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We promise this won't (really) hurt.

Wanna win a new surfboard? We have a custom Chilli ‘Black Vulture’ to gift (plus all the trim you’d expect from a premium dealer). To be in the running, just answer a few questions for us. It won’t take long.

Profile: The Diamond-Eyed Boy From the Land Of Plentzia

On the morning of the Nazaré challenge, as competitors arrived from all over the globe for what would end up being one of the most memorable spectacles in Big Wave competitive history, a young Spanish goofyfoot named Natxo Gonzalez, accompanied by his friend, Portugal’s Miguel Blanco, rounded the bend of the pinnacle cliffs. Unaccompanied by skis, the crowd assembled on the beach could have easily missed them, two black and red dots floating in the dark, invisible amongst the behemoths falling all around them.

As Greg Long, Grant “Twiggy” Baker, Damien Hobgood, Ramon Navarro, and a host of others waffled on whether the event should run, a chatter rose amongst the hardened international stars: are there people surfing right now?

“I had talked with Aritz [Aranburu] and a few guys who had experience at Nazare,” Natxo says. “I’d never surfed there, and they all told me: It’s going to be crazy. Super dangerous. But I told them, 'Listen, I don’t care, I have to go. It’s an opportunity to see everyone and show them who we are.' All our heroes were there, and we weren’t invited to the event, so we only had that window. We had to go. I talked to Miguel Blanco, and we decided we had to paddle out in the dark if we were going to be able to get a wave. We only had a forty-minute window, before the event. When we paddled out, we didn’t know how big it was or anything. We could hear it, but we couldn’t see it. But we knew it was big.”

 

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The morning of the Nazare Challenge. Photo by Aitor Molina

The sun still thirty minutes from rising above the mountains to the east, they let the Widow’s Rip lend a hand for the forty-minute paddle out.

“When we rounded the cliffs, we just saw these mountains, moving in the dark, and we just looked at each other, like, What the fuck is this?

While the day’s competitive heroics would be well-documented (and hotly debated amongst competitors and event organizers, alike—many claiming Nazaré a preposterous location for a XXL event, the risk vs reward hard to justify), the few waves that Natxo and Miguel got that morning left an impression on every surfer present for the session.

“It was funny, hearing everyone talking about it,” Natxo says. “Everyone was tripping. All the guys were like, ‘They are fucking crazy, who the fuck are these guys?’”

Natxo’s of course being humble there. Anyone present at the Nazaré event would have been more than familiar with the young Spaniard. The 22-year-old's been quietly making a name for himself for the better part of a decade now. 

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Photo by Aitor Molina

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Deep and driving somewhere in Ireland. Photo by Bonnarme

As a young boy growing up around the sheltered bay of Plentzia, like most families in the area, the Gonzalez clan spent summers at the beach.

“It’s a summer town, with this big bay that makes the surf really inconsistent, and in winter there’s no one there,” Natxo says. “In summer we’d go, cruising with family and friends, and one day my cousin gave me a boogie board with fins, and I was like, What is this shit? He explained that it was to catch waves. All summer I was in the water, and when I stood up on the bodyboard, I just said, ‘I have to have to buy a surfboard.’

My parents wouldn’t buy me one, because they thought it was dangerous. So I told them, I don’t care, I’ll earn the money. I’d save every dime—1 euro, 1 euro, 1 euro. It took like three years. I didn’t buy candy, nothing. Just saved for that. It was all money for the surfboard. I kept it in a piggy bank. I went to this local shop with the all the coins and all this stuff, and the guy at the shop was like, “What is this?” I was seven. I said, I need a surfboard. I don’t care. I want to surf. They basically just gave me the cheapest one in the shop. And that’s how I started.”

 

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"My parents wouldn’t buy me one, because they thought it was dangerous. So I told them, I don’t care, I’ll earn the money. I’d save every dime—1 euro, 1 euro, 1 euro. It took like three years."

