The Australian wave sailor became the first windsurfer to ride the big waves of Praia do Norte, in Nazaré, Portugal.
It’s the big-wave mecca, and it’s never been ridden by a wind-powered athlete – until this February 2, 2016, when Australia’s Jason Polakow windsurfed for the first time the liquid mountains of Praia do Norte, in Nazaré, Portugal.
Aged 44, the big wave windsurfer and two-time wave-sailing world champion found a new challenge: riding the 13-meter (43 feet) waves of this infamous location on the Atlantic coast.
Polakow prepared for a year, studying and observing the Portuguese spot, finding the right support and safety crew before he felt ready to tackle some of the world’s biggest waves.
On Tuesday, February 2, 2016, the conditions were favorable, finally allowing him to windsurf it.
“It’s a very challenging and unique spot; no wave breaks in the same place, and the height is very difficult to judge,” he said in a first statement after spending five hours in the water.
“Chasing huge waves is my passion, so after seeing amazing images from big wave surfers, I just had to try.
“I’ve surfed all the big waves around the world, and I must say that for me, Nazaré has been the most difficult and challenging. The waves are coming from many different angles at the same time, making it extremely difficult to judge and be safe.”
“Water safety was my main concern, so having the two most experienced surfers – Andrew Cotton and Hugo Vau – taking care of me, and George Leal, aka ‘Jesus’ communicating with the water safety crew, I was feeling confident.”
“The session we had was a great start for me in Nazaré, as I caught some huge waves. I’ve had a difficult but exciting adrenalized time out there, and it’s for sure one of the highlights of my career!”
Polakow established himself as Australia’s top windsurfer at 18 years old.
In 1990, he had already beaten windsurfing legend Robby Naish in his own backyard at the Maui World Cup Grand Slam.
After two world titles, the wave-sailor broke away from full-time competition. He’s been searching and windsurfing the world’s biggest waves for the past ten years.
Sitting at the apex of a deep canyon that funnels the North Atlantic swell towards the shore, Nazaré attracts a few fearless big wave surfers every year.
Waves can reach up to 100 feet – that’s about 10-story high. Polakow is the first-ever wind-powered athlete to ride this iconic swell.
And the Australian has already set a new goal for himself. He aims at breaking the unofficial world record, which at the moment is around 60-foot at the famous surfing location called “Jaws,” in Maui, Hawaii.
“For the longest time, I thought ‘Jaws’ was the epitome of big wave windsurfing, but Nazaré definitely holds the key to producing the biggest waves in the world,” he added.
“My goal is to come back here on a gigantic swell. We can definitely break that record right out here at Praia do Norte on the next big one.”
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