El Niño Sessions # 1 / Nazare, Portugal / Interview & Gallery

Nazare Portugal is known for the biggest wave World Record ridden by Garret Macnamara.

The idea of catching such mountains of water is mind blowing.

A small crew of watermen from all corners of the world, met up with only 72 hours notice, to attempt to paddle these water mountains. The watermen crew was selected by none other than Garret Macnamara, himself. Garret created the event’s platform, strategy, and safety protocol now called, “The Red Chargers.” New York’s Skudin brothers, Will and Cliff, accepted the challenge and joined The Red Chargers to take on what’s now being called the biggest paddle session ever.

The general public only sees New York as a city, but for most of us, New York Salty Dogs, it’s a 100 mile coastline with great waves and training grounds, with a track record of producing some of the world’s most elite watermen. The Skudin brothers come from a deep heritage of NY surfing and we at NYSEA are stoked to witness them make history by helping raise the level of big wave surfing. We caught up with the boys for a debriefing of what went down out there.

NYSEA – Will, you have been all over every big swell this month, from Ireland, Mavericks, Todos, and now, Nazare. Seems like you have been attacking it harder this year than the past…or is it just the, El Nino thing?

Will -I am having a mid-life crisis hahahah.  I think both. I have just been way more focused mentally this year and just working all aspects better; food, training, and equipment. I read a lot of athletes’ stories and it seems like they all have the same thing in common -Where preparation meets opportunity is where you find your best performances. I just been focusing more on that.

NYSEA – Cliff, Nazare is nothing new to you. You and Kealii have had some sessions out there last year. Talking about last year, you paddled into a Nazare monster and broke your eardrum, from what we heard, that was a heavy wipeout. Does that stick with you or do you just move on? What was your mindset coming into this swell?

Cliff – I really wanted to take my time out there this session. I was sitting out the back being more passive than aggressive.  I wanted to learn this wave more and become more adapted to paddling this spot than come out of the gates swinging like when I busted my eardrum.  I believe this will be the beginning of something really special with other paddle sessions to come. It’s a marathon at this spot and not a sprint. These paddle experiences bring way more knowledge for the next time.   I have already had in my mind how I will approach the next session if the conditions are similar.

NYSEA – Will, talking about wipeouts, we can’t help but to ask what the hell is going through your head when a wave like that (pictured in gallery) breaks right in front of you?

Will – No matter who you are, you will always get those nerves going, but it’s all about not panicking and trusting in your training. If you panic…you die, simple. I never get that, “O Sh*t! ” feeling anymore. I just stick to the training, go under and stay calm. This might sound crazy, but sometimes you can really find a state of relaxation under there. Find your happy place and wait it out.

NYSEA – Cliff, what do you love most about Nazare, Portugal?

Cliff – Nazare is truly a special place filled with great local people and awesome food and culture.  The surf spot is a perfect beach break and is very consistent. When I spent a few weeks there last season we were able to surf pretty much everyday from head high days to double overhead surf.  Nazare can hold any size swell and when it is smaller the energy focuses on the inside and packs a very fun barreling beach break.

NYSEA – Will, a couple more questions here and we will let you go.  Lets talk about that massive one. Seriously creditable sources are calling that wave possibly biggest ever paddled into. What’s you thoughts on that, must feel insane to hear that ? What are your big wave goals this year ?

Will – Thanks boys ! First of all this whole experience was made possible because of the Team envisioned by Garret McNamara. Without teamwork these waves would not be ridden. In my eyes, If you caught any wave out there it was one of the biggest ever. Out there the wave picks you and its just up to the surfer to commit. The overall goal is to just enjoy these opportunities and grow as a surfer and a person. As far as awards or accomplishments, my goal this year is to be in the conversation for the WSL Overall performance award by the end of the season. I am in two Big Wave World Tour events and an alternate in one. The waves will determine if those events run. If they do, that will just be a bonus. If not, the focus will be on every major big swell and just on surfing well and enjoying the moment.


NYSEA – Thanks boys for the inside scoop! Stoked you are home safe. Merry Christmas to you and the family !


Follow Will Skudin & Cliff Skudin on Instagram for more updates this year.

Red Chargers : Garret McNamara, Hugo Vau, Andrew Cotton, Jamie Mitchell, Kealii Mamala, Ross Clark Jones, Tom Lowe, Tom Butler, Sergio Cosme, Rafael Tapia, Alex Botelho, Joao De Macedo, Cliff Skudin, Will Skudin, Nic Lamb & Rodrigo Koxa

Photos: Thumbnail shot Vitor Faneca Estrelinha,  Pedro Constantino, Yuriko David, Tó Mané,  André Botelho & Jeore Leal.

Video of Will’s Wave here