Ah, Brazil. When you think about the country, you imagine hot bodies on the Copacabana, picturesque views of Christ the Redeemer and partying it up at carnival time. You do not think about launching yourself into a swirling mass of water surging up one of the Amazon jungle’s rivers, dodging floating debris, whilst on the lookout out for piranhas, caimans and stingrays. (Apparently, the urban legend of the spiny Candiru, a small catfish that can swim up the urethra and lodge itself permanently, has been largely debunked.)
Despite the aforementioned fear factors, there are a few adventurous souls who relish a distinctly out of the norm activity when they visit Brazil – surfing the pororoca.
The pororoca is the Brazilian version of a tidal bore – a series of waves rushing upstream certain rivers during spring tide conditions. The word ‘pororoca’ comes from the indigenous Tupi language, roughly translated as ‘great destructive noise’. Tremendously powerful, pororocas have been known to sweep up everything in their path, including entire trees. Some have been observed over 300 kilometers inland with waves up to 4 meters high.
Currently, tidal bores have only been observed in an estimated 100 rivers world wide and only during extreme tidal ranges. A few have developed famous and sometimes deadly reputations. The largest, the Qiantang River tidal bore in China, has reached heights of 9 meters, with speeds up to 40 kilometers an hour. Locally known as the Silver (or Black) Dragon, it is so dangerous that no one has managed to remain upright on it for more than 11 seconds.
Known for the world’s longest waves, pororocas in the Amazon have become the home of the world’s most extreme tidal bore surfing. Nutcases have been gathering annually since 1999 in São Domingos do Capim on the Guamá River for the Brazilian National Pororoca Surfing Championship. So next time you book a sunny holiday in Brazil, remember to pack a surfboard … and a crash helmet.
Watch the trailer for Pororoca: Surfing the Amazon, a documentary film about four top surfers who journeyed into the Amazon jungle in 2003 to ride a tidal wave in the Araguari River, and in the process set a record for the longest time spent surfing one wave. Picuruta Salazar rode the pororoca wave for 37 minutes and 12,2 kilometers. Awe inspiring stuff.