INTERVIEW: CJ Macias on That Nazare Wipeout

Jason Lock

by on

Updated 262d ago

Yeah, you know everything about Saturday at XXXL Nazare by now. Many superlatives, all correct. But we've been diligently waiting for an update from CJ Macias, who took a tumble (after catching a few bombs, we might add) and ended up dislocating his elbow. The image our humble and omni-present lensperson Helio Antonio caught of the incident went wild.

Now though, CJ is doing... just fine! He's pumped with the images that came out – and let's face it, what surfer wouldn't want this image of themselves on the wall? A story to tell all the future generations. Anyway, here's how our convo with this legend went.

Hey CJ! Welcome back, take us through the day. How were you feeling Saturday morning?
I woke up super stoked to surf that day. I rode a bomb the evening before and was feeling really confident because it was way windier and bumpier, and this day was going to be smoother.

I did have a more nervous feeling, though, knowing that it was going to be a long day and limits were going to be pushed. I was excited to get on the rope. I’d gotten good waves the night before and I was on a team of OG legends, so I figured I would be fourth in line that day. Garrett asked Cotty if he wanted to go and, like a true English gentleman, he asked if I wanted to surf.

But I was happy to just wait and watch him get some bombs. Cotty surfed some sick ones and did it in a good way — making all of his waves. It’s important to make your waves on a day like that. I learned that lesson.

Everyone to the rescue, a heavy heavy situation.

Everyone to the rescue, a heavy heavy situation.

© 2022 - Helio Antonio

Where did things go wrong?
I rode a couple that felt pretty big, and also pretty mushy — where I was holding my speed as long as possible, just on the edge of losing control. My turn came and I was ready.

I’ve never seen footage of myself surfing that kind of size, so I wasn’t sure how close I was getting to the sweet spot on the waves. I was feeling confident to charge one, and Garrett knew it. We saw that wave pop up and both yelled to each other, “Yeah!” I knew I was going to have to take it straight and try to turn at the bottom. Then I leaned back as far as I could with balance and just bombed straight down that thing. It was the wildest ride of my life

When I let go of the rope, I started to almost fade a bit, thinking that the peak was behind me. I wanted to time that sideways wedge that was coming in to make that big teepee.

Regrettably, I didn’t give myself quite enough speed like the professor out there, Alemão [de Maresias], reminded me to. So I was kind of dancing at the top, looking for my entry point. I was anticipating that I could draw the same high line like my previous waves, but the thing jacked up soooo steep. All of a sudden, I’m at the top of one of these Nazare A-frames.

It felt like that moment on a rollercoaster when you’re looking straight down God knows how far, and you have just enough forward momentum that there’s no turning back. I knew I was going to have to take it straight and try to turn at the bottom. Then I leaned back as far as I could with balance and just bombed straight down that thing. It was the wildest ride of my life.

Wild's the right

Wild's the right

© 2022 - Helio Antonio

And then...disaster?
I felt the whitewater getting ready to catch me and knew I had to buckle in. I thought it was breaking a bit more slopey, but the footage looks mental — like the lip came down right on me. I was so determined to make it I leaned back all the way and touched the water with my hands.

Then I was still convinced I would make it and bottom turned around this thing. Then it lifted me up and let me out! I was so stoked, I thought I’d made it! Yeah, right.

I was going soooo fast, and I was blinded in the whitewater. When I could see again and tried to get my bearings, my front arm crossed my midline and boom! I got bucked right off over my right shoulder. I knew I was in a bad spot. Not thinking, I put out my right arm to break my fall. That’s what’s happening in the wipeout photo. It almost cost me my arm.

What happened down there?
I had no time to think or take a breath. I resisted for maybe two seconds and I knew I had to relax and surrender. The beating was violent and it drove me deep. The inflation vest that Cotty let me use deployed on impact, thank God! I wouldn’t have been able to pull it.

It felt like a good while before it went still again, and I had no clue which way was up, so instead of swimming I let the flotation bring me to the surface. It felt like a long way up. At this point my ears were screaming from the pressure and I was starting to feel that something wasn’t right with my arm. It was hurting a lot. I finally got to the surface and tried to find which way the next wave was coming from. I was already seeing stars. I looked one way, looked the other way, and boom! A huge avalanche was right there. I got a little half-breath and then round two began.

How do you handle that situation?
Surrender immediately. I was pretty sure that I was gonna get dragged a long ways with all the flotation, but happy to know that I’d come to the surface eventually — conscious or not.

While getting pummelled, I realised my arm was probably broken based on the pain, so I tried to grab it with my left arm to stabilise it. I couldn’t grab it because it was flopping out to the other side of my body, getting ripped around like a wet noodle. It seemed like the wetsuit was keeping it attached. It was the worst pain of my life.

How did you stop yourself going into shock?
I was feeling sick from the pain, but couldn’t really react ‘cause that wastes energy. The second round was a long one — when I finally came up, I was feeling delirious — just doing my best to not breathe foam or water in. I didn’t know left, right, up, down… I didn’t see a ski or person anywhere. I knew I was lost at that point and nobody was coming for a while.

Then I turned around to see another huge one coming for me. I had time for a quick breath or two, then my dump breath, then a big inhale for the next one. All this time I was making sure I had a good grip on my seemingly broken arm to minimise further damage.

© 2022 - Helio Antonio

And how was round three?
It was another solid beating. I wasn’t able to hold onto my arm for long. I had to surrender to it being thrashed about in the turmoil in order to save my energy for my breath. Once I came up from that one, I took another few waves on the head… I lost count. At this point I was washed up the beach, where there’s a trough between the break and the shore, so the waves were getting less violent. I just kind of washed my near-lifeless body closer to shore. In between waves I was raising my good arm up, praying that someone would see me and could help me out of this mess.

Enter Alemao, right, he scooped you up?
Eventually I saw Alemão coming to get me. He drove by, we locked left arms, and he started to drive off as I tried swinging my dead arm up onto the sled to get out of there. It didn’t work. I screamed in agony and he told me to let go, which I did. A couple more waves and I was touching the sand. I planted my feet in the sand, holding my apparently broken arm, and made on last attempt to get to my feet. I saw the first responders on the beach running to get me. I saw my team — Garrett, Alemão and Cotty — running the skis up the beach. The daze from the washing machine and the delirium from the pain were too much, and I collapsed — surrendered to the relief of being alive, knowing that I wasn’t alone anymore. I now had help.

That moment was surreal for me. Being in this actual tranquil space from the meditation underwater. Surrendering to the pain. Feeling grateful to be alive and knowing that my spine was intact. I oscillated from that calm state to screaming bloody murder whenever somebody would touch my arm — then back to breathing again. I did that the whole time — the trip up the beach, into the ambulance, to the hospital and through until now. Only now the screaming from the pain has turned into laughter at the pain. I’m lucky to be alive, so I’m happy to feel.

Where does this wipeout rank in your life experiences?
Topnotch experience for me all round. I’ve had a couple of memorable barrels that felt especially smooth, but as far as wipeouts and heavy experiences go, this takes the cake. Nazare is one of the most ultimate places to dance with the immense power of the sea in such a unique way. It’s a challenge of body, mind, spirit and whole being.

And everyone else out there was charging, too. I was just in awe watching everyone from Lucas Chumbo doing backflip 360s off the top of these mind-blowing waves to Justine Dupont charging out (I’m a big fan). Everybody was getting big, sick waves. And whichever of my waves was the biggest (I haven’t seen the footage), that was the biggest wave of my life.