Praia do Norte, Nazaré: bigger, heavier

Winter Storm Hercules was the perfect moment to criticize Nazaré, its famous big wave and the local authorities. So, why is Praia do Norte the unwanted spot of the big wave lobby?


Surfers have a natural tendency to think they know more about the ocean and the waves than weather forecasters, oceanographers, harbormasters and maritime forces.

When the "Black Swell" hit Europe during Winter Storm Hercules, the largest majority of the world's best big wave surfers traveled to the Southwest of France to ride Belharra. In fact, the swell angle was particularly favorable for the infamous reef break. No doubt about that.

At Praia do Norte, Nazaré, there were giants waves breaking out the back, too, but the swell wasn't hitting the local underwater canyon like it should. Wind was not working well, too.

On the 5th January, 2014, the Nazaré Port Captaincy has granted tow-in permission to a team of big wave surfers, although riders opted for staying out of the water.

Later, several surf photographers, surf journalists, and wannabe big wave surfers started criticizing the Nazaré Port Captaincy for not allowing tow-in at Praia do Norte. "How could them?", "we want to surf", "it's the end of a surf town", "Nazaré is losing its customers".

Apparently, everyone - from America and Australia, to South Africa and Central Europe - knows the Portuguese ocean waters better than the local maritime authorities, and fully understand the power of the local canyon.

"Nazaré is one of the most magical places I have ever been with the most passionate and loving people, and not to mention the biggest waves I have ever seen or ridden".

"In the last 30 years, I have learned that preparation is everything. These laws that the Navy has had in place for many years ensure that people are prepared and safe", explains Garrett McNamara, a man who needs no introduction.

"We have to follow the rules put in place by the Navy to keep everyone safe. We had to find good working skis, we had to get insurance, we had to get licenses and we had to have safety on land".

"We should be showing them and the local police appreciation for keeping us safe. If someone unprepared goes out there and gets in trouble it is putting innocent people on the beach or in the water who have to help them in danger", McNamara wrote on his Facebook page.

The Hawaiian daredevil understands what many still try to deny. Each country has its rules. The Portuguese Navy, tracing back to the 12th century, is the oldest continuously serving navy in the world. Surf media needs to think about it, before making its own perfect judgments.

The big waves of Nazaré have been hitting the shores for a long time. Before the popularity brought by McNamara's impressive stunts, local bodyboarders were there in the crazy days. Alone, without video cameras and stressed photographers.

Nazaré is probably the first European big wave surf spot to get worldwide attention. The media focus, as well as the tourism revenues, book and DVD sales, has been split between the American continent lobby (Jaws, Ghost Tree, Nelscott Reef, Cortes Bank, Mavericks, Pipeline, Puerto Escondido, Todos Santos, Punta de Lobos, Arica, Pico Alto) and the Asian Polynesian spots.

Waves ridden by Garrett McNamara, Carlos Burle and Maya Gabeira have been under heavy fire for multiple reasons. The photo angle, the steepness of the wave, the height of the wall, the tow-in/paddle permissions, or the women's ability to surf big waves have been excuses to attack Nazaré.

One thing is for sure. The giant walls of salted water will keep visiting Nazaré and the local law of the sea shall be respected.