Brazil’s Surfers Lament Demise of Amazon’s Mighty Waves

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The thundering waves of the Pororoca were legendary: Adventurers from the world over flew, drove, trekked, Jet-Skied and canoed to Brazil’s remote Araguari River to ride the Amazon’s stunning tidal bore that formed when water flowed in from the Atlantic.

But the exhilarating waves that once reached five feet high are gone now, squelched by man-made factors, such as the large-scale ranching of Asian water buffaloes, an invasive species introduced to the Amazon decades ago, and new hydroelectric dams built along the Araguari.

Brazilian surfers are expressing anguish about the end of the Pororoca (which means “mighty noise” in the indigenous Tupi language) on the river, in the state of Amapá in northern Brazil.

“The Pororoca in Amapá was the best in the world,” said Serginho Laus, 36, a professional surfer who has pioneered trips to Amapá and set a record in 2003 for surfing nonstop for 6.3 miles. “Now it’s a warning of how man’s actions can change our rivers forever.”

Surfers rode the last Pororoca on the Araguari River in 2013.

Some blame the buffaloes: For years, ranchers have opened canals from the river to slake their herds’ thirst, while the buffaloes themselves trampled around the banks of the Araguari, depleting the river’s flow, according to environmental activists. The ranchers say two dams diminished the Araguari’s strength.

Either way, the end of what was considered the Amazon’s mightiest Pororoca is a bummer lamented on national newscasts.

Some optimists point out that the conditions persist for creating tidal bores, albeit of lesser intensity. When the sun crosses the Equator during equinoxes in September and March, the gravitational and lunar conditions bolster tidal bores as the flow of other rivers around the Amazon is reversed.

Mr. Laus, for one, says that Papua New Guinea and India guard their own great tidal bores. Closer to home, he is scouring the Amazon for other sites with potential.