Don’t look back. That’s Sebastian Steudtner advice for surfing the in Praia do Norte, Nazare, Portugal. That’s because the waves he’s riding are 60-foot swells.
Steudtner is one of the professional big wave surfers participating in the World Surf League's Big Wave Awards in Portugal.
A video clip of him taking on one of Nazare's 60 foot swells went viral this week.
Each winter, the waves that hit Praia do Norte are notoriously big. These big waves are a result of a long underwater canyon that funnels water churned up by Atlantic storms.
“[The canyon] starts in the middle of the Atlantic and gets more shallow and more narrow as it turns into Praia do Norte and the waves kind of get stuck in that channel,” explains Steudtner, “So if you have big waves in Hawaii you have one dominant force, one swell that brings the waves. Here you could have four or five different storms or one little storm that gets pushed into that canyon and reaches the highest heights because of that.”
Riding one of these enormous waves is no small feat. Surfers are moving at 40-50 miles an hour.
“You have to deal with wind. You have to deal with chops,” he says, “You’re going so fast that every chop you hit wants to buck you off your board – it’s really intense.”
Steudtner, who grew up in ocean-less and wave-free Germany, learned how to ride big waves in Hawaii. He moved to the islands when he just 13 to pursue a career in wind surfing. He became a professional windsurfer at 16.
“Then I met a local Hawaiian family that were legends in the sport of big wave surfing. And fell in love with the big waves and it’s been a passion since I was a little kid. I love the water and to me it’s the most perfectly fitting and natural sport to do.”