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Photo by Lucano Hinkle

“One day I paddled out La Galea, and it was big, like twelve, fifteen feet. This big set came through and everyone except me got a wave, just that perfect nightmare situation. Alone on the peak, and of course this massive set came, and all of them were paddling out just screaming, screaming, screaming: ‘Go, chiiiicccckkkken, go!’ The first wave I paddled over, and the second one, I just knew those guys were going to eat me if I didn’t, and so I had to go. I went on that wave, and it was the craziest day of my life. I was 13.”

For a time, Natxo balanced learning how to surf, with competitive soccer. Stocky and athletic, he’s built for the game, all fast-twitch muscles and Spanish bravado. But when his parents saw what Natxo’s soccer career would mean for their lifestyle—cooking for the team and traveling to away games constantly, the pressure of the game’s endless training grind—they pushed him to follow his newfound interest in surfing.

“I started to compete at 10, and it all happened really fast,” Natxo says. “At 11 I won a couple national contests and Quiksilver came and said they wanted to sponsor me. But I didn’t know what it meant. Like, I didn’t understand what a sponsor was. And they explained, Oh, they give you clothes and wetsuits and whatever you need.”

But more than anything, through Quiksilver, Natxo was introduced to the generation of European surfers who would see something special in him, falling under-wing of guys like Aritz Aranburu, the Acero Brothers, Kepa, Iker, and, Eneko, as well as local big wave surfers, like Adur Letamendia, son of PUKAS founder Inigo.

“I was lucky to be traveling when I was a kid with Kepa and Eneko Acero, Aritz. I’m the youngest of the group, and they were all my heros. I went to France with Aritz. I went with Eneko and Kepa to Morocco, traveled through Western Sahara. We followed the Hercules swell. We did 2,000 kilometers driving together, and then Kepa went on to Mauritania and Senegal.”

At home in Spain, he’d enjoy his first tastes of proper big surf at Punta Galea, sneaking out on bigger and bigger days, under the watchful and proud watch of the veteran pack.

“One day I paddled out La Galea, and it was big, like twelve, fifteen feet. This big set came through and everyone except me got a wave, just that perfect nightmare situation. Alone on the peak, and of course this massive set came, and all of them were paddling out just screaming, screaming, screaming: ‘Go, chiiiicccckkkken, go!’ The first wave I paddled over, and the second one, I just knew those guys were going to eat me if I didn’t, and so I had to go. I went on that wave, and it was the craziest day of my life. I was 13.”

The next few years would see Natxo take plenty of competitive wins in rippable surf, his smooth, powerful approach developing quickly. But big wave fate would come knocking, as he was walking up to school to start a regular day. There was a big wave contest at Punta Galea, but nothing to excuse Natxo from school simply to watch. Waiting anxiously for him at the school’s entrance was a friend, sent to inform him there was an open slot in the event.

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Trust us, Natxo stuck it, as seen in Aspuru's "Ireland" below. Photo by Bonnarme

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Scoping swells with PUKAS Creative Director, Marcos Azpiroz.

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Photography Photo by Farias Moreno

Natxo is on a very short list of the “Most Consistently and Thoroughly Barreled Surfer,” his exploits on his signature striped black-and-white PUKAS guns and shortboards beautifully documented in a series of self-produced films with Jon Aspuru.

“He just said, ‘one guy is sick, so you’re in.’ I thought he was crazy. I was fifteen. And he said, ‘Don’t worry, there’s Jet Skis.’ I went home, grabbed my board and went to the contest, straight. Didn’t tell my parents nothing, nothing. The school called, asking where I was. And they didn’t know where I was, because I don’t think they would have let me surf. I caught two waves in that comp, and I was a really small kid, so in one of the photos I was at the bottom, grabbing my rail, and because I was so small, it looked HUGE. I was like 14 or 15, and they nominated it for the XXL Awards.”

Over the last ten years, while competing regularly on the QS, to mixed results, Natxo has established himself as one to watch in the big wave world, qualifying for the 2015 Big Wave World Tour, and surfing in the Peahi Challenge*. But more than competitive success, Natxo's committed himself to relentlessly chasing swells around the globe on whatever small budgets he’s able to raise. He is on a very short list of the “Most Consistently and Thoroughly Barreled Surfer,” his exploits on his signature striped black-and-white PUKAS guns and shortboards beautifully documented in a series of self-produced films with Jon Aspuru.

