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21.01.05 - BIG WAVE SURFING - Billabong team rider Tiago Pires tows into the biggest waves ever ridden in Portugal.
(Words by Quirin Rohleder and François Liets)
Tiago Pires It was one of the biggest swells Billabong weather man François Liets had ever seen on his computer screen.

The charts read 945 on Monday, 17th of January 2005 : the low out in the Atlantic had turned into hurricane force and a 40 feet open ocean swell was marching towards the Western European coastlines.

In the South-West of France, the swell was accompanied with gale force winds … too big for La Nord in Les Landes and too messy for the big wave reef of Belharra in the Basque Country.

Another spot had to be found. Yann Benetrix, Peyo Lizarazu, Max Larretche, Vincent Lartizien and François Liets, members of the French tow-in scene opted for Cascais, a town close to Lisbon in Portugal.

Once on site, the crew hooked up with Portugal’s number one surfer Tiago Pires, Jose Gregorio and Paulo do Barrio to search for the best spot in the area.

Their first spot check took place at the lighthouse of Cascais, where the waves exceeded 25 feet, but the wind was onshore. Later in the day, after quite a bit of driving around and searching, the spot to be surfed was finally found next to the harbour of Cascais.

The waves were 20 feet, breaking right over three hundred meters with strong offshore winds. The teams got ready for the action.

The French crew was leading the charge but Tiago Pires, towed in by François, was the one taking the biggest waves and doing the most radical stuff. He was critically bottom turning under the thickest of lips, carving the shoulder and nearly got barreled on a big one.

Tiago’s comment after the session: "It was incredible, I’ve never towed in to waves that big in my life. I did some tow- in before but the waves were much much smaller. You can’t use jet skis in Ericeira where I live when it’s bigger than 3 meters as the waves break too close to the cliffs.

It would not have possible though without the experience of the French teams and without François, I could not have surfed those waves. He was great and I owe him. The session had a huge impact on Portuguese surfing, it was all new for us and the people watching couldn’t believe it. It was definitely a day in my life I will never forget".

"Ricardo Bravo, Portuguese editor of Surf Europe and witness of the action said the following: "It was the first time we saw a real tow-in session in Portugal so it’s big news here. Everybody talks about it. I think it was really good for Tiago to do well. It will keep him positive for 2005! At the end of the day he was really stoked and he’s ready for more".