Chasing Giants - with Mark Wengler. Surfer: Andrew Cotton.

CHASING NAZARE GIANTS – with Mark Wengler.

CHASING NAZARE GIANTS – with Mark Wengler.

28th October 2013…

A date that will forever be remembered in surf history. Nazaré, Portugal, an area known as a tow-in paradise, witnessed what is being deemed the world’s biggest swell, as waves crashed in with tremendous, potentially lethal force. Mark Wengler was there to see the monsters up-close, and the surfers who fight them for a living.


We had a chat with him about the adrenaline-surging experience – and was also allowed an EXCLUSIVE feature of some of his finest photography taken during the tow-in sessions that would forever change surfing. Sit back, read the interview and ogle at the form and curves of these Portuguese oceanic beauties.


Andrew Cotton on a mighty wave
Andrew Cotton on a mighty wave. Photo: MARK WENGLER


How are you doing, Mark? What have you been up to since our last interview?

MW: Well you know life’s a bitch, so you better enjoy every moment of it, cause you never know what tomorrow brings, but so far I’m still here on our amazing blue planet.
I just cam home from Portugal where I’ve been shooting the Rip Curl Pro event, but to be honest somehow I got a bit bored from all the hype. And since everybody are shooting the same pics, there is no real magic to it for me.


But Portugal offers so much more and it is one of my absolute favorite destinations in Europe. Great surf, awesome people and simply some of the best sea food on the European continent…it’s like a part of my soul never really leave Portugal when I go back to Denmark, I honestly feel very much at home down there.


Morning has broken - surf awaits.
Morning has broken – surf awaits.


NAZARE, Portugal… you were actually there! What was it like to see those gigantic waves up-close and personal?

MW: Yes I was there on that “Magic Monday” and I can assure you it was beyond anything I ever experienced before. Somehow It changed something inside of me, nothing will ever be the same. This place is SO powerful, beautiful and magical. Nazaré has an interesting history, especially the fishing has always been a huge part of Nazaré and it’s people have always battled this powerful ocean and coastline.


I saw the “Power Low” developing and moving towards the Portuguese coast, when I was in Peniche shooting Rip Curl Pro, so I started following it closely and after a while there was no doubt in my mind, this “Low” would definitely hit the Portuguese coast. So I decided to drive up there to check it out on one of the “lay days” at the Rip Curl Pro and I instantly felt the attraction to this place. So I extended my trip for 5 days, moved up there… waiting for things to happen… and they did!!


Tag teaming a beast of a wave
Tag teaming a beast of a wave


What about the big wave surfers? Did you get to meet any of them? What was your impression?

MW: I was so privileged to meet Garrett McNamara and his wonderful wife Nicole, also met Andrew Cotton, Hugo Vau, Nizan Benhaim plus all the rest of these fantastic people behind the McNamara crew, just such great ocean spirits all of them. So focused, yet so positive and relaxed and down to earth at the same time.
Spending time with this amazing group of top professional athletes, just getting the opportunity to explore their amazing world of Big Wave Surfing from a little distance, made me very humble and I feel very privileged to have been a small part of it all. It is exactly what I am looking for within surfing photography. It’s just so pure, unique and raw.

And it really struck me how Mr. McNamara always finds time to spend a moment with everything from old ladies to young boys, always kind and very positive to everyone – such a great living legend. Andrew Cotton, Hugo Vau and Nizan Benhaim were also very pleasant company, and I hope I will see them all again in the near future…


Hugo Vau sizing up the waves.
Hugo Vau sizing up the waves.


Your favorite photo taken during this big wave session?

MW: Ohhh…difficult one!! Shot so many pics… but the morning we arrived at the Lighthouse when the “Magic Monday” was going off – that day the light was really special. Like something was just waiting to happen… Everything was purple for 5 minutes just before sunrise. So I guess that picture… it gives me such an amazing feeling just looking at it – reminiscing what it was like.


I was located on the roof of the lighthouse with a bunch of other people, just as the sun slowly came up over the horizon. I realized how big these waves, and how dangerous this day would be for the surfers going in to battle. But it wasn’t “just” the huge waves which posed a danger zone… it was also the “Hot Pot” (a very hardcore area with lots of current and rocks) close by the rocks that really made everything very sketchy. You have to be extremely focused and very skilled to surf in these conditions. This place only appeals to the very best surfers in the world.


Pure morning.
Pure morning.


Where are you going next? What’s next on the agenda?

MW: I’m open for everything, I just follow the “Power Low’s” and see where it brings me… maybe Mullaghmore? Talked with Andrew Cotton about visiting Ireland one day, when it’s working up there. But chasing the “Big Wave scene” certainly appeals to me, and it’s what I will try to focus on as much as l possibly can in the future.


That sounds amazing, Mark. We hope you get to follow your dream and keep chasing these giants – we look forward to seeing the photos and to hear about it. Stay stoked, Mark.


Perfect ride by Andrew Cotton
Perfect ride by Andrew Cotton


Related articles:

Maya Gabeira wipeout and rescue (video)

“Nazare – BLOW UP” (Surf movie shot on the 28th of October)


Rainbow over Nazare - Mark Wengler
Rainbow over Nazare – Mark Wengler



Article : Chasing Nazare Giants – with Mark Wengler (EXCLUSIVE PHOTOS) Words and photos: Mark Wengler – visit him on FACEBOOK.


– Be sure to check out the last interview we did with MARKY MARK!

It features some fine surf photography from Denmark and his local crew, which includes Christoffer Hartkopp, Olli Hartkopp and the SKP crew.