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Beyond the Limit
Beyond the Limit

Big wave surfer José Carlos from Ecuador discovered surfing relatively late in life at the age of 24. But having always been into sports including kite surfing, sailing, foiling and jet skiing, he picked it up quickly and soon began to tackle some of the largest waves on the planet – all while running a successful startup on the side. We interviewed him to find out what inspires him to continually push himself to the limit in all aspects of life.

Let’s dive right in!

What is big wave surfing? When are waves deemed big?

For me, big wave surfing is surfing any waves over 6 meters. But there are other factors – for example, the power and volume of water that is moved. There are some surf spots in Hawaii where the waves are not as big, but incredibly powerful. People have surfed waves as big as 30 meters.

Could you explain the appeal of big wave surfing? How does it feel to ride a wave taller than a house?

It’s the ultimate thrill because it’s a constant battle between you, your team and the elements. Surfing big waves forces you to better your understanding of the emotion, and I love that it always pushes me to my limit, mentally and physically. People may think of it as a solo sport, but it is actually a team effort – another aspect which I love.

Wave chasing big wave surfer
“I love that [big wave surfing] always pushes me to the limit.” – José Carlos, entrepreneur and big wave surfer. (Photo: @benjarena)

Why do you need a team for big wave surfing?

Above a certain height, waves move too quickly to be able to catch them just by paddling into them. Instead, we use powerful PWCs for tow surfing, pushing the limits of waves we can catch. Without a PWC, the larger waves would simply be inaccessible. The team and the PWCs also play a key role in surf rescue – timing is critical as the PWC tows the surfer to safety before the next wave breaks. As you only have a few seconds to perform this rescue, you need a powerful PWC with great acceleration.

You had the chance to test ride the Burrasca. What did you think? How suitable is it for big wave surfing?

The Burrasca seems like a supercar – it is incredibly powerful and the acceleration over short distances is unmatched. In combination with its agility, it gives me a few extra seconds between waves. In my sport, every second counts – from getting into position to breaking through the swell and recovering surfers as quickly as possible. I think the Burrasca can bring a new dimension to big wave surfing with its unique capabilities.

Why is big wave surfing so dangerous and what special skills do you need?

Each big wave surf spot has a unique set of challenges from conditions to reefs, rocks, currents and wildlife. No matter how much you train or prepare, there are always many unknown variables. Preparation is crucial – learning as much as you can about the area and looking for exit strategies in case something does go wrong. You need to know how to rescue your teammates and fellow surfers and keep calm in any situation.

PWC ready to rescue big wave surfer
The waves are consistently big during the winter months in Nazaré, that’s what makes it special. (Foto: @renanvignoli)

What kind of people are attracted to big wave surfing?

I think there are three groups of people who are attracted to it: thrill-seekers, pro surfers, and crazy people. To be a great big wave surfer in the most extreme locations in the world, you need all three of those characteristics. It should not be underestimated how technical and skillful this pursuit is.

What is the biggest wave you’ve ever surfed?

Last October, Lucas Chumo towed me into a wave that was around 20-23 meters in Nazaré, Portugal. Lucas managed to surf a wave of around 30 meters there, and I believe that that will be a new world record.

You mentioned Nazaré – what makes it the ultimate location for big wave surfing?

The waves in Nazaré are special because they are consistently big during the winter months. It offers a unique experience, combining the adrenaline rush with comradery from your teammates and the incredible energy the place radiates. The waves in Nazaré make it one of the most challenging spots in the world for both big wave surfing and riding a PWC.

Powerful PWCs are essential for big wave surfing

Big wave surfers like José Carlos rely on their PWC to perform at the highest level in the most challenging conditions. With its unique combination of raw power and unmatched agility, the Burrasca is the perfect marine hypercraft for extreme pursuits like big wave surfing.

Find out what makes the Burrasca a supercar amongst personal watercraft.