You know when it's time to get nervous? When Ross Clarke-Jones shows up ready to surf, that's when. And there he was last Friday, roaming around Nazaré, staring out at the mountains rolling in off the Atlantic – with not even a glint of fear in his eyes.
On Thursday afternoon, word started trickling in that the next day, Nazaré could be on for the tow crew. A barrage of powerful storms have been marching across the Atlantic the last few weeks, and one was bound to shape up nicely for Europe's gnarliest big wave.
The first person to alert us, as usual, was our man on the ground this winter, Alex Laurel, who is incapable of misreading a swell chart and always ready to pounce. "It’s a 50/50 that it will good, but it’s the biggest swell of the season so far," Alex told us. "You want me to go?" Off he went.
At dawn the next morning, things didn't look promising. Maxing, unruly conditions. Howling wind. Cold, grey sky. Then around noon, it all seemed to be turning around.
Unfortunately, there was a very close call – a surfer nearly drowned after reportedly going under a big set. The accident shook things up in the line-up, and effectively shut down the session early. But beforehand, Ross Clarke-Jones, Justine Dupont, Zac Haynes, Mick Corbett, Rafael Tapia, Sebastian Steudtner, and others safely navigated some huge ones. See it all in Alex's edit above.