Prior to surfing on the Women's Big Wave Tour, Justine Dupont was a full time grinder on the Qualifying Series (QS). In 2016, she was within arm's length of requalifying for the Championship Tour (she qualified in 2012 but suffered from an injury early on in the season).
"I missed out on qualification and lost my major sponsor in 2017," said Justine. "I asked myself; what do I love about surfing? The answer is that I love riding big waves."
Luckily, Dupont's near miss on the QS reignited her passion for big wave surfing and she's been a staple in the Nazaré lineup ever since. With the 2019 Big Wave Awards coming up in April, the Frenchwoman recently submitted a Ride of the Year Entry for a wave ridden at Nazaré this November - filmed by Antione Chicoye.
The World Surf League: Can you walk us through that morning? How did you prepare?
Justine Dupont: I have a routine. The day before we were checking the forecast. It was windy so we were trying to figure out what the best timing would be. A lot of teamwork goes into it. Of course there's a lot of nerves and fear to deal with. You just have to focus on the things you can control like your equipment and set up.
Who was part of your team that day?
Normally when there's a big swell, some of my friends from France come down. So we had a pretty solid crew that day. We had a nice dinner the night before and talked through our game plan. That morning we were all feeling really good because we had a solid team and a brand new jet ski. But we got on the ski that morning before the sun came up and it wasn't working. On a big day like that you need two jet skis for sure. Eventually one of my friends was able to get it fixed and everything worked out.
Were you nervous going into it?
I'm always nervous but I just focus on the things I know. This is what we prepare for and work so hard for. I find confidence through my team.
What was special about this wave?
It was windy that day and sort of hard to figure out. But somehow I chose the right wave of the set. I was able to find the right line and play with the wave a bit. A lot of times at Nazaré you're just content with catching the wave. But for this one I was happy to be able to really surf it and fully commit to it. I was smiling so big afterwards and everyone on my team was so stoked.
What do you like about Nazaré?
I just love Nazaré. It's so different. There's so many moods to it. You really feel nature when you're out there and I've never felt that type of power anywhere else. It's so intense and raw.
You suffered from an injury at this year's Women's Jaws Challenge. How has the recovery process been?
I have been going to rehab in Capbreton, France. Everyday I'm feeling better but it's a process. It's different because for two months I was doing nothing but big wave surfing. Then this injury stopped everything for me. But that comes with it. We know what we do is a risk.
What's the damage?
I broke some bones, tore my knee and dislocated my shoulder. But I'm able to walk again. I'm going to start swimming soon. Just taking it day by day. I should be able to start surfing again in March.
Catch up on all the entries at Worldsurfleague.com/bigwaveawards and watch the 2019 WSL Big Wave Awards live on Worldsurfleague.com, App and Facebook.