Embarking on a journey with the end goal of surfing the Waves of Nazaré, home to the largest waves on the planet and one of the world’s most treacherous surfing destinations, is not for the faint of heart. A lot of surfers say they want to push their limits or even dream of riding the Waves of Nazaré in front of that lighthouse, but when the realization of the time and commitment needed hits, then the understanding that it’s not going to be a tale of overnight success, they usually readjust their goals.
Mike Ryan’s Quest: Defying the Titans of Nazaré
When Mike Ryan, the visionary founder of Silverfin, contacted me and shared his goal, I was definitely skeptical, but after a few calls and hearing more of his story and the mindset he brings to both his business and his adventures, made me think of what was possible and the benefits of sharing ideas and spending time with like-minded individuals could actually be mutually beneficial, making me analyze what I’m doing, how I’m training, the technique and approach to riding the biggest waves in the world but more importantly can I do it better.
Although Mike may not be a lifelong surfer or experienced big wave rider, he has excellent ocean knowledge, a huge advantage many don’t have. He also takes any of his adventures exceptionally seriously, using a network of experts in many fields to get any marginal gains possible in every aspect of fitness and health, giving him the best chance of achieving his goal and riding the Waves of Nazaré he’s visualized while surviving. How prepared and professional he was approaching this blew me away.
Conquering the Monstrous Waves of Nazaré
Like many adventure sports, surfing relies on Mother Nature to produce the perfect conditions, which often change as you progress as a surfer. This is even more relevant if you’re chasing big waves and especially if you don’t have the flexibility in your schedule. For me, this has always been the most challenging part; living in the UK, where the waves generally aren’t very big, always meant last-minute travel chasing a storm or those perfect conditions, missing family occasions, birthdays, and events, and making it extremely difficult for planning work. With this all in mind and looking at wave models and data from previous years, we picked a window of opportunity for Mike’s first trip to the Waves of Nazaré. Things were starting to get real.
The Team Behind the Waves: Collaboration and Safety at Nazaré
Big wave surfing is very much a team sport, and although everyone always wants to hear the story of the surfer and it’s the photos of the surfer challenging the giant waves that make the press, without the safety teams and jet ski drivers, none of this is possible, so Mike’s first week in Nazaré Portugal was spent with local Jet rescue pilot Ramon Laureano who runs a tow surf rescue and safety course in Nazaré. This would be the perfect way to build confidence and knowledge and be a team player rather than just a single surfer on a mission.