The Nazare Challenge, Portugal

On a Friday afternoon back in February I was driving home from a shoot in Newcastle and wondering what to do with the weekend. A couple of days earlier I had read that there was huge waves headed for Portugal and that the Nazare Challenge might be given the green light. The Nazare Challenge is a big surf event with a 3 month window through the winter. It only runs when the conditions are right and the waves are massive. Once the officials give it the green light surfers from around the world fly in and compete (similar to the Eddie Aikau competition in Hawaii that I wrote about in a previous blog). I was pondering this on my drive home and it occurred to me that I had all my camera gear with me, plus my passport and what better way to spend my weekend. So I booked a plane ticket to Lisbon and re-routed my satnav to Heathrow. A few hours later I was in Portugal. I booked a guesthouse online and hopped in a taxi to Nazare. After a late night welcome from a wonderful Portuguese family I went to bed and set my alarm for 5:30am. 

I woke up and walked out into the darkness. I could hear the sea roaring in the distance. I followed my ears and gradually started coming across other people, photographers, surfers, news crews gathering kit and making their way to the beach. 

Early morning at Nazare. With only a couple of days warning people work through the night to get the event setup.

Early morning at Nazare. With only a couple of days warning people work through the night to get the event setup.

Nazare is a fishing town about an hour and a half north of Lisbon. The main town sits at sea level but it has a huge hillside jutting out of the water to the north and this is what attracts the surfers. Deep channels in the seabed force incoming swells to stand up and with the right conditions create some of the biggest waves in the world. 

Nazare Headland and Lighthouse to the left

Nazare Headland and Lighthouse to the left

A jetski checking conditions at dawn.

A jetski checking conditions at dawn.

Hawaiian Billy Kemper making his way onto the beach for the first heat.

Hawaiian Billy Kemper making his way onto the beach for the first heat.

As the sun came up the atmosphere built and before long hundreds of people had gathered along the headland to watch the event. By 8am the surfers were in the water. 

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The surf built throughout the morning with some huge waves being caught. It is a massive operation with multiple jetski's keeping the surfer's safe and dragging them out of danger zones. Quads patrol the beaches, pulling skis out of the water and rescuing surfers when they are washed ashore. Drones fly overhead filming for the live broadcast around the world. There were some dramatic moments with boards being broken and competitors coming ashore with bleeding faces and broken ribs. 

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Local surfer Jaoa De Macedo was stitched up after a nasty fall. 

Local surfer Jaoa De Macedo was stitched up after a nasty fall. 

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As the day went on the wind got too strong for the surfers to paddle into the waves and the competition was postponed until the next day. I spent the afternoon photographing the huge waves from various points on the headland. 

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It also happened to be the weekend of Carnival so away from the surf the locals were partying. This made for some fun portraits when I wandered into town to buy food. 

One of the locals dressed up for Carnival

One of the locals dressed up for Carnival

The next day the waves were smaller and shrouded in fog which made photography difficult but the competition pressed on and in the late afternoon Brazilian Lucas 'Chumbo' Chianca came out of the water victorious. 

Finalists Lucas Chumbo Chianca, Billy Kemper, Natxo Gonzales, Kai Lenny, Grant Baker and Nathan Florence collecting their trophies. 

Finalists Lucas Chumbo Chianca, Billy Kemper, Natxo Gonzales, Kai Lenny, Grant Baker and Nathan Florence collecting their trophies. 

I watched him receive his trophy, walked back into town, filled my bag with Pastel de Nata and hopped in a cab back to the airport. I was home by midnight and ready for work on Monday morning. A spontaneous adventure and one of the best weekends I can remember.

This Video is a good example of the dangers of surfing at Nazare (with Lucas Chumbo on the ski). 

Iceland

Earlier in the summer we swapped our house with an Icelandic family and spent a couple of weeks exploring the wonders of Iceland. The first 5 days we spent in the southern part of the Island and then the rest was spent exploring the remote Western Fjords, a truly beautiful area.  It was near to the summer solstice so it never got dark.

We covered alot of miles in our two weeks and it was more a holiday than a photography trip but here are a few favourites.

I'll definetly go back and drive around the whole island at some point. 

We did our house swap with www.lovehomeswap.com

A remote beach near Breidavik. At the bottom is a small bothy with supplies for walkers or anyone who gets lost in the winter. Outside the hut was a dead whale. It had laid there frozen since the summer before, probably feeding the arctic foxes which live all around.

