João Macedo wuchs Praia Grande in Portugal auf. Der punchy Beachbreak war für ihn eine gute Schule sich die Fertigkeiten anzueignen, die man zum Surfen größerer Wellen braucht. So war es vielleicht irgendwie unvermeidlich, dass er seinen Weg zum Big Wave Surfen als Pro Surfer bei der WSL Big Wave World Tour machen würde.

So vielfältig wie die Bedingungen auf dem Wasser sind auch seine Interessen an Land, weshalb er sich in vielen verschiedenen Projekten engagiert: Als Umweltschützer war er einer der Gründer des World Surfing Reserve, das sich für den Schutz verschiedener Küsten und die Rettung der Wellen einsetzt. An seinem Wohnort Praia Grande trainiert er mit seiner Schule SurfAcademia verschiedene Surfer und wirkte in mehreren Kurz- und Dokumentarfilmen mit. Hier ist ein kleiner Auszug aus dem höhrenswerten "Get Wet Soon"-Podcast, den Thomas Zielinski im Frühjahr in Portugal aufgenommen hat. 

How did you start your surfing journey?

A little South of Ericeira, Portugal, there is a beach called Praia Grande, a very popular beach, where you can find waves continually, even in summer. My grandmother took us there a lot and my mother loved to go there, so we would spend all summer at that Beach, and surfing just popped up after I first started bodysurfing. It took me quite a while to get used to the transition from bodyboarding to surfing. One summer, this Pro Team from America came over, and their coach kept me and my friends going because at the time I got frustrated with surfing and started to question the whole sense behind it and what it meant for me. That's where it all started, and that's where I have my surf school today.  


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When did the wish to surf big waves arose for you first?

At Praia Grande, there are very powerful and big waves already. It's very exposed to North Atlantic swells, which slam into this raw beach break. So from a very early age, you are challenged, even if it's "only" overhead. That led to me feeling like I was surfing small waves when I started to do Junior Events in places like Carcavelos or Caparica for example.

I traveled to Hawaii when I was 16 and surfed the second reef Pipeline.

I still have strong memories from those times and sessions and when I was around 19 to 20, I surfed huge Jardim do Mar on Madeira, before the construction ruined the waves in some ways or areas. It was huge but perfect, and they made a campaign to try to help the local authorities protect the waves, this whole process was my introduction to big waves and also led to me trying to explain the importance and values of waves to local policymakers. Jardim do Mar was already well known in the surfing world with big names like Shane Dorian or Ross Williams, famous surfers who had also been there before or at that time. Being able to catch waves in those raw and powerful conditions started my big wave career, I would say. Ultimately it was my relocation to Mavericks, a big wave spot in San Francisco, and being part of the surf core crew there, that solidated my strong passion for the ocean and surfing professionally in big waves.

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What is the scariest moment you encountered during surfing big waves?

Well, you know, it's not that easy to answer because there have been a couple, right, that's how it goes, haha. I remember coming from California, I was still living there, and I wanted to paddle Nazare because that's what we used to do at Mavericks, and see what would be possible to paddle. I didn't have a Jet Ski but knew all the guys, you know, and asked them to give me a ride out the back. Then they dropped off and did their thing at and at the same time I was sort of on my own but it felt good to know that the guys knew that I did my thing and they did their thing. Usually, it is a positioning thing, but on a giant day, it gets really tricky, obviously. I almost caught one but didn't feel like it was the right one. I came a little too far in and then this giant set hit me. It was a really big test for everything you have to deal with in a situation like this, I mean, it was colossal. And it broke right in front of me.

You knew there was absolutely no escape, and it was simply completely violent. A brutal, brutal beating.

I had never seen waves that big, it was glassy and perfect but you never see something like this with your own eyes. I actually broke my leash, it was so traumatic that I almost forgot that part of the story. You paddle and you have nowhere to go, my leash was broken and I was just diving and diving through each wave. I ended up being really far out, surprised that I had actually made it, and had to deal with the huge shore break when I was swimming back. I had another wipeout on a really, really beautiful big wave and this was all before vests. I have a strong foundation with my breath-hold, I can easily hold my breath for sixty to seventy seconds, which is sort of the world's top Level of breath-holding time in waves. Big wave wipeouts are sort of like car accidents, it's about staying conscious. Those are moments you remember, I think if you lose fear it is bad. You shouldn't lose responsibility for your own life, and sometimes you are in a good state and don't want fear to block you. Yeah in the end it is all really a high line balance act.

Den ganzen Podcast mit João Macedo gibt es auf der Get Wet Soon Webseite.


Foto & Interview: Thomas Zielinski


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