HOW SHE TRAINED FOR THIS
Off the coast of Nazaré, Portugal, French big wave surfer Justine Dupont faced the elements at their most powerful. On November 13, 2019, she entered a monster swell and rode a wave more than 20 metres high. It was the greatest wave she's ever surfed. But how did she prepare for that monumental day?
I EVER SURFED
Brought up in the south-west of France,
where surfing is king, Dupont rode her
first waves at 11. She finished second
at the World Longboard Championships
only four years later.
Over the following years, she managed to twice surf the 15m giants of Belharra in the French Basque country, and won prestigious events like the European and the French Longboard and Shortboard Championships, WSL Qualifing Series events and more recently, the World Stand Up Championship.
She also looked into alternative training methods. “I joined a freediving club in
Biarritz five years ago,” she says, “and I went to a diving pit in Gironde several times. I did targeted exercises to learn how to save oxygen. I’m going to continue, but it’s more a matter of maintenance now.”
She also practiced bodysurfing with fins to help her cope when big waves hit her head. Plus some short-distance running, stair climbing, CrossFit for core strength, and bodybuilding in the gym for her balance. And a lot of stretching, yoga, meditation and mental preparation.
But through all of this, Nazaré was on her
mind. She had spent the last three winters
in that small Portuguese village, training specifically for this. And on that cold
November afternoon, she was ready to go.
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Justine and her crew check the weather forecast on the Nazaré Hub and spot a good swell from the cliff.
Nazaré is a place of unequalled intensity. For our safety, we have two jet-skis and a watchman on the cliff. When the waves are big, there is an emergency doctor who comes to the beach in addition to the lifeguards who are there from time to time.
NOVEMBER 13TH WAVE
Estimated 20m+, which is the equivalent of a six-story building.
Build steps timeline
Add Comparisons, including the date about the other surfer's waves (on build page)
can we incorporate the map features in this section to
THE EQUIPMENT SHE USED
She gets ready quickly at the Red Bull Base and prepares to jump in the water with her surfboard.
Her partner Fred David tows her in closer to the wave with his jet ski.
I have the fabulous opportunity to experience all of this with my partner Fred, who is a former bodysurfing world champion and is on the jet ski. His presence is indispensable and reassures me when I make decisions. Our bond is strong and when we’re in the water, we don’t need to talk.
Once he identifies the right spot in relation to the wave, David warns her: he’s moving forward. Once he’s placed them on the wave, he tells Dupont to go in the water. She lets go of the rope.
Behind my back, I sensed that it was growing, straightening and hollowing out much more than usual. There was a lot power around me.
She starts surfing the line and is quickly
in the shade of the wave that rises behind her. She reaches 66 kph during the surf. When surfing, she keeps adapting herself to the shape the wave takes.
At the top, before my descent, I take all the information I can in: shape, speed, slope. And from that, I work out the line I’m going to take, where I’ll be able to draw enough energy to surf for as long as possible.
There was quite a lot of disturbance because of the wind. The water became hard because of the sloshing, and it was a bit like a field of very steep humps that I had to hurtle down with the highest concentration.
On the wave, I don’t have any point of reference to assess the speed, other than my own sensations.
Step 5 - 3 quote process
At the top, before my descent, I take all
the information I can in: shape, slope, perturbations on the water. And from that,
I work out the line I’m going to take, where I’ll be able to get as close as possible to the energy of the wave while surfing it.
The largest wave surfed (unlimited) is 24.38 meters (80 ft) and was achieved by Rodrigo Koxa (Brazil) off the coast of Praia do Norte, Nazaré, Portugal, on 8 November 2017.
RODRIGO KOXA – 24.38M
Brazilian surfer Maya Gabeira still holds the record for the highest wave ever surfed by a woman with a 20.7m-high wave, which she surfed in October 2018.
MAYA GABEIRA – 20.7M
Other notable waves
Other notable waves
At the height of her speed, Justine is flying across the water at a seriously impressive 66KPH.
She makes it down the wave and rides it until the end.
That’s the last stage. In the GoPro clip, you can see a smile that means, ‘I’ve done it – I’ve just got past the most critical phase of the wave.’ I’m overwhelmed by emotions, but I need to focus to finish riding the wave safely and properly. It’s a couple of seconds only, but my brain goes through all these stages.
A six-foot (1.80 m) tow-in surfboard ballasted with a 10-kilo weight, with footstraps to hold her feet in place. Its rear is made from carbon so that its rigidity makes it faster, and its front is made from PVC to cushion the impact of wave disturbance.
A foam personal flotation device worn under her neoprene suit.
An inflatable jacket with CO2 cartridges to activate in the event of a wipe-out.
Surfing shoes for warmth and better grip.
A neoprene cagoule or a helmet (inappropriate for the neck in the event of a violent impact). She is thinking about a type of helmet better suited to what she does
Earplugs – her eardrums were punctured in Hawaii.
The jet-skis generate 240 hp and 260 hp respectively. The riders have a radio.
The sled used to recover the surfer is equipped with ropes to make it easier for her to catch it.
Here, Dupont breaks the wave down like never before,
step by step, in her own words.
NOVEMBER 13, 2019:
Every year, the best surfers in the world gather in Nazaré, waiting for waves. For big waves – gigantic waves. Justine Dupont had spent three winters there, training and thinking about it. So when the swell came around that day, she knew exactly which steps to take.
HOW SHE RODE THE WAVE