A legend nearly snuffed out at Nazaré!
Very few thing in life are eternal and even fewer things in surfing. There’s pretty much only Waikiki and Ross Clarke-Jones. The “sleepy-eyed surfer from Avoca, New South Wales” as Matt Warshaw describes in his epic Encyclopedia of Surfing has been a part of our landscape since the beginning of memory. I’ve asked some of the oldest surfers I know if they recall a time before Ross Clarke-Jones. Each paused, looked into space for a moment and then responded, “No.”
Mr. Clarke-Jones is mostly famous for his big wave prowess and yesterday the Portuguese wave called Nazaré almost stole his life. As told to The Guardian:
I caught my first wave on the second peak, which I went right. Bailing off the wave, I was pulled under the water for about 30 seconds, using my Quiksilver Airlift to inflate me to the surface. I came up looking directly at the cave and rocks. Clutching to the rocks, I stayed there for a minute to get my breath back and to orientate myself. As I watched the set coming towards me, I waited then scrambled to the cliff to start scaling the 30-metre sheer drop up.
You know what you sign up for when you surf Nazaré; I always have a hell of a time, but this was a nice reminder that you never take it for granted. Especially on the smaller days like today where you can get complacent … it was a big mistake.
Observers looked on in horror as the brave surfer was bashed against the rocks and washed into an area that made it impossible to rescue him. There were five skis circling, trying to help. One of the drivers, Axi Muniain, said:
This is the first time I’ve seen someone get caught in this zone. There were five of us on jetskis trying to find him and we couldn’t reach him, or even see him.
I personally think that there aren’t many surfers that could have gotten themselves out of this situation. It was RCJ’s age and wave knowledge that saved him. He used the waves and water to his advantage.
The day has left Mr. Clarke with a concussion and possible broken leg but still very much alive. Watch the thrilling saga here and imagine yourself in that spot. How would it have gone for you?