-one expected such a perfect, massive swell to show up on their forecasts so early in the season. But expectations soon built up, with surfers and surfing media predicting the swell of the century.
2020 was certainly a weird year and it sometimes felt like we were living in the twilight zone. But was I suddenly expected to believe that a giant swell would deliver the legendary 100-foot wave in perfect, windless conditions in October? I put this down to the usual pre-swell buzz, when naïve enthusiasm and deliberate propaganda mix in social media to create unreasonable expectations and, inevitably, disappointment.
Secretly, I hoped this forecast would turn out to be an anomaly or a phantom swell that would sputter out of existence. I was nursing an injury and hated the idea of sitting out an historical day.
Lourenço was more pragmatic. Unable to surf Nazaré without a tow-partner, he swiftly booked a flight to his favourite big wave paddle spot in the middle of the ocean.
As forecasts firmed up, marquee names from professional big wave surfing - Garret MacNamara, Kay Lenny and Lucas Chumbo among others - started defying COVID-related travel restrictions and making their way to Nazaré. Meanwhile, Instagram feeds became abuzz with last minute preparations.
Whether I liked it or not, that swell was going to happen. I needed to find a way to get involved.
I remembered my friend Mathieu Pelikan (Siam Images) asking me repeatedly to chaperon him on a small day at Praia do Norte so he could try photographing from my jet ski. This surely wasn’t the type of swell he had in mind, but I gave him a call.
Mathieu ended up being the only photographer shooting from the water on the largest day ever surfed at Nazaré. I drove him around the line-up and put ourselves in the path of monstrous waves so he could register them up close.
This was Mathieu’s first time in the Nazaré line-up, so I was impressed with how quickly he managed to step back from the surrounding chaos and focus on capturing unique angles of these mountains of water and the surfers who charged them. A few of his pictures were eventually published by Red Bull, a testament to the excellent work he produced over these two days.
The images below are a short selection of the pictures Mathieu took on 28 and 29 October 2020.
(Feel free to contact us if you wish to reproduce some of these pictures.)