Two major events at the premier big-wave locations of Jaws and Nazaré could run between today, November 15, and March 31 2022, with the Big Wave season window officially open.
This means some of the best big-wave surfers in the world are on standby for the Quiksilver Jaws Big Wave Challenge and the Nazaré Tow Surfing Challenge presented by Jogos Santa Casa.
It comes at an exciting time for Big Wave surfing, with the limits of tow and paddle progression being pushed by a handful of athletes who have taken their training and preparation to a whole new level.
Jaws and Nazaré are two of just a select few world-class venues which can hold the monster swells required for these events to go ahead, and are two poles in the big wave world that hold the attention of elite big-wave surfers over this period.
During the window, the World Surf League's Tours and Competitions office will closely monitor conditions for the two venues, and once the stars align a call will be made to run each event, bringing some of the world's best surfers together for what is set to be another season of stand-out performances.
Last time we saw events at Jaws and Nazaré, the bar was raised in various ways. For example, Kai Lenny has redefined what is possible when it comes to tow-in performance; instead of merely making giant waves, Lenny and his peers are using the entire wave face -- the size of a city building -- to complete progressive maneuvers, treating this ominous canvass as if it was a two-foot shorebreak.
Athletes such as Justine Dupont and the rest of this small clique of chargers have meanwhile pushed the limits of performance, dedicating themselves to venues such as Nazaré, and other places around the world, trying to ride the biggest waves imaginable.
When it comes to paddle-in big-wave surfing at Jaws, the limits are being pushed as well. It wasn't all that long ago that Jaws was considered tow-only, though now we're seeing athlete's such as "the King of Jaws" Billy Kemper, Nathan Florence, Paige Alms, Lenny, Ian Walsh and many, many more paddling, then turning and getting barreled on waves once considered impossible without the help of a jetski.
This new generation of big-wave paddle performance comes after Maui's "Strapped" crew - Laird Hamilton, Dave Kalama, Brett Lickle, Mike Waltze, Pete Cabrinha and Rush Randle - were the first to surf Jaws in the early nineties, and it was exclusively a tow wave until around 2011, when surfers such as Greg Long, Mark Healey, Nathan Fletcher and Sion Milosky and especially Shane Dorian pushed the boundaries of what was possible when it came to chasing these monster waves down under your own stream.
So, what makes these two waves so special? Nazare, a beach break, is one of the best tow-surfing big wave venues in the world thanks to an 130-mile-long underwater canyon which funnels swell into a headboard that is a half mile off shore.
This concentrates the energy of the swells, producing some of the largest, most intense waves on the planet. At its deepest point, the canyon reaches over 16,000 feet (5000 meters) deep.
You can't talk about the history of surfing giant Nazare without mentioning Hawaii's Garret McNamara. Before he began towing out there, Nazare was just a sleepy fishing village on the radar of a select crew of bodyboarders and surfers.
McNamara first surfed Praia do Norte or North Beach at Nazare in 2010, and the next year he rode a 78ft wave which was entered the Guinness World Records. To put this -- and other outlandish performances that have gone down since -- into perspective, a 70 foot wave there is estimated to weigh 1,000 tons.
When it comes to Jaws, it's without a doubt the gold standard when it comes to paddle-in big wave surfing. This is thanks in large part to a big change in water depth, specifically the sudden change in the seabed from very deep to relatively shallow. There is an extremely deep trench uncommonly close to shore, which comes up from around 100 feet to 20 feet.
The only problem is the strong winds which have made Maui a windsurfers' paradise. The reef can handle as big a a swell as the ocean can throw at it, but often the wind gets too strong to paddle, and that's when it turns into a tow session.
Stay tuned to Worldsurfleague.com and the league's social media channels to known when a call is made to put an event on standby, or to issue a Green Alert!