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Hydrofoils in the biggest waves in the world at Nazaré

The adventure team consisted of Glyn Ovens and Tom Court.

Glyn Ovens from Wales, UK, who now bases himself at Nazaré during the winter, as accomplished waterman in multiple disciplines, with a drive for riding the biggest waves possible each season.

Tom Court also an experienced water man, from the Isle of Wight, UK, a professional kitesurfer and multiple discipline athlete.

The two got together with their passion for hydrofoils and after a long time planning, the project in Portugal kicked off, to be the first to ride the giant waves of Nazaré on a Fliteboard.

The idea had been a long time in the making with many moving parts to consider: the team, and mostly Glyn, having done a lot of ground work from lining up the equipment, organising skis, drivers, filmers, boards, foils and finally the forecast, just to get to the point of actually getting out on the water… 

Glyn is the recognized hydrofoiler who rides Nazaré on most swells, and with his background of knowledge about how it works, all the elements needed to ensure safety on the water, he steered the call on the best conditions and ultimately made the final decision on which forecast that the team would fly on.

Tom being the current efoil race champion, has experience pushing Fliteboards to their maximum speeds, making him ready to go fast, however this time on vertical water, rather than horizontal... changing the game and opening up interesting questions about how these boards would perform and what setup, wings and shims would be best to handle these extreme conditions.

The objective was to push the possibilities of what sized waves could be ridden on a efoil and further refine the performance of Fliteboard’s in these extreme environments.

The conditions the team were presented, where "the best of the whole season, so far”... No wind, clear skies, and a perfectly lined up, big swell. Glyn giving the project the green light a week out on the forecast, Tom flew from the UK to Portugal to get himself ready for days ahead.
The team had a couple of warm-up days before the swell arrived and then into the 'big stuff'!

Waves of this size have huge consequences, for rider and equipment. Everything had to be checked and prepared, every detail covered. These conditions are not to be taken lightly and trust in the team and the equipment is paramount. So training days, testing days and general experience in these waves was needed…

The swell was thumping through, with a walls of water up to 15m in height.
The cliff was packed with spectators, sun was out, wind was light, to almost nothing: the amphitheatre was set for a special Nazaré day, that would kick of 2022 with a buzz on the water.

Stepping off the support ski onto the board was a lonely first step, but once flying and in control of their own destiny, the guys felt at home. "Once you were on the board, you had to control the ride, speed and also judge the ocean, set waves, position in the line up and make sure you are in the right spot. Making all the decisions yourself, as in the end, you are alone out there if it all goes wrong".

Using the electric motor to propel themselves on huge lumps of water, feeling the speed of the Fliteboard, added to by the immense energy of the ocean, the two flowing together in silence, but for the thunder of the wave, and the roar of the crowd. Consumed by the acceleration and speed, judging the line and staying in control was a fine balance.

The guys used the race wing setup, True Glide prop, PRO board and Flite impact vest.
With the introduction of some new negative shims in order to handle speed and acceleration with a bit more ease, using the -1 shim on the rear race wing enables us to feel more controlled at speed.

After the morning session on the big day, using one battery, they came in for lunch and compared feedback to trim the setup for the afternoon. After some food, they hit the water again, with renewed energy, this time it was bigger and they took on 'first peak', directly under the famous Nazaré lighthouse. The huge peaks of ocean energy lining up perfectly for the foil…

The buzz after the day was compete was epic.
New experiences for both riders, pushing Toms experience in big wave arena and driving Glyn onto a new adventure with the development of new ways to ride big waves and big wave riding equipment…

This was just the beginning of a great journey and not just a destination.

-Words by Glyn Ovens

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