Nazaré, Portugal currently takes on a massive role in the world of big wave surfing, and this is for a good reason.
Boasting towering cliffs serving as a natural amphitheater for onlookers combined with the deep-water canyon causing the giant waves to break capriciously near the shore, it was inevitable that the photos of the biggest days of Nazaré would captivate not only surfing fans but even those who belong to the non-surfing world.
How It All Started
Believe it or not, Nazaré began as a humble spot for surfing. During the latter part of the 1960s, some American surfers visited the area during the relatively calmer months of summer.
These surfers rode those big waves that broke along Praia do Sul, the main beach of Nazaré. In the next years, Sul and Praia do Norte, the other beach of the town, became famous spots for many bodyboarders.
Reinvention of Nazaré for the New Millennium
The reinvention ofNazaré as the Mecca for big wave surfing actually came fast and furious not too long ago, securing its spot as the newest big wave of the world.
During the mid-2000s, Garrett McNamara, a big wave surfer from Hawaii, was tipped off by Dino Casimiro, one of the local bodyboarders of Nazaré.
McNamara learned that just a short distance from Praia do Norte’s historic fishing village was a wave that broke larger than any other waves seen by Casimiro during winter.
The Historic First Trip
Casimiro’s tip intrigued McNamara but he was still skeptical when he made a trip to Portugal to check the facts himself. Standing on a cliff next to Fort of São Miguel Arcanjo that dates back to the era of the 16th century and was shuttered and abandoned at that time, McNamara soon learned that Casimiro was telling the truth.
Waves as high as 50 feet and more raced in with dizzying consistency from the horizon. McNamara has already seen some big waves at Jaws and Mavericks, but he has never seen bigger waves than what he saw at Nazaré.
A One of a Kind Set Up
Unlike other big wave spots in the world including Mavericks, Jaws, Mullaghmore, and Shipstern Bluff where the ocean floor is coral reef or hard rock, Nazaré broke over sand.
Reefs are known to form one breaking point for the waves, an expected spot where surfers can sit and take off. On the other hand, Nazaré rolled out huge waves in multiple spots that follow the sandbars underneath.
The scenario was a bit treacherous, yet McNamara was convinced that he was looking at what could be the first-ever successfully surfed 100 feet wave in the world.
According to McNamara, everything is sand. You have a shelf, a deep offshore canyon, and swells that come across both. And once all of these come together, that’s when the real magic happens.
The Making of a World Record
McNamara returned to the place the next winter. While he failed to snag a 100-footer, he bagged a mind-blowing monster of 78 feet that earned him a Guinness World Record. This is when McNamara and the sleepy little town of Nazaré became known famous all over the world.
If you are looking for a true surfer’s paradise, Nazaré, Portugal is truly the best place to be!
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