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Natxo Gonzalez Paddles into Historic Barrel at Nazare Challenge

Natxo Gonzalez Paddles into Historic Barrel at Nazare "Natxo Gonzalez falling out of the sky at Pe'ahi in 2016. Photo: WSL/Richard Hallman"  

Natxo Gonzalez Paddles Historic Barrel at Nazare Challenge

The Nazare Challenge went down in near-flawless conditions last week, with 15-20+ waves and light offshore winds. Spanish charger and surf explorer Natxo Gonzalez was one of the standout performers, making the final and ending up in third place (which also positions him well for the world title race, since there are only three events each year). And while Grant “Twiggy” Baker ended up winning the event, Natxo stole the day with what most agree is the best wave ever ridden at Nazare, and one of the most impressive big-wave barrels ever paddles.

On a solid 18-foot double up, Natxo spun under the lip and backdoored a throaty lefthand tube that chandeliered twice before ejecting him out into the channel. Barrels are rare at Nazare, and this one was a 10 before he even came out, but the fact that Natxo made the tube means it will likely be in contention for ride of the year at the Big Wave Awards. We had a chat with Natxo a few days after his monumental ride, to get his thoughts on the wave and the event as a whole.

Tell us about that wave, Natxo.

That was a really special week for me, because a lot of my friends and family drove to Nazare with me, and they were all there for the contest. We were laughing and enjoying each other’s company on the drive over from Spain, and they were cheering for me during my heats. When that wave came, I was pretty lucky. I was intentionally sitting inside, because that was the wave I was looking for, but all of the other guys were too far out, and it came right to me. I pulled up into it and there was a big chandelier section that I had to drive through. I couldn’t see anything, and then suddenly I was coming out of this massive barrel into the channel.

I got on the ski and just started crying. It was one of the best waves of my life, and with my friends there cheering for me and watching, to get a ride like that…it was the best day of my life.

You are rated third in the world now, with two more events to go. And it looks like the Jaws contest could run next week. What is different about your approach this year? Are you consciously working toward a world title?

Definitely, a world title is my goal for sure. Especially now that I have a good result. I have been training hard and eating healthy, and have more experience now at Nazare and Jaws and Maverick’s than I had in the past. If the Jaws contest runs, I will go over to Hawaii, of course, and I will do my best there. I am very relaxed about the contests, I am just enjoying myself, but I also work very hard, and will bring everything I have to the events.

Do you only surf big waves, or are there other types of surfing you enjoy as well?

Lately I have been exploring and looking for new waves, and I found a new righthand barrel a few years ago. That was a really special experience for me, one of the best experiences of my career. I love big waves, but I also love barrels too. And I am just fortunate to get to chase after these swells and score waves with my friends, and meet new people in new countries.

Well good luck with the rest of the season! Hopefully Peahi and Maverick’s run soon, and you find the results you are looking for! Thanks for the chat!

Thank you!