Big wave surfer Will Skudin is preparing for the TUDOR Nazaré Tow Surfing Challenge Presented by Hurley.
It is wintertime in many parts of the world and that means big wave surfing season is upon us. Surfers from all over the world will start to migrate to where the biggest waves can be found. Places like Jaws in Hawaii, Mavericks in California, and the biggest of them all — Nazaré in Portugal.
Nazaré is a place where history is made, records are broken, and some of the sport’s most fearless surfers can get the ride of their lives. For the fourth year in a row, the WSL will be holding a big wave tow in competition at Nazaré. The Tudor Nazaré Tow Surfing Challenge Presented by Hurley competition is now in the waiting period and could be a go at any point from now until March.
Nazaré is an interesting and unique wave break. Virtually unknown up until about 10 years ago this small stretch of water 75 miles north of Lisbon, Portugal is now a place where big wave surfers go to possibly make history. Among the men and women venturing there this winter is Will Skudin, from New York. This contest is like no other and Skudin was gracious enough to spend some time discussing this upcoming contest and his preparation exclusively with FanSided.
“I think because of the popularity of the sport when the wave was pioneered by Garrett McNamara and Andrew Cotton, I feel the popularity of the sport of surfing was at an all-time high, when they pioneered it, because of that, it just like expedited the popularity straight into a contest,” he said. “Humans like to, you know, it’s within our DNA, to compete, in anything we do.”
Some of the biggest waves ever ridden have been at Nazaré and Will Skudin is prepared to take his turn
When thinking of big wave surfers most people don’t think of native New Yorkers very often. Skudin comes from a long line of swimmers and spent much of his young childhood in the water. When he was growing up, he knew exactly what he wanted to do, ride these huge monster waves.
Later he was able to link up with some of the pioneers of the Nazaré wave, Garrett McNamara and Andrew Cotten. Now he is participating in this massive event with Cotton as his partner and for the first time, his brother will be out there with him.
“This year, I’m partners with Andrew Cotton, He’s my partner and then the beauty of this 2022-23 event is my brother Cliff is going to be driving safety for our team. I’ve been surfing big waves with my brother Cliff for a decade now. He is a water safety specialist and is phenomenal on the jet ski. So he’s going to come and be our support. There’s a three-person team in the event, two surfers, and then one safety shadow and just having my brother there, it’s going to be amazing. And I think my parents are going to come this year. So it should be fun.”
The giant waves at Nazaré may still be unknown to many people, however, the recent HBO documentary series 100-Foot Wave has brought this break into the public eye. The world records for the biggest waves ever ridden are held at this spot by both a man, Sebastian Steudtner, and a woman, Maya Gabeira according to Guinness World Records.
Unfortunately, most recently this wave was in the news for a different reason — Marcio Freire, a big wave surfer tragically passed away while riding this wave just last week. The severity of this wave break does not go unnoticed and is respected by the men and women riding this wave, Skudin included.
“The energy before a big wave event is always high energy from all over, every corner, there’s just so many moving parts,” he said. “We’re been surfing these waves for over two decades, so we’re prepared to surf the waves. But yeah, there are a lot of nerves floating around. I always like to get into like a kind of spiritual place before I hit the water and just kind of tune down, put on some mellow music, say my prayers that I need to say that I do before every session, and I just kind of connect with the ocean. When you think of the ocean, a lot of people are like, Oh, go surf and rip it. But I think what people don’t understand is the ocean is alive and you’re building a relationship with it. It’s a very rhythmic sport, so you’re either in rhythm with the good waves, or you’re out of rhythm with good waves.”
A great deal of preparation goes into getting ready for a contest at Nazaré. The sheer force of these waves is so dangerous and powerful. Skudin explains that his preparation does not stop at physical preparedness, but he has mental practices as well.
“A lot of my preparation is staying physical at home when I’m at home, whether it’s riding a bike swimming, surfing every single wave,” he said. “It’s been two foot some days, it’s been three foot some days, but we’re just staying on a board, staying active. And then something my mother taught me from a young age is visualization. You know, just having that time, weekly to visualize your rides. Visualization is something I’ve been practicing since I was really young. So if you’ve already been there and done it mentally, like you actually put yourself in the situation, then when you’re on-site, and it’s time to go, you’ve already been there. There’s no having to break the ice to get the jitters out.”
Surfing has evolved over the last century or two from native Islanders riding waves in Hawaii and all over the world to now actual competitions with athletes training to do such amazing feats. This year the Nazaré contest is being sponsored by Hurley, a big name in action sports. Skudin is sponsored by Hurley, which allows him to be extra prepared for these huge waves.
“So epic having Hurley sponsor the event this year. I have been with Hurley for almost a decade, so it feels like it’s all coming around full circle now,” he said.
For a contest of this caliber to be run, the conditions need to be right. There is a three-month waiting period that is open right now. The forecasts will be carefully watched and if a big swell pops up the surfers will be notified and will ascend on Nazaré. The event will be aired live on Red Bull TV and WorldSurfLeague.com, WSL’s YouTube channel, and on the free WSL app.