A remote beach near Breidavik. At the bottom is a small bothy with supplies for walkers or anyone who gets lost in the winter. Outside the hut was a dead whale. It had laid there frozen since the summer before, probably feeding the arctic foxes which live all around.

 

 

Hawaii

My first blog post and maybe a little bit longer than future ones, but here goes...

In February I spent a couple of weeks on the North Shore of Oahu, Hawaii. We rented a house at Rocky Point, a short walk down the beach from the infamous surf break Pipeline. The house was owned by the  surfer Jeff Crawford and lucky for us, he lived right next door. Jeff was the first non Hawaiian to win surfings most prized trophy, the Pipemasters. In 1974 Jeff took the title from Gerry Lopez and since then has made Hawaii his home. He now spends most of his days hanging on his bench on the beach, telling stories. We couldnt have asked for a better host. 

We had planned for our trip to coincide with the Volcom Pipe Pro which is part for Surfing World Circuit. With huge El Nino swells pummeling Hawaii all winter we were not dissapointed. We watched a few days of incredible surfing before Kelly Slater finally took the title. 

We then flew to Kauai to trek along the rugged Nepali coast but two days into our time there, back on Oahu, they had called the Eddie Aikau competition. The Eddie Aikau is an invitational competition for only 28 of the worlds most legendary surfers. The competition is only held when the waves are deemed big enough and this was the first time in 7 years that they had called it. Once the judges give it the thumbs up, the surfers from all over the world have 24 hours to get to Hawaii. We hopped back on a plane, flew to Oahu, rented a car, drove to the north shore and parked up. There were thousands of people like us sleeping on the beaches and in their cars.

After a sleepless night in our tiny car we walked 20 minutes along the road to Waimea Bay. As the sun rose over around 20,000 people (even the schools close when the Eddies on) the judges made their final call.... and cancelled it. The swell they had predicited had not arrived and with strict rules on how high the waves must be, they said it couldn't go ahead. It was a huge dissapointment. 

However, at this stage the worlds surfing legends had all arrived on the north shore and the waves were still enormous (just not the 50 foot they were hoping for) so as the day passed we saw some of the best big wave surfing for years. As the sun set over Waimea the beach was a huge party. 

After another night sleeping in the car we flew back to Kauai and continued our trip to the Nepali Coast and then on to Maui. 

2 weeks after arriving back in the UK, Hawaii had another huge swell and the Eddie Aikau went ahead. John John Florence won it. It's worth watching the highlights here.

The North Shore during big swells was an incredible thing to witness and I hope my pictures capture a small bit of it. 

The Volcom Pipe Pro at Pipeline, with Rocky Point beyond.

The Volcom Pipe Pro at Pipeline, with Rocky Point beyond.

Waimea Bay. The day the Eddie Aikau didn't run. 

Waimea Bay. The day the Eddie Aikau didn't run. 

Eddie Aikau crowds gathering around the bay.

Eddie Aikau crowds gathering around the bay.

Waimea Bay from the bridge.

Waimea Bay from the bridge.

Amazing Hawaiian kids playing in the huge shore breaks.

Amazing Hawaiian kids playing in the huge shore breaks.

Sunset over Waimea Bay. 

Sunset over Waimea Bay. 

Kelly Slater coming back in at Waimea.

Kelly Slater coming back in at Waimea.

The plaque next to Pipeline with all the winners of the Pipemasters since 1971. Jeff Crawford 4th one in. We were also lucky enough to have a beer overlooking Waimea Bay with Tom Carroll. It was not until I saw this board that I realised he was 3 times Pipemaster. Sorry Tom. 

The plaque next to Pipeline with all the winners of the Pipemasters since 1971. Jeff Crawford 4th one in. We were also lucky enough to have a beer overlooking Waimea Bay with Tom Carroll. It was not until I saw this board that I realised he was 3 times Pipemaster. Sorry Tom. 

The reverse of the plaque lists all the deaths at Pipeline and the lifegaurds who have dedicated their lives to saving people there. While we were looking at the plaque two little boys ran up to us and pointed to some names and told us that they were their uncles. The next Pipemasters no doubt; 

The reverse of the plaque lists all the deaths at Pipeline and the lifegaurds who have dedicated their lives to saving people there. While we were looking at the plaque two little boys ran up to us and pointed to some names and told us that they were their uncles. The next Pipemasters no doubt;