Drama at Nazare comes with the territory. You want to see a select few group of humans huck into some of the biggest waves ever surfed? Tussling with make and sometimes break situations off Portugal's west coast? Endure the most unholy of floggings? Well, there's a new docu about to drop that spins all that and much more.
Nazare can conduct a chaotic symphony when it shifts to sixth gear. A shore-pounding cacophony of deafening magnitude, it's a stage only graced by the hardiest of chargers.
Now, production house The Go Big Project is about to drop Red Chargers - and it takes the stories and relationships that surround Portugal's aquatic mountain to a whole new level. The movie follows a crew, led by Garrett McNamara, who have made it their business to snag the biggest waves at Nazare. And the results are as terrifying as they are inspiring.
We caught up with Rocky Romano, who helmed Red Chargers and is also the founder of The Go Big Project, to talk about the movie, shooting at the world's most volatile playing field and to get a little more of a peek into what it means to be a part of that crew.
So Red Chargers? How did this movie come about?
We have been working with Garrett McNamara since 2014, featuring him in our big wave surfing television series Maverick Moments. In early 2015 Garrett, Miranda Winters, my business partner and co-director of the film, and myself began talking about a concept he had regarding a surf contest at Nazare.
He really wanted to give back to the big wave surfing world and create a competition that would embody the true spirit of big wave surfing. We collaborated for several months and then created the Red Chargers concept.
For the most part, every surfer that we have interviewed that has actually surfed Nazaré says that it is the gnarliest wave they knowOriginally it was meant to be a live webcast/competition, but with difficulties of the webcast we ended of creating a photo contest that celebrated the exceptional feats that were achieved during the season. The Go Big team spent 65 days in Portugal capturing every swell and story behind the men and woman attempting to ride the massive waves of Nazaré, and with that amount of amazing footage it was a no-brainer to turn it into film.
The competition awards and film were presented at a Mercedes sponsored gala event in Lisbon, Portugal at the end of the season.
For a time, Nazare was considered a bit of a mushburger – not really a legit wave. Were there any of the Red Chargers that had a similar view before turning up and how is their perception of Nazare now?
I can’t speak for anyone directly, but over and over again we see in interviews that people thought the wave was just a big mushy mountain. Then they immediately follow that by saying “until I got here”. For the most part, every surfer that we have interviewed that has actually surfed Nazaré says that it is the gnarliest wave they know.
The movie's got an eclectic bunch of rippers in the mix - but fair to say GMAC's chief?
Garrett is definitely at the helm, and I would say that the eclectic men and woman that surf the waves of Nazaré are stoked that he is. He has provided invaluable leadership and implemented crucial safety standards.
What were some of the difficulties in shooting Nazare? When it's on, it feels like absolute mayhem that everyone's just trying to temper.
Nazaré is difficult to shoot due to its sheer size; it is a massive playing field. Getting the best angle makes for an ongoing battle with the amount that the wave shifts, forcing our filmers to constantly be on the move. Not an easy task with a huge tripod, 800mm lens, and a full RED camera package.
Between taking down drones and needing to wipe your lens every shot, it can really be an issue
Also with that amount of water crashing, the mist is a constant problem. Between taking down drones and needing to wipe your lens every shot, it can really be an issue. A big problem we had was that the waves were too powerful for our GoPro cameras. We must have had ten plus get ripped off skis and surfboards. Who knows what insane footage we lost. Thankfully we had Alexey Orlov (director of photography) and Gabriel Vargas (principle photographer) who once again showed their dedication and skill capturing these incredible images.
Some of the shots are ridiculous, when did this all go down?
The film covers the 2015 big wave season in Nazaré, and was shot in 65 days.
That 2015 season was something else. What made you want to shoot this movie?
We have been one of the most dedicated and passionate producers of big wave surfing content since 2012 and getting the opportunity to work with Garrett on the biggest stage of big wave surfing was an opportunity that we could not pass up.
It has been a challenge, but in life, anything worth pursuing is always challenging. In the end, with the backing of great sponsors like Mercedes Benz, the hard work of our talented crew, and the invaluable help of Garrett and his wife Nicole, we created a successful competition, and an amazing film.
I could not be happier with the end result, in fact we are now working on turning it all into a ten episode television series, so get ready! Our hope is that Mercedes will continue to back our pursuit of capturing these amazing stories, and that we can take the Red Chargers concept to the next level.
And your production house is called the Go Big Project, anything in the name there?
Go Big is a collection of talented and proven production and post-production ninjas. From filming wingsuit pilots flying at terminal velocity in the rural mountains of Dashanbo, China, to braving the turbulent seas surrounding the most famous big wave surf breaks in the world, to telling heart wrenching stories of inner city youth in the deadly streets of Oakland, California, our team has mastered capturing the impossible.
We have produced several films, and over 130 episodes of adventure doc-reality TV in the last four years. Be sure to check out our big wave surfing show Chasing Monsters El Niño coming out this year. The show features the best male and female big wave surfers in the world as they hunt down some of the most epic waves in recorded history during the 2016 el Niño season. Also, we are starting to dive into the world of scripted narrative television, so don’t be surprised if we create the next big show like “Breaking Bad” in a year or two.
OK, that sounds like a real mix of talent right there. Finally, where's the film being screened?
The film has been screened at: San Diego Surf Film Festival on May 13th at 9pm, Waimea Ocean Film Festival, SAL, Shore Shots Irish Surf Film Festival, The Newport Beach Film Festival, The Silicon Beach Film Festival. For more screening dates and where to rent/buy the film follow us on the Red Chargers Facebook page.
Cover image by Jorge Leal