RSPro Creators | First Swell of the season. Madeira 2020. Part II by Paul de Nagy
The apex of the late October swell would arrive two days later. That day, I get to the car park at Jardim Do Mar as the sun is rising, joined by my girlfriend, also a photographer, and my dog and we’re totally psyched for the day of shooting ahead. We bump into a nervous looking Felipe, who didn’t have the luxury of a boat today and is contemplating the seriously difficult entry at Jardim on a monstrous day. We settle high up the point to get a better shooting angle just as Twiggy and Ruben arrive on the boat. I can’t help but wonder if these are the same pilot and assistant as two days earlier. If so, then they’re in for the ride of their lives, what with the waves easily double the size of before.
There’s only the two of them in the water and it takes Twiggy, a seasoned pro, at least half an hour to get the feeling to take off on a huge wave. It’s the second wave in the set, and the explosion of white water from the first one slightly obscures the view through the lens when he takes off. I manage to catch him further down the wave and he looks tiny as he warily kicks out in front of the boat.
Word had spread through the week and the crowd of spectators is growing. With a mix of locals, kids ditching school and wide eyed tourists, the vibe is one of camaraderie and excitement.
Ruben eventually catches an equally menacing mountain of water. Ordinarily, as a goofy footer, you’d be cautious on waves like this. But this is his arena, his home break. He casually drops down the face, arcs out a smooth bottom turn back up the face, arcs out a top turn with a casual flick of the tail almost, and repeats, all the while with a huge grin on his face. Later when I remark on this grin I saw time and time again while surfing these massive waves, he just shrugs his shoulders and smiles.
By mid morning, the waves become more orderly and surfers start to fill the lineup. I manage to spot Felipe just down from the peak, paddling for what is probably the biggest wave of his life. He goes to take off, but either his hand or foot slides and I see his green board fly into the air. He gets lucky and somehow manages to dive sideways avoiding, possibly, the worst wipeout of his life.
The water is full of pros and local chargers trading waves. But as the day progresses, the waves seem to lose their original fire and flare, more likely due to the tide coming up than anything else. Almost like a conductor signalling the end of a concert, Twiggy climbs back into the boat, the crowd slowly dissolves and Big Thursday draws to an end.
I think I took almost 2000 shots that day, it truly was epic. The amazing thing about Jardim do Mar is that no one has ever seen it reach its limit in terms of size. It’s no Nazaré, but well worth the surf check.