When it comes to the northern hemisphere big wave season, there are very few things you can count on for sure. It’s practically guaranteed that the biggest wave of the year will be towed at Nazare, and that the biggest paddle barrel of the year will be ridden at Jaws, but beyond that, making predictions about what the season will hold is a good way to make a fool of yourself—particularly during an ENSO neutral year, when the lack of an El Nino or La Nina means pretty much anything can happen. That being said, here are a few predictions that are more likely than not to prove accurate.
Don't forget, you can watch Nazare live on our webcam, HERE.
There won’t be a big wave world champion
Most of the big wave community was caught unaware by the WSL’s announcement last month that they were cancelling the Mavs and Nazare events, effectively killing the Big Wave World Tour. A lot of athletes got screwed, and practically no one is happy with the decision. In the days after the announcement, there was a lot of talk about boycotting the Peahi event, which the WSL had announced would “decide the world title.”
The latest on the rumour mill, however, is that the seeded athletes will surf the Peahi event, but under one condition: that the WSL remove any language about it being a world title-deciding event. The overarching sentiment is that a world champion should never be decided by a single event, particularly one without a transparent qualifying process.
As one athlete quipped, “It was embarrassing for the women’s world champion to be decided in one event, and it would be equally embarrassing for the men’s world champion to be decided in the same way.”
The foundation will be laid for a new, athlete-driven, rebel tour
While the WSL might not think that a big wave tour is valuable, the rest of the world does. Exponentially more viewers log on to watch big wave events than world tour events, and big wave surfing in general is the most marketable form of surfing when it comes to non-endemic consumers.
More importantly, the big wave community itself sees value in having a tour, and the leading big wave surfers have already begun discussing what it would take to start their own series of events to crown a legitimate world champion. Note, the Rebel Sessions has been running out of Dungeons for the past few years.
Tow surfing will once again become the focus at Nazare
With the inclusion of Nazare on the Big Wave Tour the past few years, paddling the oversized wedge became requisite for anyone hoping to remain relevant in the big wave scene. But that doesn’t mean that guys enjoyed it.
Nazare has no safety zone, which means that even if you do everything right, you can get smoked by a 60-foot set pretty much anytime you paddle out. A personal safety ski is practically mandatory for every paddler, so not only is Nazare the hardest, scariest, and most difficult big wave to paddle, but also one of the most expensive.
Now that the WSL has cancelled the paddle event at Nazare and replaced it with a specialty tow event, expect the focus to swing squarely back to ski-assisted surfing. While a handful of lunatics will continue to paddle the wave out of pure love, we are unlikely to see the glut of paddle clips from Portugal that we’ve enjoyed the past few years.
Peahi will see it’s most crowded season ever
With half of the competitors in Big Wave Tour events currently made up of wild cards that are typically selected based on freesurfing performances, expect every aspiring big wave competitor to be out at Peahi whenever it breaks.
The Maverick’s contest will continue to not run
Half Moon Bay’s most famous attraction has been mired in drama and controversy for the past five years, and that isn’t likely to change anytime soon. The cancellation of the world tour event came so late that it effectively blocked anyone else from applying for permits to run an event at Mavs this season. What effect that will have on the crowds off Pillar Point remain to be seen.
New spots will be discovered
With the cancellation of the world tour, expect the focus of the big wave community to shift from competition to exploration. New spots that thrive under XXL conditions will be revealed, and old spots that we have forgotten about will pop back up on the radar as big wave freesurfing once again becomes the priority.
Cover shot Axi Muiniain at Nazare by Rafael Riancho