100-Foot-Wave on HBO.

The first season of 100 Foot Wave, which debuted on HBO in 2021, set up a hard act to follow. Those six episodes covered almost a decade of the evolution of big-wave surfing, specifically around the work Garrett McNamara and others did to establish Nazaré, Portugal as a location, and this writer described it then as “the best documentary series I’d seen in some time.” Well, the second season of 100 Foot Wave, which has its first episode available on HBO Max now, lives up to that pedigree, building on the first season in a number of interesting ways and telling great stories about an incredible group of surfers.

The second season of 100 Foot Wave kicks off with a look at some of the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic’s impacts on the sport. Those include a lot of travel restrictions, making it difficult for the surfers to travel to the best swells, or to get home afterwards. Many of them do wind up in Nazaré in October 2020 to surf huge swells from Hurricane Epsilon, but that leads to its own challenges with issues from having a ton of people in the water and having thousands more on the cliffs watching (which eventually even leads to surfing there being closed by the police for a time due to COVID restrictions).

And that speaks to a larger theme of the second season. The big wave surfing world has gotten so much more widespread attention by the time this season starts, especially around Nazaré. But that extra interest in it comes with a variety of challenges. The Nazaré scene was described as a “circus” even late in the first season of 100 Foot Wave, but that goes to another level in the second season, especially with the titular quote from the second episode, “The Circus Is Burning.” There are plenty of challenges for these surfers to navigate in terms of just getting to surf, doing so as safely as possible with so many people out there, and then getting limited spots in the in-demand high-profile events.

In the first season, 100 Foot Wave was particularly focused on McNamara and his family (including wife Nicole and brother-in-law C.J. Macias), but did a good job of spreading the spotlight out to more surfers at times. The second season further spreads that spotlight, with great results. There are lots of fascinating stories here, including about some returning surfers like Macias, Britain’s Andrew Cotton, France’s Justine Dupont, and Brazil’s Kai Lenny, but also some faces new or newer to the series. Some standouts there include Brazil’s Lucas Chumbo, Pedro Scooby, and Michelle des Bouillons, and Portugal’s own Nic Von Rupp and António Laureano. Laureano is a particularly interesting figure to follow, as he’s younger than most of these other surfers and is working with his dad Ramon as his tow partner; that gives him a notable story to follow throughout the season.

The relationships between the surfers, and between them and their romantic partners, are also interesting to track. There’s a lot of exploration of that on different fronts this season, including the challenges of big-wave surfing as a job (including with the travel it requires and the risks it carries) and the importance of (and challenges with) working with the right tow partner. And the risks also come to light throughout the season, with several incredibly scary moments. It’s clear just how dangerous riding these big waves can be, with several of the surfers talking in the series about thinking they were going to die at particular points during wipeouts, and with helmet cam videos of some of those crashes providing incredible looks at what happened.

But, even with that danger, there are still great reasons to surf these waves. And 100 Foot Wave does an excellent job of exploring the different surfers’ motivations, and how they prepare themselves for this, and when is or isn’t the right time for them to go out. That all leads to a lot of tension around the dangers, but it also comes with repeated beautiful wave shots, and with many triumphant moments for the surfers involved. And director Chris Smith again does a great job of telling these surfers’ stories, and getting the audience to care. It all adds up to a deserving sequel, one that does very well at carrying on the impressive legacy of the first season.

100 Foot Wave’s second season’s first episode can be seen on HBO Max. Subsequent episodes will make their TV debuts at 8 p.m. ET/PT each Sunday for the next five weeks, and will also be available on HBO Max. There’s also a companion podcast hosted by Nicole McNamara. Awful Announcing has seen all six episodes of the second season.

About Andrew Bucholtz

Andrew Bucholtz has been covering sports media for Awful Announcing since 2012. He is also a staff writer for The Comeback. His previous work includes time at Yahoo! Sports Canada and Black Press.