Drone Captures Amazing Footage of Big Wave Surfer Ride and Rescue

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]

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Jonathan Reid's picture

Mmm, I'm not sold on this PoV. It looks cool with all the motion, but seeing the waves from above like this flattens out the size. To see what I mean, look for in water footage of Nazare. It's properly scary.

Michael DeStefano's picture

That's fair but I think in combination with other footage it gives you a really cool look at some amazing surfing.

Jonathan Reid's picture

True, it would be spectacular with some in water footage or low drone angles.

Michael Leadbetter's picture

That's pretty freakin' awesome

Spy Black's picture

"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."

I know waves of this nature are a natural attraction to surfers, but I can't help but think these "companies and organizations" are encouraging a lot of people not up to the task of handling waves like this to go on a glory run. Possibly their last.

Michael DeStefano's picture

I won't say it never happens but the big wave community is a close group of people. The surfers, jet ski riders and rescue crew on shore all train and even have boot camps for these conditions. You can't just paddle out into these type of waves and surf you have to be taken out and these people aren't letting in experienced surfers out. On days like in the clip when wind conditions create rough chop even experienced riders won't go out.

Waks Alcaraz's picture

wow! thanks for sharing bro. I cant imagine being in the lineup and drop-in on those monsters, watching legends ride Mavericks even gives me the chill, this one made me remind myself I suck at peak drops haha

Hector Belfort's picture

Amazing footage but I also think the surf companies and drink advertisers are encouraging recklessness and endangerment of rescuers with these prizes. The surfers have to make a living and the craziest footage brings in the money so there is always someone taking to risk. They don't show the videos where people are injured.

paulo Sousa's picture

Nice article michael, just let me point a correction, the place is called "Nazaré" not Navaré. Thanks

Michael DeStefano's picture

Good catch I'm surprised I didn't see that.