Hugo Pinheiro surfs one of Europe’s most mysterious waves in “Mar da Calha”

Interview with Portuguese bodyboarder Hugo Pinheiro about his latest documentary with Red Bull

Most bodyboarders in Europe are still searching for new waves hidden by trekking the remote mountains and cliff faces along their amazing coastline, but five-time European bodyboarding champion Hugo Pinheiro is looking in a different direction; out to sea.

Pinheiro’s latest documentary, filmed by the crew at Red Bull, shows the Portuguese shredder taking on a mysterious wave called “Mar da Calha,” which is located one kilometre from a small fishing village near Lisbon, Portugal.

Teaming up with rising stand-up surfer Vasco Ribiero, Pinheiro and the Red Bull crew go to large lengths to unveil the rare beauty of Mar da Calha. Riptide Magazine caught up with Pinheiro to find out a little more about the wave and the documentary making experience before the film’s release.

RT: Tell us about “Mar da Calha”
HP: This was a project that I presented to Red Bull two years ago. It is a mystery wave that breaks sometimes when swell is big. People can see it break far away over one kilometre in the distance but don’t have any idea what kind of wave it is.
Mar da Calha is the name that fishermen called the spot. In Portuguese it means “the waves that appear from anywhere”. This happens because of the strong river currents. The wave is in the midst of the sea between where the river flows. Also nearby there is a big lighthouse that was a once a prison a long time ago.
RT: When did you first discover it?
HP: Ten years ago I bought a jet ski and I was crazy about towing out. Each time I put my ski in the water I had to cross the river to get to the beach breaks. Occasionally I would see some nice waves breaking on these outside banks from the river. That is when I went closer to the waves to take a look and could see it was a good break.
 Above: To add to it’s creepiness, the wave breaks next to the Bugio Lighthouse, an offshore platform located in the Tejo river mouth that once served as a prison.

RT: Why has it not been surfed until now?
HP: Firstly, it is quite far away so could not be seen easily and to surf it you need to get out there by jet ski. Secondly it doesn’t break very often and lastly when it is breaking out there the beaches usually have good waves.
RT: How big did you get the waves?
HP: It is not a spot that works really big. I have surfed it at 8-9 foot but for it to get good barrels the best is 5-6 foot.
RT: Why was it so difficult to film?
HP: It’s a sand bar with waves easily breaking wide and into the channel when the bigger sets come. The currents are always moving the boats and jet skis too making it difficult to be in the right position.  It is much more difficult and different than filming slabs or other waves like in Indonesia. The wave is so long and some times the best section is after you pass the camera.
HS MAR DA CALHA 0023Above: It might be difficult but getting barrels this round and perfect makes the mission seem worth it. Pinheiro slotted.
RT: Why did you want to make a documentary about the wave?
HP: The Documentary is about me and the waves. All of my family is from this city (Costa de Caparica – home of Mar Da Calha). We are really proud about where we grow up and our roots. There are lots of stories about accidents in that area where the wave is with the fishermen. Also that spot was all sand 100 years ago and now the waves break where there was once an old village.
RT: Were the crew at Red Bull always keen to make the doco or did you need to convince them?
HP: I needed to present them the project and tell them some of the stories with that break. I showed them a photo that I took there a long time ago and they started to believe me that the wave really exists.
RT: How did you team up with Vasco Ribeiro and what has it been like surfing the wave with him?
HP: Vasco is a young kid with a lot of potential. He is a nice kind and he always respects bodyboarders so I invited him to do a clip where it was bodyboarding versus surfing. The clip was a success so we have since done more projects together. The wave for me is all about barrels but I know that some days it is perfect for manoeuvres  on a stand-up. We surfed the wave with the jet ski and Vasco doing a step off, after a few attempts he had it down perfectly.
Above: It may seem like a deep water river wave, but this photo proves Mar Da Calha can get hollow.

RT: What was the overall experience like?

HP: It was amazing but stressful at the same time. I had to control when all the team should film and each time they came out to the spot we had to pay them regardless if it was a good or bad day. We had two jet skis; one filming each rider and we had another 5.5 metre boat for filming and photos.
RT: Is big wave discovery something you plan to pursue more in the future?
HP: For sure, I love it. I think all bodyboarders and surfers love discovering new waves. Portugal has a lot of waves to be found!
RT: What is it you like about the Mar da Calha?
HP: I think it is a nice story about the wave and the village which is where I am from. The houses and town has remained the same for decades. 
RT: You said the documentary will come out in English, is there plans for a worldwide release?
HP: Yes first we will release a Portuguese version then we do an English version
RT: What’s next for you, do you hope to continue making documentaries?
HP: I never know, but yes i would love to keep doing it!

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“Mar da Calha” will premiere in Portugal on June 24 followed by an international web premiere on June 28. For more information with