Sports Gazette

by sports journalism students at St Mary's University, London

Natxo Gonzalez, the first man to get a 10 in Nazaré

Posted on 6 May 2020 by Maitane Alaña Place

Although he’s been out of the water recovering from various injuries, Natxo González is aware he risks his life every time he goes into the water, but surfing big waves is what keeps him moving.

Natxo Gonzalez in Bakio, with San Juan de Gaztelugatxe in the background. Photo by Jon Aspuru

This young surfer from the Basque Country found his passion, surfing the good waves of Sopela. At 13, he was already a ‘watch-out’ for future years. He won different competitions and he started surfing bigger waves, “in order to surf the smaller ones better.” 

He got selected for the worldwide tour as the youngest of 12 participants, “I was 18 and all the rest were in their forties,” González says. This helped him to develop as an athlete and learn from their experience. 

When asked if he is afraid of the incredible amount of water the waves bring – sometimes up to ten meters -, González smiles and says it’s a way of life. “I don’t do it for the money and I don’t make the millions a footballer makes, but this is what I like.”

Natxo Gonzalez, sponsored by Red Bull. Photo by: Jon Aspuru

In 2019, González was awarded the first 10 in history after surfing the famous wave tube of Nazaré, in Portugal. This wave is famous for its foam.

“I sat for hours staring at the sea and taking note of where the perfect spot was.” The next day, he managed to paddle to the correct point of wave and beat all the other surfers waiting for the same one. 

In these types of competitions, there are jet skis safeguarding the athletes’ lives. But Natxo González managed to surf the Nazaré superwave without their help. 

The Big Wave Tour has been divided into Northern and Southern hemispheres in the past and surfers were able to surf in both. But, nowadays, Natxo González, for example, only surfs in the Northern hemisphere tour, due to business matters of the organization. “My season goes from October to March, and I can compete in four events or in none, due to the variable weather conditions.”

This hemisphere has its competitions in Hawaii, Nazaré, and Mavericks in California. The three waves chosen for the competition have a terrible reputation for being the most difficult beaches on the planet. The wave in Mavericks, in particular, has the longest take-off and rises on top of coral reefs. Those waters are also full of sharks. 

However, the World Surf League (WSL) announced in September that the event in Mavericks was removed from the tour due to logistics.  

“I can be called from Hawaii two days before the start of the tournament and have to get everything ready in a very short time!” Flying with such short notice means he has had to ‘fight’ over his surfboards at the airport. 

These boards can measure up to 4 meters, to overcome the huge power of the wave. “But, within the tour, there’s much less bad competitiveness, as there is in the small wave events. If somebody can’t fly with their boards, we lend them to each other”, the surfer explains.

Photo by Jon Aspuru

“I’m lucky because I live from the sport I love”, González says. From this area in Spain, only a few surfers can make it up to the top and make enough money to live. Natxo González is partnered with Red Bull, who sponsors him in his surfing competitions but also in video projects he is interested in. 

At the time of the interview, he had finished a multimedia project about the Basque Country and the privileges of living here, in terms of nature possibilities. It is available on YouTube: Made in The Basque Country.

Impact of COVID-19

The Basque surfer admits he has had a rough time while being isolated at home. During the first two weeks, he was immersed in the final touches of his project, but after that, he has seen himself left without anything to do. 

“I even stopped training at home, because I don’t know when I’m going to be able to surf again”, González confesses. This period is difficult for everyone and we are all dreaming of leaving our homes soon. “When we are finally allowed out, I’m going to go to the beach and enjoy the noise of the waves and the sea.”

In surfing, all competitions have also been canceled and as Natxo admits, this sport is not considered as serious as others like football, so it can still be a while till things return to normal.


Other surf stories from the Basque Country: Leticia Canales