Observations From The First Nazaré Challenge

screen-shot-2016-12-20-at-3-22-43-pmJamie Mitchell eats late backside drops (and oatmeal) for breakfast. Photo: WSL

In every adrenaline fueled sport there exists an elusive line that is continually flirted with. If that line is crossed without caution, there’s a high chance of devastating consequences. For those involved in today’s Nazaré Challenge, it seems that line was quite apparent.

The event arrived in Portugal with tons of cameras, athletes, staff and anticipation. In the days leading up to competition, the deep-water beast went unridden with what even the most categorically insane group of surfers considered unruly conditions. With conditions cleaning up a bit this morning, a relative tameness returned to the lineup and the field of twenty four paddlers had their best go at the Portuguese beach break.

Sure enough, the comp went off with a bang. And no, not the kind of bang that the commentator’s unrelentingly sexual vocabulary might have suggested, but one that made me realize the surf world is at no shortage of brave-hearted lunatics.

But it did make me think, Is this kind of self-imposed danger always worth it? For me, the question is a simple no. There are certain situations and conditions that I’ll gladly avoid. But for these men (and women) they must wrestle with that debate more intimately – as we’ll hear in an interview with Nazare Challenge contestant Damien Hobgood who experienced a scary run-in with one of the PWCs while competing.

Does the adrenaline outweigh the risk? Can all of these risks be accounted for? Or will there always loom the unavoidable and unexpected? Now, I pose these questions as a medium-wave-surfing desk jockey who just had Chipotle for the third time this month, but it’s just something to think about.

While you think, here’s a glimpse of the Final from Nazaré’s maiden WSL Challenge. Congrats Jamie Mitchell for taking the win and major props to all who were involved – I couldn’t have gotten through the day feeling like an enormous sissy without you. –Dayton Silva