WATCH: Natxo Gonzalez: A Discovery
After four years scouring the globe for untouched perfection, Natxo Gonzalez and Jon Aspuru found a diamond mine eight kilometers long, "one of the heaviest waves I've ever seen."
While traveling through Portugal, France, and Spain's Basque Country this spring, I fell into the company of Natxo Gonzalez, the bright-eyed and bushy-browed young charger. Before I left, he told me he wanted to show me something, that he'd be in touch. A few days later an email landed in my box:
"It was my dream to find an epic wave by Google earth, like my really close friend Kepa Acero," Natxo wrote. "Kepa has always motivated me with his work and since I was a kid, and because of him, I've never stopped searching.
Four years ago, I found a place where I thought there could be one of the best waves in the world. For years, I had been studying the conditions of this place; I wanted to know how swell worked there, 100% and waste a mission.
I saw a really massive, long-period swell on the forecast that I thought could be perfect for this place. I called my good friend and filmer, Jon Aspuru, and we went got on a plane with all nothing but hope.
What we found was a perfect right running along an 8km sandbar with no one around, really crazy..."
It's one of the heaviest waves I've ever surfed. Really fast, really long. It's 8km long.
I called Natxo up, immediately. And while I was unable to glean any insights as to where this fabulous fickle freak of a wave might spin, the story felt eerily similar to one Mick Fanning had told me just a year earlier. Wildly complicated travel efforts, about 72-hours from most developed nations, requiring a positively massive swell, breaking once, twice a year at most, etc. But they are definitely different waves. Although the fact that the two biggest virgin scores of the last decade resemble one another so closely seems unfathomable.
"I went looking for similar waves from Morocco through Western Sahara before, which I think is where Kepa found that famous wave, the one everyone thought was Mick Fanning's," Natxo says. "I don’t know if that wave’s Fanning’s wave, but The Snake I think is more perfect than mine, but slower. The wave we found is faster, heavier. The first day we arrived it wasn’t happening. Swell was small, it was kind of closing out, and I was honestly really sad.
But we got a couple beers that night, and we were talking, and I said, 'Man, the worse part of this trip is going to be that it's a closeout. We've had worse trips.'
The next day, when we got there it was still small, but we saw the lineup. We saw these crazy roll-ins. And during the day it just kept getting bigger and bigger and bigger. Turns out, I was really lucky. It was a massive swell. Actually, I was asking the fisherman and the local people, and they told me they hadn’t seen it like that in five years. But they are fishermen, they are not surfers. They didn’t know what a surfboard was. It was so crazy.
Fanning’s wave is more perfect; it's slower. My wave is faster, heavier. It's one of the heaviest waves I've ever surfed. Really fast, really long. It's 8km long. Twice as long as Namibia. It’s crazy. You can’t see the beginning of the wave or the end. We were counting the seconds, as a wave started at the top of the point, and it was a minute and a half to get to us, and then however long after it passed us. We couldn't see the end.
"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."
I don't know if the wave can get bigger, it just gets thicker and wider, not taller. Like Namibia. It’s pretty crazy because you see the sand straight in front of you, like right there, which you might not be able to tell from the clip. You’re facing the beach the whole way.
I paddled out with a 5’10, and on the first wave I took, I pulled in and just went straight into the sand. It wasn’t even a foamball, it was just sand. It was fucking crazy.
I found this wave for Kepa. 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.
Honestly, I basically got one good wave before the swell died, and I still 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.'”