Nazaré: welcome to the powerful waves of Praia do Norte | Photo: Masurel/WSL

Today, Nazaré is one of the most popular big wave surf breaks on the planet.

Every year, the quiet fishing village attracts hundreds of multinational athletes and thousands of tourists from all over the world, who seek to ride and witness the power of Nature.

Whenever a wave breaks near the iconic Nazaré cliff, you hear a thunderous crash fired from the local underwater valley. It really is an unforgettable sensorial experience.

The geomorphological phenomenon funnels the swell's energy and increases the size of the waves that break at Praia do Norte.

Take a look at the most interesting and curious facts about Nazaré, and the behemoth waves of Portugal's Praia do Norte.

1. Nazaré is an old fishing village that dates back to the 17th-century;

2. Sítio da Nazaré, the promontory that sits north of the village, owes its origin to the legend of Our Lady of Nazaré and, in particular, to the miracle of Dom Fuas Roupinho;

3. In 1780, Nazaré Beach was home to a mere 50 wooden huts;

Nazaré: wipeouts should be avoided | Photo: Masurel/WSL

4. Nazaré's first canned sardine factory opened in 1885;

5. An elevator makes the connection between the lower and the upper side of Nazaré - it is working since 1889;

6. In 1914, the official name of the town changed from Nazareth to Nazaré;

7. On May 20, 1945, just two weeks after capitulation of the Nazis and the end of World War II, the crew of German submarine U-963 scuttled their watercraft 500 yards off the coast of Nazaré;

U-963: the German submarine was scuttled off the coast of Nazaré on May 20, 1945

8. Queen Elizabeth II visited Nazaré in 1957;

9. The fishing harbor of Nazaré opened in 1983;

10. Nowadays, Nazaré has 15,000 inhabitants;

11. Nazaré's nearest airport is 120 kilometers away in Lisbon;

12. Nazaré has a high-performance surfing center. The facility is located 400 meters northeast of Praia do Norte;

13. The Nazaré underwater canyon is 140 miles (230 kilometers) long, and has a maximum depth of 16,000 feet (5,000 meters);

14. The first ever published picture of a big wave breaking at Praia do Norte was taken by Portuguese photographer Miguel Costa. The shot was published in "Wave," a German surf magazine, on March 1996. The photo reveals a giant wave, the iconic Fort, and a food caravan named "Nazaré À Vista" (Nazaré In Sight);

Praia do Norte, 1996: the photo taken by Miguel Costa was published in the German surf magazine 'Wave' | Photo: Miguel Costa

15. Contrary to popular belief, the waves of Nazaré, and of Praia do Norte in particular, are not new to wave riders. Portuguese bodyboarders have been surfing it for a long time;

Sumol Nazaré Special Edition: the bodyboarding event runs every year since 2003 at Praia do Norte

16. Teresa Almeida, the 2014 ISA world bodyboarding champion, hails from Nazaré;

17. In 1968, American filmmakers Greg MacGillivray and Jim Freeman shot a short surf movie in Nazaré. The surfers rode waves at the main Nazaré Beach, the strip of sand that runs along the town's seaside front;


18. Clube de Desportos Alternativos da Nazaré (CDAN) is the name of Nazaré's first surf club. It was founded in 2002 by Casimiro, Jorge Anastácio, Miguel Prates, Paulo Salvador, and other young riders from Portugal;

19. Garrett McNamara had never heard of Nazaré until 2005 when local bodyboarder Dino Casimiro sent him an email with pictures of giant waves breaking at Praia do Norte;

20. In 2008, photojournalist Miguel Barreira was awarded third place in the World Press Photo for a shot featuring bodyboarder Jaime Jesus pulling an aerial in Praia do Norte, during the Nazaré Special Edition;

Jaime Jesus: this shot by Miguel Barreira won third place in the 2018 World Press Photo | Photo: Miguel Barreira/WPP

21. Multiple-time world bodyboarding champion Mike Stewart was one of the first foreign riders to surf Praia do Norte in maxing conditions;

22. Mike Stewart won the 2009 Sumol Nazaré Special Edition, a big wave bodyboarding event first held at Praia do Norte in 2003;

23. McNamara only decided to book his first trip to Nazaré in 2010;

24. On November 1, 2011, Garrett McNamara rode a 78-foot (23,7 meters) wave at Praia do Norte for the ZON North Canyon Show;


25. The most widely seen shot of GMAC's ride was taken by Tó Mané, a surf photographer from Porto. The famous picture traveled the world in less than 24 hours;

26. The 78-foot wave by Garrett McNamara was considered to be the largest wave ever ridden by the Guinness Book of Records;

27. McNamara's record-breaking wave lasted 24 seconds;

28. The worst place to end a ride at Praia do Norte is near the cliff - the currents will drag you and push you against the rocks. That is why surfers rarely take on right-handers;

Praia do Norte: never go right | Photo: Masurel/WSL

29. The giant waves of Praia do Norte have never claimed the life of a surfer, even though there have been several close calls;

30. Andrew Cotton, Maya Gabeira, Tom Butler, and Ross Clarke-Jones are some of the surfers who suffered life-threatening wipeouts at Praia do Norte;

31. In 2015, surfer-musician Nuno Santos played his violin while surfing the big waves of Praia do Norte;


32. Nazaré joined the World Surf League (WSL) Big Wave Tour for the first time in 2016;

33. In 2017, the elevator transported 946,000 people between Nazaré and Sítio, while 174 mil tourists visited the Fort of São Miguel Arcanjo;

34. Nazaré's big wave surfing season spans from October to February, when the North Atlantic swells hit the coast at full throttle;

Nazaré: the winter season kicks off in October and ends in February | Photo: Masurel/WSL

35. The best place to watch, feel and photograph the mighty waves of Nazaré is at Fort of São Miguel Arcanjo, built in 1577;

36. Fort of São Miguel Arcanjo resisted the French Invasions of Portugal and became a symbol of the Portuguese resilience and perseverance;

Fort of São Miguel Arcanjo: built in 1577 | Photo: Praia do Norte

37. The Nazaré Lighthouse was only built inside the Fort in 1903;

38. The waves of Praia do Norte have already been ridden by surfers, bodyboarders, windsurfers, kiteboarders, skimboarders, and bodysurfers;

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