The affordable education loan option
Cape Town - Portugal is not etched into the mind as a place where monster waves regularly come ashore.
But on Monday the consensus among the world’s top surfers was the waves surfed at Praia do Norte, near the village of Nazare on the country’s Atlantic coast, had been the biggest yet surfed.
That had everything to do with the killer storm that swept in through Europe from deep within the bowels of the Atlantic Ocean.
By Tuesday morning, the storm had killed 11 people in Britain and mainland Europe.
It also left Brazilian big-wave surfing champion Maya Gabeira – a regular at Dungeons, off Hout Bay – in hospital with a broken ankle. But it could so easily have left her dead.
Gabeira owes her life to fellow Brazilian big-wave surfer Carlos Burle, who braved the furious sea to drag her seemingly lifeless body to the beach.
Big-wave surfers converged at Praia do Norte after predictions correctly fingered it as the best place to find the biggest waves yet. Surfers were towed into the swells by jet ski and rode monsters while the storm, dubbed Christian by the French and St Jude by the English, caused havoc inland.
Clips of Gabeira’s wipe-out and rescue went viral on Monday.
Gabeira took off on a huge wave and seemed set to have the ride of her life, when she hit a bump and failed to recover. She ploughed into the wave and, as it broke, disappeared.
Burle, on stand-by to recover surfers with a jet ski, raced to her aid but was unable to get close to her.
Speaking to South African surfer and surfing journalist Craig Jarvis for the online Stab Magazine, Burle described his agony at seeing his friend disappear under the water.
“I towed her into this wave and it was so big, man,” he told Jarvis. “She hit this bump but she managed to ramp over it, and then she hit a second bump and ramped it as well, but when she hit the third bump, she didn’t manage to jump it and just slammed into it. She broke her ankle then and there. Then she got caught inside by a giant wave and she disappeared.”
Burle saw Gabeira and raced for her but another wave tore her away.
“I lost her, man. I couldn’t find her. It was the worst situation I have ever been in… Then I saw her again but this time she was floating face down. She was heading for the rocks… I raced up to her, jumped off the ski and grabbed her. I couldn’t let her go.”
Gabeira was resuscitated on the beach and taken to hospital, where she was kept overnight for observation and treated for the broken ankle.
Soon after rescuing his friend, Burle surfed the biggest wave on record.
While the drama unfolded on Praia do Norte, Europeans dived for cover as the storm struck from Portugal to Germany on Monday.
At least 11 people were killed – four in Britain, three in Germany, two in Holland and one in each in France and Denmark.
Rough conditions forced rescuers to abandon the search for a 14-year-old boy who disappeared while swimming on a southern English beach on Sunday.
Winds reached 159km/h on the Isle of Wight off the southern English coast, according to Britain’s Met Office, while more than 500 000 homes in Britain and France were left without power. The storm disrupted transport and led to mass cancellations of flights and trains across Europe.
Cape Argus and Sapa-AFP