Nazare Big Wave

Portugal is home to some of the most exhilarating surfing experiences in the world! If you’re joining us at a surf camp here, you’re already in for an adventure of a lifetime. But amidst the array of fantastic surf spots along Portugal’s coastline, there’s one sightseeing trip that stands out and is on the list of the activities we offer: Nazare Big Wave trip.

Nazaré isn’t just any coastal town; it’s a place of pilgrimage for surfers seeking the ultimate adrenaline rush. What makes Nazaré truly special are its legendary big waves, known to be some of the largest and most powerful in the world. These waves, towering like liquid mountains, draw surfers from across the globe, eager to test their skills and courage against nature’s raw might.

But Nazaré isn’t just about the waves; it’s a town steeped in history and culture, adding depth to your surf adventure. Nestled along the rugged cliffs of the Portuguese coast, Nazaré exudes an old-world charm, with its cobblestone streets, whitewashed houses, and bustling fisherman’s market. It’s a place where ancient traditions blend seamlessly with the thrill of modern surfing.

Visiting Nazaré isn’t just about riding waves; it’s about immersing yourself in a unique surfing culture and witnessing the awe-inspiring power of nature. Whether you’re a seasoned pro or a novice enthusiast, the experience of standing on Nazaré’s shores, watching as surfers conquer monstrous waves, is bound to leave an indelible mark on your soul.

So, dear guests of our surf camp, make sure to include a trip to Nazaré in your itinerary. Whether you’re seeking the thrill of riding giants or simply soaking in the atmosphere of this enchanting town, Nazaré promises an unforgettable experience that will stay with you long after the waves have receded.


8 reasons to visit Nazare Big Wave town

  • Gateway to Big Waves: Nazaré Fort serves as a gateway to one of the world’s most renowned big wave surfing spots. From its vantage point, spectators can witness fearless surfers tackling monstrous waves, including the legendary “Nazaré Canyon” swells.

  • Thrilling Surfing Experience: For surfers brave enough to take on the challenge, Nazaré’s big waves offer an adrenaline-pumping experience like no other. Whether you’re a seasoned professional or an adventurous beginner, riding these colossal waves is an unforgettable thrill.

  • International Surfing Mecca: Nazaré has gained global recognition as a mecca for big wave surfing, attracting top athletes and adrenaline junkies from around the world. Visiting the fort allows you to be part of this surfing culture and witness firsthand the awe-inspiring feats of these daring surfers.

  • Historical Significance: Built in the 16th century to defend against pirates, Nazaré Fort is steeped in history. Explore its ancient walls and cannons, and immerse yourself in the rich maritime heritage of Portugal.
  • Spectacular Views: Perched atop towering cliffs, Nazaré Fort offers breathtaking panoramic views of the Atlantic Ocean. Visitors are treated to sweeping vistas of the coastline, where the immense power of the waves becomes palpable.

  • Charming Coastal Town: After a day of adventure, explore the quaint streets of Nazaré town. Sample fresh seafood at local restaurants, browse artisanal shops, and soak in the laid-back atmosphere of this charming coastal destination.

  • Unforgettable Memories: Whether you’re a history buff, a surfing enthusiast, or simply a traveler in search of unforgettable experiences, a visit to Nazaré Fort promises to leave you with memories that will last a lifetime. So don’t miss out on the opportunity to witness the convergence of history, nature, and adrenaline at this iconic Portuguese landmark.

  • Natural Beauty: Beyond the adrenaline rush of big wave surfing, Nazaré boasts stunning natural beauty. Explore the rugged coastline, stroll along pristine beaches, and marvel at the dramatic cliffs that frame the ocean – all accessible from the vantage point of Nazaré Fort.

