Amazon River, Day 6, Surfing the Pororoca
13 March 2012 | Capim River, Brazil
One of the reasons for sailing up the Amazon was to find the Pororoca (if you have internet, you tube 'pororoca' to see) and to surf it. We were extremely lucky to not only be here when the waves came (there are only three waves per month and only in the months of March, April, Septemeber, October) but to also be here during the annual Pororoca Festival. Arriving back at the river town of Sao Domingo that night, thousands had gathered to celebrate the wave. Ashore we witnessed a parade that included a fire breathing major and scores of kids and adults alike dressed in colorful costumes of fish, boats, and of course, waves. Also set up were enough speakers to rattle the river as no Brazilian party would be complete without a DJ to keep the crowd dancing. Steve partied so hard that night he wet his pants.
Knowing that the second wave would be coming around 1 am we left the party early to make the two hour journey up the Capim River to where the pororoca breaks. Securing Bubbles in deeper water so as to keep her safe from the wave, Diego, Steve and I dinged over to where several floodlights were illuminating a section of the river. We were greeted by several other surfers who filled us in on what was about to happen (all in Portuguese of course), but I don't think there is enough to say to prepare someone for a single wave that comes rushing up a river in the darkness. With Steve on the river bank to film and Diego to on the board to surf, I was left in the dingy to surf the back of the wave, then pick up the surfers before they would be washed into the dark jungle.
We had arrived a little early and I fell asleep waiting on the quiet river before the roaring woke me up (Pororoca means 'roaring river' in the indigenous language). In the moonlight I could see whitewash fast approaching and my heart raced as I wondered what the heck I was doing being where I was. Taking the wave head on I caught some air before turning around and surfing the back of the wave towards where the surfers were. The wave was fast and powerful ensuring all ten surfers making the attempt got up. When reaching the end of the wave the jet ski banana boat rushed in to collect the surfers but I saw two that were further downstream and I was able to collect them just before they were swept into the jungle. With a headcount back on shore high fives, hugs and fist bumps were passed around. We had surfed our first pororoca, at night, what a rush!
We spent the next morning, while we waited on the third and final wave, dingy surfing (wake boarding with the surf board) with some local kids as well as some Bubbles famous mast jumps. Whole trees floated by and one nearly took us with it. By afternoon a crowd of over three thousand had gathered on the river bank to watch the wave where the previous night only 25 had been. Locals filled trees that hung over the river to catch a good view. TV reporters mingled in the crowd. With our group being the whitest there we were stopped frequently for photos (with Steve being the favorite). Weighing in at 350 pounds my brother Dave was a novelty to the locals and they feared him.
No one knew exactly when the wave would come but some locals said it would come with the rain. When it did start to rain a jolt of excitement electrified the crowd and then it appeared. Just like the previous night the whitewash could be seen flowing rapidly up the brown waters of the jungle river. There were nearly 50 surfers in the water and dozens of speed boats and jet skis. Diego was again on the board and I in the dingy. As we rode the wave past, the crowd cheered and whistled loudly. The driving rain reduced visibility but when I caught the look on the faces of those I would nearly collide with I was always greeted with a large smile and a 'isn't this flipping cool' look. One surfer fell and wanting to carry on grabbed the dingy to continue the surf. Diego surfed for more than a full minute and was probably the best surfer there. After picking him up into the dingy we noticed a couple kids on boards holding onto tree branches just feet where the river washed into the jungle. We picked them up into the dingy and returned them to the river bank before making three more trips filling the dingy with surfers holding onto logs or whatever they could find to hold them against the swift current. Once back to the crowd they were treated as heroes. The entire river was a three feet higher from all the water the wave brought. We had survived our second Pororoca, what a rush!