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Nazaré: when to watch the big waves?

  • Surf spot
  • Posted 8 months ago
  • 3 min

Are you fascinated by colossal waves and the daring surfers who ride them? Nazaré, Portugal, is the place to be! Renowned worldwide for its monstrous waves, Nazaré attracts thrill-seekers and spectators from every corner of the globe. In this guide, we’ll uncover the secrets of when to visit Nazaré to witness these aquatic giants up close. Whether you’re a surf enthusiast or just looking for an extraordinary nature show, we’ve got you covered. So, grab your binoculars and let’s dive into the world of Nazaré’s big waves!

The Nazaré canyon: A miracle

Situated just an hour and a half away from Lisbon, the village of Nazaré is celebrated not just as a fishing village, but also as a welcoming spot for pilgrims making their journey to Fátima. Today, as you wander through its streets, you’ll notice many locals offering rooms for the night—a tradition established to provide weary pilgrims a place to rest after their long journey. It’s like a Portuguese version of Airbnb, rich with history.

The world was taken by surprise when the first images of Garrett McNamara riding gigantic waves in 2010 surfaced. This international exposure put Nazaré on the map for big wave surfers worldwide, eventually leading to the establishment of an official big wave event: the WSL Nazaré Big Wave.

However, as showcased in this video, there were already national competitions with colossal conditions years before Nazaré gained global recognition.

Why does Nazaré have giant waves?

Nazaré owes its giant waves to the underwater canyon, located just a few meters away from the lighthouse. This submarine canyon is incredibly deep, reaching depths of up to 5km (!). So, when a swell is about to hit Praia do Norte, there is a phenomenal acceleration and amplification of the swell as the seabed dramatically rises from 5000m to just 20m. All this energy gets funneled directly towards Praia do Norte, the spot where the magic happens.

Obviously, the waves at Praia do Norte are not always gigantic. Many tourists have this misconception and end up disappointed when they arrive to find flat conditions. To help prevent this from happening, we’ve put together some guidelines for you.

When Can I See Giant Waves in Nazaré?

For giant waves to form, there needs to be a substantial swell with a W/NW direction, and not too much wind to make it rideable.

This kind of swell is good for Nazaré, to create big waves. With this kind of swell you can expect waves around 10m. The wind will decide if this is surfable or not. There needs to be a wind blowing ideally from SE/E but even with a strong side-shore wind it can works as the wave is huge. Strong onshore will make it impractical.

=> To check Surfline forecast for Nazaré

If you want to learn more about how to read surfing forecast, check out our article.

On the day of the last edition of the WSL Nazaré Big Wave, the conditions were as follows: 4.7m at 16 seconds (WNW 298°). Below is what is looked like in Nazaré that day, with Kai Lenny.

Kai Lenny from Hawaii rides a wave during the Nazare Tow Surfing Challenge at Praia do Norte or North Beach in Nazare, Portugal, Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2020. (AP Photo/Armando Franca)

The prime time of year to catch these monstrous waves is from November to March. During these months, the likelihood of a significant swell hitting the coast is much higher.

Are you ready to see the biggest waves of your life?

Let us know your thougts !

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