DirtFish Portugal diary: The ascent to Arganil

It's not just on the stages where there are crests to ride, as David Evans and the DirtFish team found out on their pre-event escapades

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Eighty feet. Or 24 and a bit meters if you prefer. Regardless, it’s high. Especially when you’re standing on a piece of polystyrene or fiberglass and ripping down what looks to be a near vertical wall of water.

Unfortunately, the winds and tides weren’t in our favour on Wednesday, so Team DirtFish couldn’t take a shot at the world’s biggest wave. So, instead, we had fish with lots of bones for lunch and filmed what – in the world of surfies – is the most famous lighthouse on the planet.

We were in Nazaré, home of the biggest swell ever ridden. This coastal town is just south of Coimbra’s ceremonial start for Rally of Portugal with the stunning hills of Arganil a little way inland.

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Having enjoyed Porto’s old town, the Port house-packed banks of the River Duoro and Matosinhos’s many backstreet fish restaurants time and again, we decided to do something different for our long film which will be coming next week. Which is how we ended up in Nazaré.

I’ll be honest, I’m more of a watcher than a doer when it comes to big wave riding (and for the purposes of context, I class anything north of three feet as a big wave…), but I’ve always been fascinated by this place and the reasons why the biggest waves anywhere in the world crash onto beach just an hour’s drive south of the fourth round of the World Rally Championship.

If you’re interested, it’s all to do with the Nazaré Canyon – an underwater valley which dives down 8,000 feet a couple of miles offshore. The water sweeps and is forced upwards out of the Canyon creating monster breakers.

Garrett McNamara

And once the sea’s set, heroes like Maya Gabeira and GMAC, Garrett McNamara get towed out behind a jet-ski before being left to their own devices with mother nature at her most forceful.

It’s astonishing. If I’ve piqued your interest, have a look at some footage here.

If yesterday was good, today was even better.

As you might have gathered, I’m big into the sport’s history and there’s no history lesson better than the one given by Walter Röhrl about what happened in the Arganil stage 41 years ago.

It’s been a few years since I’ve been back up in those hills and you so easily forget just how high you climb and how big the drops are. ARMCO looks after some of the more serious stuff, but the thought of the German master thundering across the tops with the roads shrouded in nighttime fog, his Fiat 131 dancing on the edge of oblivion, still raises the hairs on the back of the neck.

Portugal’s a special place to follow this great sport of ours and, after seven months off the gravel, it’s just fabulous to have a full-length WRC event back on the loose.

Words:David Evans

Photos:Red Bull Content Pool