By Tom Vaughan at Surfline.com (14/3/2023)
“That was scary,” says big wave chaser Laura Coviella, about this particularly sketchy spot in the Canaries.
The Tenerife-born charger had less than 24 hours to prepare for this strike mission. She had just returned home from a trip to Morocco when she found out about Benjamin ‘Sancho’ Sanchis and Jony Gonzalez’s mission to tackle this slab. The idea was to arrive right as last week’s large, long-period swell filled in to Western Europe and then Northern Africa. The Canaries are only about 60-miles off the southern tip of Morocco.
“It was my first time there,” said Laura. “I’d wanted to surf it for a while. I didn’t have any idea how the conditions were going to be, I just said ‘yeah, I’ll go.’ Woke up at 5am for the mission. But all my equipment was on another island, so I borrowed some stuff from Sancho and Jony.”
Photographer Manu Miguelez had been obsessing about this spot for years. He knows in the Canaries, you need to get in early before the wind turns in the afternoon. “It was the biggest slab I have ever seen,” he said. “First light was looking crazy, so we decided to go take a look. We sat in silence getting ready in the harbour. We hadn’t tried starting the ski for a year, we didn’t have radios or a waterproof bag for the phone, I was thinking to myself – ‘is this risky and stupid?’ When we got closer to the spot, we realised how massive it was.”
Slowly, the crew tried to figure out what was rideable and what was going to send them to the rocks, which were right in front of the peak. “It was pure survival mode,” said Manu. “Finally, it was Laura’s turn, she pulled into the first barrel of the day and got super pounded.”
“When we arrived, it looked huge,” said Laura. “The big sets were closing out the whole bay, it looked too big for that spot and definitely not the best day to try it for the first time. But we were already there and there was a lot of motivation, so we went for it. We were surfing the medium and small ones and even those ones were still quite big.”
“The wave can be super hard to read,” said Jony, who towed for his first time in three years out here. “The intensity can pull you up the face of the wave, even with a heavy board. The conditions were far from perfect so we were taking it slow, we didn’t want to make huge mistakes.”
The swell lingered for a second day. A touch smaller, but it was still challenging for anyone to make it out of a proper barrel. By the afternoon, the conditions had cleaned up.
“At least this time, we had a phone in a plastic bag,” said Manu. “They all ended up surfing bomb after bomb, getting deeper and deeper with no mistakes.”
At the end of the day, after perhaps the wave of the day, Jony took a bit too long to jump on the ski and got caught inside by a huge wave. “He wasn’t wearing a vest and was under water for a long time,” said Manu. “Lost the board, ended up exhausted, claimed it was one of the worst beatings of his life.”
“I didn’t have a vest in my size,” said Jony. “I didn’t want to use the one Sancho gave me. I made a huge mistake on that wave.” The pounding put Jony in the worst place, in front of the peak. “Luckily I stayed calm,” he said. “I’ve learned never to go on this type of wave or even smaller but dangerous waves without a vest. It’s the remoteness of it all. I’ve never been there and seen it so eerie and quiet.”
That was enough to call it a day. “We were all in one piece as we went back to port,” said Manu. “All smiles between long time-friends that love surfing and having fun. Thanks to the locals for having our back and helping us with the almost impossible logistics of this place.”
For Laura, the whole experience felt special. “I’m used to surfing big waves but not big slabs yet,” she said. “This one especially is super technical, I feel like you must have perfect timing to make it. It wasn’t easy that day and this wave is absolutely a challenge, but I like challenges so I’m sure I’ll be back.”