This week, daredevil surfers will ride a monster tidal wave down the Amazon.

It’s called the Pororoca, the great roar, and it travels from the ocean and up the Amazon, leaving a path of destruction.

Residents of the region prepare ahead of its scheduled time of arrival and move their boats and livestock away from the wave’s reach. But those who live for the day this wave comes crashing down the Amazon get their boards and paddles ready.

They are known as the bore riders.


The wave they will be riding is called a tidal bore, a wave that flows in from the ocean and sends water to dozens of rivers around the world. The wave is created when the tide pushes up the river against its natural current. The waves can travel for miles and, for those skilled enough to contend, make for the perfect ride. The bore can be as low as a few inches, or as high as 25 ft.

Twice a year during the biennial equinox--when the moon, the earth, and the sun are all aligned--a tidal bore is created in the Amazon. According to local legend, the wave is created by three trouble-making children that swim up the river playing jokes on the residents that live alongside it.

In 2003, a Brazilian named Serginho Laus rode a tidal bore in the Araguari, a river in the Brazilian Amazon basin. He allegedly rode the wave for 6.3 miles. This year, on March 23, the wave is expected to be exceptionally strong because of the full moon lining up with the equinox.

The adrenaline rush supplied by the Pororoca isn’t all good. In fact, it caused a lot of damage.The rumble of the wave can be heard an hour before it reaches your location and residents brace for the destruction.


“These rivers carry the blood of a breathing jungle,” Laus told the New York Times. “You’re the stranger in a land of jaguars, crocodiles, snakes, piranhas, parasites and tropical diseases.”

Tidal bores destroy some of the natural barriers along the Amazon. They rip trees up by their roots, pull massive chunks of mud and rock from the edge of the river, and swallow unfortunate animals into the river. Crocodiles and piranhas follow the path of the river, scavenging for the carcassases of the dead animals.

There is also an old wive's tale about a small bony fish called a Candiru that can swim up male's urethra and act as parasites. 


Some bore riders describe the fear of this fish as greater than the fear they would have upon encountering a great white shark. They even wear extra tight body suits to avoid the little creature. Eeek!

Mr. Laus compared the danger of the Amazonian bore tides to the force a tsunami.

“You can’t go alone,” he says. “You need to have a crew, with boat pilots and locals that know the way of the river.”

But even if you’re not 100% ready to dive into the tidal wave this year, you can still celebrate the Pororoca at festivals in the spring throughout Brazil.

For daredevils like Mr. Laus, the only way to celebrate is by being right in the thick of it.

He said, “We have the real Amazon beside us without cities, without people — just us and nature.”

Image: PBS

To find out more about the tidal bore, check out this short documentary. You can also learn about a few of the surfing competitions on their Facebook  and website.


Defend the Planet

A Tsunami-like wave is heading to the Amazon and surfers are getting ready

By Miquel-Caitlyn Gabbidon