With the Atlantic Ocean recently having gone into overdrive, there's been no shortage of big waves to ride in Europe. Yet for João De Macedo and his partners António Silva, Marco Medeiros and Glyn Ovens, the lure of a new big wave frontier exploration proved too strong. Last week they traveled to the Azores Islands, invited Lucas Chianca, and rode some incredible big wave slabs that might put the Azores on the big-wave map.
As with most "new" discoveries though, these sessions took years in the making. De Macedo has been venturing to the Azores for the last seven winters scoping its potential. The group of volcanic islands sit about 1000 miles directly west of Lisbon, and 1000 miles east of Newfoundland. That is, about as middle in the Atlantic Ocean as you can get.
"One of my buddies and Portuguese surf legend Jose Seabra lived on Sao Miguel for a long time," explains De Macedo. "He often surfed the left at Pica de Viola on his own. You can paddle from land and see it from the road. Jose would surf it from eight up to 15 feet, but above that, which is the zone we are interested in, it's a totally different wave; a real, big wave slab."
De Macedo, Silva and Ovens, who have teamed up for the Nazare Tow Challenge, told Lucas Chianca about their mission. Both De Macedo and Chianca ride for Org Surfboards, and knew that the Brazilian would love the waves on offer.
"The locals also gave us the green light to invite new crew," says De Macedo. "They don't have the boards, experience or equipment to ride these extreme waves. They know the potential, and want to see it explored."
The teams surfed the left first, and while it wasn't an absolute barrel fest, all managed to score some hefty barrels. One by De Macedo he has claimed as his best at the wave. But even after seven winters here the surfers are still finding out about the vagaries of the reef.
"It was windy, but it's one of the things we are discovering," says De Macedo. "How hard we can push it with the side/off wind was the revelation this trip. It handled it better than we imagined."
The teams then turned their attention to another Right, the offshore bombie of Santana where it was Chianca who scored the best wave of the trip.
"That too is a wave that has been hiding in plain sight," said De Macedo. "It's about a kilometre out from the beachbreak where the QS event is held every year."
The Right works on the opposite tide to the left and so in theory, you can go back-to-back on the same day. Macedo explains getting it top-to-bottom is difficult, but that they are still really only at the beginning of a journey to find the best conditions. It's a journey however made difficult due to the remoteness of the Islands and the relative lack of big wave infrastructure.
"You are searching for diamonds and you have to accept that when exploring the Azores," concludes De Macedo. It's never a guaranteed score. Nature really calls the shots and there's a ton of logistical issues. It's a wild, beautiful, and radical place, but that's a massive part of the attraction."