In late February an approaching storm sent the big wave surfing community into action when forecasts predicted good conditions for some monster swell near Nazaré, Portugal. Surfers and photographers alike drop everything when big wave conditions appear for the chance of winning one of the Big Wave Awards offered by various companies and organizations. On February 28, drone footage of several surfers was captured in a rescue attempt after one surfer wiped out towards the end of his ride. The resulting footage is an amazing example of how drones are bringing the size, danger, and pure intensity of big wave surfing to spectators and couch surfers at home.
As a surfer, one of my favorite things is watching the images and footage that comes out of the World Surf League's Big Wave Awards, among other competitions each year. Surfers as a whole are always chasing bigger, more perfect waves but some take that challenge to another level. I myself have never felt the call of big wave surfing and choose to watch vicariously through the lenses of those there to document and surf these epic beasts of nature. Among all the photos and footage taken on February 28, one surfer and one clip stand above all the others and is already submitted as an entry into the WSL Big Wave Awards for the Billabong Ride of the Year category.
Captured by Maquina Voadora, the drone footage shows pro surfer Pedro “Scooby” Vianna from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil being towed into an estimated 70 foot wave. Towards the end of his ride you can see Vianna get clipped and violently thrown into the white water and the ensuing rescue attempt. As Vianna surfaced, fellow Brazilian surfer Lucas "Chumbo" Chianca rode in on his jet ski in an attempt to grab Vianna before the next wave hit. With another big wave looming, Vianna grabbed onto the rail and clung to the sled as they quickly sped off trying to out-race the wash, but again they get clipped, this time causing both to go into the white water. In an extended clip posted to National Geographic's Adventure page you can see a second jet ski with surfer Everaldo Teixeira eventually pulling both surfers to shore safely.
Here is some additional drone footage shot the same day at Navaré by Light Colour Sound:
The swells at Nazaré are known for their size often reaching in the 70-plus foot range and occasionally over 100 feet. Surfer Garrett McNamara set the current world record of 78 feet in 2011 surfing this very same break:
[via WSL Big Wave Awards]