Just days ago, Californian big-wave charger Toby Cunningham took off on a bombing Nazare wave, made it to the inside and bailed, the hard part more or less over, right? Wrong. Oh, so wrong. The video above of what followed is the stuff of big-wave nightmares, with Toby taking five massive waves on the head before he could be picked up via ski. Toby’s reaction? “I absolutely love it, he says.” Hmmm…right… Loose screws aside, this clip is another example of the Nazare insanity regularly captured by Máquina Voadora and Pedro Miranda, a film production duo based in Portugal. From back-breaking wipeouts to record-setting tow and paddle-ins, Pedro and Máquina have seen it all, and are almost always the ones bringing the biggest and baddest Nazare tow sessions to your screen. Read their take on the incident below.
The action starts with professional big-wave surfer Toby Cunningham getting towed into a massive wave in Nazaré, Portugal, during the big wave session of February 7, 2019, which was one of the biggest days of this winter season in Praia do Norte.
After successfully riding the huge wave, which was the first wave of a big set, Toby gets caught by the white water. His rescue team mate, surfer Glyn Ovens tries to reach him with the Jet Ski, but there's little opportunity for a pick up since the next wave was already too close. Toby takes the first impact of a giant mass of white water, and as he resurfaces Glyn was already getting close with the jet ski to attempt another rescue, but Toby sees another huge wave rolling in and signals Glyn to abort the pick up, taking that second enormous impact on the head. The moments that follow were of great stress. Toby's 25 years of big-wave experience is put to the test, but he manages to stay calm under pressure and eventually gets picked up by Brazilian surfer Ian Cosenza.
Toby Cunningham, 41 years old, is an experienced big-wave surfer and waterman from Coronado (California, USA). He started surfing big waves when he was just 16. In 2003, he won the XXL Biggest Paddle Award with what was then a world record wave of 56 ft. In the past five years Toby has been spending his winters in Nazaré and facing what is now know as the "Mecca" of big wave surfing. In his own words, Toby gave us this comment: "Here in Nazare, it makes everything I’ve ever surfed in the past feel small. Getting a beat down in Nazare can be an incredibly fun experience or a daunting experience. It all depends on your mindset. I choose to enjoy doing out of control flips underwater where it is pitch black and incredibly loud. I absolutely love that I have no control over what is happening to me underwater and letting the ocean do whatever it pleases."
This incident had no injuries. Toby was back surfing that same day, one hour later.