Nazare big wave museum at the S. Miguel Arcanjo Fort

The Nazare Big Wave Museum at the S. Miguel Arcanjo Fort is a tribute to this phenomenal force of nature that draws surfers and tourists alike to this region. The Nazare Big Wave Museum is located inside the S. Miguel Arcanjo Fort, which dates back to the 16th century. The fort was originally built to protect the town from pirates and other invaders, but today it serves a different purpose. The fort has been renovated and transformed into a museum dedicated to the history of big wave surfing and the role that Nazare has played in this sport.

The museum is spread over two floors and is home to an impressive collection of surfboards, photographs, videos, and other artifacts that tell the story of big wave surfing in Nazare. One of the most striking exhibits is a collection of surfboards that have been broken during big wave sessions. These boards are a testament to the power of the waves and the bravery of the surfers who ride them.

Another highlight of the museum is the wall of fame, which features photographs of some of the most famous big wave surfers in the world. Surfers like Garrett McNamara, Maya Gabeira, and Carlos Burle are just a few of the names that are immortalized on this wall. Visitors to the museum can learn about these surfers and their incredible feats of courage and skill, as well as the risks and dangers associated with surfing in these extreme conditions.

In addition to the exhibits, the museum also offers a virtual reality experience that allows visitors to feel what it’s like to ride a big wave in Nazare. The VR experience is an exciting way to get a taste of the adrenaline rush that surfers experience when they tackle these massive waves. The museum also offers guided tours, which are a great way to learn more about the history and culture of Nazare and the surrounding region.

But the Nazare Big Wave Museum is more than just a tourist attraction. It is also an important resource for researchers and scientists who are studying big wave surfing and the ocean. The museum has collaborated with universities and research institutions to collect data and conduct experiments that shed light on the physics and mechanics of big waves. This research is not only fascinating but also contributes to our understanding of the ocean and the environment.

The museum is also committed to promoting sustainability and environmental conservation. One of the ways that they do this is by organizing beach cleanups and educational programs that teach visitors about the importance of preserving the natural beauty of the region. They also work closely with local businesses and organizations to promote eco-tourism and responsible tourism practices.

Overall, the Nazare Big Wave Museum at the S. Miguel Arcanjo Fort is a must-visit destination for anyone interested in surfing, history, or the environment. It offers a unique and immersive experience that allows visitors to explore the fascinating world of big wave surfing while also learning about the culture and heritage of Nazare. The museum’s commitment to sustainability and environmental conservation is also commendable and sets an example for other tourist attractions around the world.

If you’re planning a trip to Portugal, be sure to add the Nazare Big Wave Museum to your itinerary. Whether you’re a seasoned surfer or just a curious traveler, you won’t be disappointed by what this museum has to offer. It’s a true gem that highlights the best of what Nazare has to offer and is sure to leave a lasting impression on anyone who visits.


Exploring the Annual Big Wave Event at Nazare, Portugal

The annual Nazare big wave event is a must-see for anyone interested in surfing or extreme sports. The massive waves and unique geography of the region make it one of the most spectacular events in the world.
The event has also brought attention and economic benefits to the small town of Nazaré. The influx of tourists and media attention generated by the competition has helped to boost the local economy, and has put Nazaré on the map as a premier destination for big wave surfing.

Hawaiian Garrett McNamara puts Nazare on the map in 2011

The big wave phenomenon in Nazare began to attract international attention in 2011 when Hawaiian surfer Garrett McNamara rode a 78-foot wave, setting a new world record. Since then, Nazare has been on the radar of big wave surfers worldwide. The massive waves at Nazare are a result of the unique geography of the region. The Nazare Canyon, an underwater gorge off the coast, amplifies the size of the waves as they approach the shore. This, combined with the Atlantic storms that hit the coastline during the winter months, creates the perfect conditions for monster waves.

