Hugo Vau, Extreme Surfer Shares A Life Changing Moment With Monster Wave “Big Mama”

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Life’s Tough Media is pleased to announce the latest episode of our “Life’s Tough: Explorers are TOUGHER!” podcast series. Hosted by Richard Wiese—explorer extraordinaire and former President of The Explorers Club—this episode features Hugo Vau, The Biggest Wave Ever Surfed.

This “Life’s Tough: Explorers are TOUGHER!” episode released on May 13th, 2021, and is now available on all major podcast networks, under the Podcast Channel “Life’s Tough: Explorers are Tougher”.

Surfing wasn’t always popular in Portugal. It’s only in the last 35-40 years that it has been acknowledged as a sport. During this podcast, big wave surfer Hugo Vau talks with our host, Richard Wiese, about taking risks and pushing yourself to new extremes in exploration.

In 2006, surfers began exploring and surfing on bodyboards in the Nazare´ Canyon area of Portugal. This huge underwater valley creates gigantic waves away from shore and out in the ocean. Watermen started telling surfers stories about these big waves, and some couldn’t resist the desire to see them.

There was one wave somebody told them was bigger than the rest. It was nicknamed “Big Mama.” She was 0.8 miles out in the ocean, and they used a jet ski to tow surfers out. In 2011, fellow surfer Garrett McNamara set a world record by surfing a 70-foot wave in Nazare´.

In his attempt to conquer Big Mama, Hugo studied forecasts and charts to calculate the best time to make his approach. They went out at around 4:30 in the afternoon. There were high wind warnings, but Hugo wanted strong winds. He planned to work with the wind instead of fighting against it.

When asked what it was like, Hugo says it was unique, really beautiful, a scenic array of colors. Although he has been surfing for a long time, he was overwhelmed with the intensity of nature and the ocean’s hugeness.

You might be wondering how Hugo’s life changed after conquering Big Mama. He wasn’t really prepared for what happened after this worldwide event. He got huge media exposure and lots of interviews.

He’s able to stay humble, telling us that this whole adventure is a testimony to the magic of teams – supporting and believing in each other… working together for the moment. His surfing partner and best friend, Alex Botelho, was there with him. Another team member, who served as the spotter and videographer, was stationed in a church onshore and nicknamed Jesus. Although you think that surfing might be a solitary sport, a team is necessary.

These days, Hugo appreciates the simple things. He remembers to celebrate them with others… the fact that we get to breathe everyday… we’re able to walk and smile at each other. It sounds like Hugo Vau has things in proper perspective!

To learn more about explorer Hugo Vau and big wave surfing, check it out here. Hugo is featured in many videos and surf magazines as well. To hear about other explorers, join us for new episodes of Life’s Tough: Explorers are TOUGHER! At

Richard Wiese, the host of this podcast, is an American explorer. He is the author of the guidebook, Born to Explore: How to Be a Backyard Adventurer. He became the youngest person to become president of the Explorers Club in 2002. Richard is also Executive Producer and Host of the PBS weekly television series Born to Explore with Richard Wiese.


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