Surfing Amazon's Giant Waves Is a Thing of Past

Man-made influences are being blamed
By Elizabeth Armstrong Moore,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 27, 2016 12:53 PM CST
Surfing Amazon's Giant Waves Is a Thing of Past
Surfers walk on a beach in Fortaleza, Brazil, Wednesday, July 2, 2014. Fortaleza is one of many cities hosting World Cup soccer matches this month.   (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)

As the sun crosses the Equator during the fall and spring equinoxes in September and March, strong gravitational and lunar pulls trigger tidal bores around the world as the flow of nearby rivers reverses and the water grows turbulent. Along Brazil’s remote Araguari River in the Amazon, this created the perfect conditions for surfers for years as Atlantic waters flowed in; the "thundering waves" of the Pororoca—the local name for a tidal bore that translates to "mighty noise" in the indigenous Tupi language—were "legendary," as the New York Times reports.

But now the surfers who flew, canoed, trekked, and drove many miles to ride the Amazon's tidal bore in Brazil say the thrilling five-foot waves are gone, thanks in large part to man-made influences like huge ranches full of invasive Asian water buffaloes and hydroelectric dams built along the Araguari River. Some local surfers are now on the hunt for other stretches of river to surf along the Amazon, while one tells the Times that Papua New Guinea and India protect their great tidal bores. In the Amazon, however, "it's a warning of how man's actions can change our rivers forever," says a professional surfer. Today, surfers can only tell stories about riding the mighty Pororoca on the Araguari River; the last time it was surfable was in 2013. (Meanwhile, women just made history at a surfing competition in Maui.)

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