The annual Nazare Tow Surfing Challenge

The annual big wave event at Nazaré, Portugal, is one of the most exciting and awe-inspiring spectacles in the world of surfing. This event, known as the Nazaré Tow Surfing Challenge, draws surfers and spectators from around the world to witness some of the biggest waves ever ridden. The Nazaré Tow Surfing Challenge began in 2016 as a response to the growing interest in big wave surfing at Nazaré. The event is organized by the World Surf League (WSL), the governing body for professional surfing, and takes place between October and February, when the biggest swells are expected to hit the coast. The competition is unique in that it is a tow-in surfing event, meaning that surfers are towed into the waves by jet skis, rather than paddling into them. This allows surfers to catch bigger waves that would be impossible to paddle into, as well as providing a safety mechanism in case of wipeouts or dangerous situations. The event is open to a select group of elite surfers, who are invited to compete based on their experience and skill in big wave surfing. These surfers come from all over the world, with representation from countries such as the United States, Australia, Brazil, and Portugal.

In addition to the competition itself, the Nazaré Tow Surfing Challenge also provides an opportunity for surfers to push the limits of what is possible in the world of big wave surfing. Surfers are constantly trying to ride bigger and more challenging waves, and the competition at Nazaré provides a platform for them to do so in a safe and controlled environment.

Biggest challenges for surfers at big wave surfing event

One of the biggest challenges facing surfers at Nazaré is the sheer size and power of the waves. The waves at Nazaré can reach heights of up to 100 feet, making them some of the biggest waves in the world. These waves are not only intimidating in size, but also in power, as the force of the water can be strong enough to cause serious injury or even death. In addition to the size and power of the waves, surfers also face challenges related to the tow-in aspect of the competition. Timing is critical in tow-in surfing, as the surfer and jet ski must work together to catch the wave at the right moment. If the timing is off, the surfer may miss the wave entirely, or be caught in the impact zone, where the force of the wave can be particularly dangerous. Despite these challenges, the Nazaré Tow Surfing Challenge is an incredibly exciting and thrilling event for both surfers and spectators. The anticipation leading up to the competition is palpable, as surfers watch weather forecasts and ocean conditions in anticipation of the next big swell. When the competition finally takes place, the atmosphere is electric, as surfers push themselves to ride the biggest waves possible, and spectators cheer them on from the shore.

Best time to visit and where to watch

The Big Wave Season

The big wave season in Nazare runs from November to February. During this period, the town sees an influx of surfers, photographers, and spectators from around the world. The waves can reach up to 100 feet in height, making it an incredible spectacle to witness. The most significant swells tend to occur in December and January, but you may get lucky and witness a massive wave at any time during the season as the waves can be unpredictable. It’s worth noting that the weather can be cold and stormy during this period, so be sure to pack appropriately.

Where to Watch

If you’re planning to watch the big waves in Nazare, there are several spots to catch the action. The most popular viewing spot is the North Beach, where you can see the waves up close and personal. The lighthouse at the end of the beach is an excellent vantage point. Another popular viewing spot is the Forte de Sao Miguel Arcanjo, which offers a panoramic view of the coastline.



Tow-in or paddle in at Nazare's big wave surfing event

What is Tow-in Surfing?

Tow-in surfing is a technique used in big wave surfing where surfers are towed into waves by a jet ski. This method was developed in the 1990s and has since become a popular way for surfers to tackle big waves that are too fast and steep to paddle into.

In Nazare, tow-in surfing is often the preferred method for tackling the biggest waves because it allows surfers to catch the wave earlier and gain more speed. The speed provided by the jet ski tow enables surfers to take on larger waves that would be impossible to catch using the paddle-in method.

Tow-in surfing is also popular because it allows surfers to get into position faster, which is essential in Nazare, where the waves move quickly and are often unpredictable. With a jet ski tow, surfers can be in the right spot at the right time, allowing them to catch the wave and ride it to its maximum potential.

What is Paddle-in Surfing?

Paddle-in surfing is a technique where surfers paddle into waves using their own strength. This method is more traditional and has been used for many years, even before tow-in surfing was developed.

In Nazare, paddle-in surfing is still used by many surfers, especially those who prefer a more traditional approach. Paddle-in surfing requires a high level of physical fitness and skill, as surfers must paddle hard and fast to catch the wave before it breaks.

