Red Letter Day: STILL WATERS

RIDER & WORDS: Olivia Piana
PHOTOS: Ana Catarina
LOCATION: Nazaré, Portugal
DATE: Sunday December 18th, 2022

Synonymous with the world’s biggest waves and some of the most terrifying shorebreak on the planet, Nazaré in Portugal is unlikely to become a go-to wing foil Shangri-La anytime soon. However, caught on those rare days when it’s swell-free, and it can feel like a totally different place…

It was a beautiful winter’s day. I was excited to get on the water and shoot with my friend and talented photographer, Ana Catarina. I arrived in Nazaré at around 9:30am. Ana offered me a coffee at Maya Gabeira’s house, the spot’s best female big wave surfer. We walked from the house to the top of the cliff to check how things were looking at the spot and north along this wild coast.

From the top of the cliffs, the ocean looked very calm. The wind from the southeast was starting to pump. Usually, this wind brings clouds and rain, but that day it was quite sunny. Ana told me it was probably possible to get in the water from the south end of Nazaré beach. I’d never have imagined that… I've always seen this place with a huge shore break! So, launching with a wing foil there… Are you sure?! But once we got to the spot, I was reassured as it was incredibly flat. We were joined by Hélène, a friend from Péniche. We brought all the gear onto the sand and prepared to get in the water.

It was hard to get an idea of how strong the wind was, as it was offshore and gusty. I chose my larger gear in this instance as I didn't want to struggle to fly at this spot. What an incredible session it was… Incredible because these conditions are very rare. It was a unique opportunity to wing here in the middle of winter, and incredible to have the opportunity to feel the mystical energy of this place, out there near the infamous point. Even though it was totally flat, you can sense the potential of the place. Even then, it was not easy to sail in the backwash coming off the point… there was so much turbulence, even in these flat conditions.

I had visited Nazaré many times to sit on top of the cliff and watch the big wave surfers, but I’d never had the opportunity to notice the orange and golden colors of the cliff face on the south side. Simply beautiful. Nowadays, I rarely wing foil in flat waters as I prefer to get out in the waves. But on this day, we sailed for several hours with Hélène, just because it was a huge thrill to be out there. Both of us out on this magical spot! Ana Catarina shot with the drone and then she went in the water for some water shots. Her favorite thing is definitely swimming with her camera! She knows exactly what angle she wants to shoot and what picture she wants to get. It's always a pleasure to work with her.

We got out of the water in the middle of the afternoon, just before the soccer world cup finals between France and Argentina. I'm not a big soccer fan but I like the atmosphere it can bring. We found the first bar we could that was broadcasting the game. As we sat and talked about this very first wing foiling session in Nazaré, while enjoying a traditional soup and a Portuguese tosta mista, with the excitable atmosphere of the world cup finale, it all felt pretty unique and special. It was such a beautiful day to remember.


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