 

Over the last five years, the crew’s ticked boxes all over the globe, numerous Indonesian and Chilean missions, fruitful Puerto Escondido residencies, Mavericks, Namibia, Ireland. And always at it’s biggest, best, heaviest. It doesn’t hurt that Natxo was trained in the art of swell chasing by some of the best in the biz, namely Kepa and Aritz, two worldly scoundrels known for the most devastating smokebombing, as well as the most precise, ridiculous scores. As longtime travel partner Hobgood noted, Natxo listens and learns.

"Natxo is really spontaneous," Aritz Aranburu says, a pot calling a kettle black. "His motivations grows from 0 to 100 in one second, and he's really contagious. When he's on, and he says it's on, everyone around him is on."

A few years back, Natxo turned his attention towards something that had always alluded him, and which he knew would only grow more difficult each digital day: to discover and score his own wave. Like Kepa before him, Natxo set to the modern surf explorer’s cartographic crystal ball, scouring Google earth for years, marking out prospective spots, watching swell windows.

This Spring, over a sprawling dinner of bottomless cider and huge hunks of rare chuleta steak, and before a bar-closing night at Zarautz’ famous Sausalito Bar in the Basque Country, Natxo leaned into my ear: I’ve got something to show you.

“Four years ago, I really started looking for new waves, and I found a lot that had a lot of potential,” Natxo says. “But I found this one place, that I was 90% sure could be incredible on the right swell (like everyone else). I didn’t think it would be perfect, because it was in a difficult area for swell, and I was pretty sure no one had been there, or maybe someone went there and it wasn’t that good. But I just had this feeling."

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The film premieres Wednesday, October 18th here on Stab, and at PUKAS flagship location in San Sebastian. Photo by Jon Aspuru

The next morning, the swell just arriving, Aspuru and Gonzalez were met with something they’d only imagined in their mind’s eye. It literally brought them to tears.

“I found this wave for Kepa,” Natxo says.  “I’d seen him work, his patience. Kepa and I would talk endlessly about these places. It was my dream to find a wave and go, and he taught me how. I basically got one wave, and I just thought, that’s it: The best trip of my life. We were eating fruit on the beach at the end, for like an hour, just crying seeing the lineup, these empty waves just rolling through. We didn’t even care. We just kept saying: 'We found this wave. We did it.'

The film premieres October 18th, here on STAB, and at PUKAS' flagship location in San Sebastian. 

 

*"I went with Aritz for the Jaws contest, so he could help me relax or whatever," Natxo says. "And when we got there, I was on the same boat as Twiggy, and we watched Shane Dorian get that crazy one before the contest, that wild air drop, and I just thought, "What the fuck is that?" Before the heat, Shane came and said, "Hi, I’m Shane Dorian." And I just said, "Yeah, I know." I was so scared.  He smiled, and said, "It’s your first time here?"

It was really windy, and it looked so hard to get waves, and he told me: 'You have to be relaxed and paddle under the lip. Don’t care about anything. Just go straight down, and look for the barrel.'

I was terrified, and I said: 'No, that’s your job. That is not my job. My job is just to be here, and be honored to paddle out with you guys.'

In the heat, everyone was getting crazy waves, and one finally came and I was in position, and I just had to try. I had to go. I paddled super hard, got under the lip and fully thought I was going to make it. Then... I started to fly, just still going, I’m going to make it, I’m going to make it! and then just… I’m not going to make it…

After the wipeout, the jet ski grabbed me, and I was super beat, but I was paddling super hard and Aritz was yelling, 'Yeah, Natxo!' I paddled by with five minutes left, and it just went flat. So basically, I paddled out, got one wave, just huge wipeout, and that was it. One day in Hawaii. Huge wipeout and back home. It was such a great experience to share with all the crazy guys over there."

 

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