Paddle-in surfing also requires a deep understanding of the ocean and the waves, as surfers must be able to read the waves and anticipate their movements. In Nazare, where the waves are often large and unpredictable, this skill is essential for surfers who want to take on the biggest waves.

The Differences Between Tow-in and Paddle-in Surfing

While both tow-in and paddle-in surfing are used in Nazare, there are significant differences between the two techniques. The main differences are in:

  • the equipment used,
  • the speed of the waves, and
  • the skill level required.

Tow-in surfing requires a jet ski, a tow rope, and a surfboard. The jet ski is used to tow the surfer into the wave, while the tow rope is used to connect the surfer to the jet ski. The surfboard used in tow-in surfing is typically shorter, heavier and wider than a standard surfboard and comes with straps, allowing for more speed, control and manoeuvrability.

Paddle-in surfing requires only a surfboard and the surfer’s own strength. The surfboard used in paddle-in surfing is typically longer and narrower than a tow-in surfboard and has a lot more volume, providing more stability in the water and better proportions for wave catching.

Wave Speed
In Nazare, the waves can reach speeds of up to 60 miles per hour. Paddle-in surfing requires surfers to paddle into the wave at high speeds, which can be challenging and dangerous. Tow-in surfing, on the other hand, allows surfers to catch the wave earlier and at higher speeds, making it easier to ride the wave and maintain control.
Skill Level

Both tow-in and paddle-in surfing require a high level of skill, but they require different types of skills. Tow-in surfing requires skill in maneuvering a surfboard at high speeds and the ability to handle a jet ski in difficult conditions.

Paddle-in surfing requires a high level of skill and fitness, as the surfer must paddle out to the wave and then catch it using only their own strength. This method of surfing allows for a greater sense of accomplishment, as the surfer is relying solely on their own abilities to catch and ride the wave.

Why do big waves happen at Praia do Norte - Nazaré

Praia do Norte, located in the small town of Nazaré, Portugal, has become a world-renowned destination for surfers seeking the thrill of riding massive waves. The beach’s unique geography and bathymetry create ideal conditions for the formation of gigantic swells that can reach heights of up to 100 feet.
In the case of Nazaré, the North Canyon is a large submarine canyon that extends from the coast out to the deep ocean. This canyon is the key to the formation of the big waves at Praia do Norte

The Formation of Nazare North Canyon

The North Canyon is around 170 kilometers long and up to 5 kilometers wide, with a maximum depth of 5,000 meters. It is the largest canyon on the Iberian Peninsula and one of the largest in the world. This canyon acts as a funnel for ocean swells, creating a narrowing effect that causes the waves to become larger and steeper. As the waves travel along the canyon, they also experience a change in direction, which further amplifies their size and power.

The canyon’s formation began approximately 100 million years ago during the Late Cretaceous period when the Iberian Plate collided with the Eurasian Plate. This tectonic activity caused the crust to be uplifted, creating the mountain range that runs along the Portuguese coast. Over time, erosion from rivers and ocean currents began to carve out the canyon, creating the deep underwater valley that exists today.

The Nazaré North Canyon is unique because it is situated close to the coast, which means that the waves that travel along it eventually reach shallow waters near Praia do Norte. When waves reach shallow water, their speed decreases, causing the wave height to increase. This process is known as wave shoaling, and it is the reason why waves at Nazaré can reach such enormous heights.

The Nazaré North Canyon has been studied extensively by scientists and researchers in recent years, who have used advanced technology to understand its structure and dynamics. In 2013, a team of oceanographers from the Portuguese Hydrographic Institute and the University of Aveiro installed a series of underwater sensors in the canyon to measure the speed and direction of the ocean currents. They found that the canyon acts as a natural waveguide, channeling the energy of the ocean swells and creating ideal conditions for big waves.


If you are looking for a fulfilling experience, new friendships and most of all, memorable surf holidays, then join us for an unforgettable adventure!

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