Who said you can’t teach old dogs new tricks? As a historic 10-day swell closed in on Europe, where two storms lit up the best big wave spots from Ireland to Morocco, it was Nazare that yet again closed with the biggest bang. 

And as with all the most significant swell events of the last two decades, Laird Hamilton couldn’t help but show up. Now Laird has had a chequered relationship with the wave. Back in 2013 he made headlines when he said a wave of Carlos Burle’s shouldn’t count as the biggest wave ever ridden, based on the fact that Carlos wiped out at the bottom of the 80-footer.   

Laird, roof-riding a sky-scraper at Nazare. Photo: Helio Antonio

He then poured more fuel on the fire when he said that Maya Gabeira, Carlos’ then tow partner, should not have been surfing those conditions and that she was not prepared for the situation she found herself in when she almost died in the same session. 

Anyway the now 55-year-old was on hand in Nazare, as the tow surfing revolution he kickstarted entered a new phase. This time he elected to foil, as did his mate Benny Ferris, while Ian Walsh, Kai Lenny, and Lucas Chumbo tow surfed a session that big wave filmmaker Tim Bonython called the most spectacular in his 44-years with his eye pressed to the glass. Storm Dennis had whipped up waves 60-80 feet high that were being ravaged by a 20-knot onshore northerly wind.  

Laird scored a few of the outside bombs which were captured by local photographer Helio Antonio, which, whatever you think about Laird, shows he still has a knack for being in the right place at the right time. And in a typical gracious twist from Maya Gabeira, she posted, “Pretty incredible to see your dedication through the week. Those bombs were well deserved.”

Matt Grainger travelled from Sydney's Northern Beaches with tow partner, Jason Gribble, to take on Nazare. 

And speaking of old dogs, it was also good to see Manly’s Matt Grainger making his debut at Nazare. Now he and his tow partner Jason  “The Captain” Gribble have been dominating the outer bombies and banks of Sydney’s Northern Beaches for two decades, but Nazare is a long way from maxing South Narra. Grainger paddled out from the south beach on his 10’2” on the first day, scoring one bomb, before towing the next day with big wave legends like Toby Cunningham, Nic Lamb and Dave Langer. 

It was an incredible effort and reward for staying fit, focussed and committed. And in a nice twist, as he made his way back to the harbor after a seven-hour stint, he was hit up by a hitchhiker who had run out of fuel. Grainger, of course, had no problems in towing a certain Laird Hamilton back to harbour. A couple of old dogs who had learned some new tricks in surfing’s big-wave petri dish. 

Matt Grainger and Laird Hamilton sharing a few war stories after their session at Nazare.