Praia do Norte, Nazaré, Portugal: have you got what it takes to ride this wave? | Photo: Shutterstock

Nazaré probably is the most powerful beach break. The Portuguese big wave surfing spot is as exciting as it will test your limits - as a surfer and as a human being.

The thrill and the adrenaline rush of riding a colossal wave at Praia do Norte represent, for many athletes, the culmination of a long career.

However, Nazaré, with its secrets, paradoxes, temper, and fury can easily and quickly take you down.

If you've decided to give it a go, and potentially ride the wave of a lifetime, then make sure to tick the following boxes.

Praia do Norte is a not a challenge for the fearless. It is a psychological and physical test to the savvy surfers who learn to harness its authority with a humble attitude.

Nazaré: a big wave with a sensitive temperament | Photo: Shutterstock

1. Prepare Mentally

Make no mistake. You're about to face one of the most challenging waves on planet Earth.

With an unlimited raw power, and sometimes breaking under grey skies, heavy rainfall and howling cold winds, Nazaré is a mirror of Nature in its fiercest state.

Therefore, the golden rule of surfing the big waves of Nazaré is to be mentally prepared for something you may have never seen.

The wave that breaks at the end of the deep underwater canyon is as bizarre as it is intimidating. If you can't control fear, don't ever think of getting out the back.

So, whether you're into yoga or meditation, you've got to be mentally ready for the overwhelming challenges ahead.

The truth is that the wave of Nazaré could very well be the last thing you'll see in your life. And not everyone is able to handle that burden.

2. Improve your Breath-Hold

You're not ready for Praia do Norte if you're not prepared to overcome a massive wipeout or a brutal three-wave hold-down.

In other words, you've got to be able to hold your breath for between 90 and 240 seconds. In some situations, you will be fortunate to get a breath before a giant lips land on top of your fragile body.

For Nazaré, a surfer needs to be physically (and mentally) apt for being held underwater for a long and stressful time. Otherwise, it's game over by drowning.

The Nazaré Lighthouse: a strategic observation point for studying the waves | Photo: Shutterstock

3. Study the Break from the Lighthouse

The Nazaré Lighthouse provides a spectacular view of the big wave arena. It's a dramatic and arresting spot from where you can watch and hear the waves explode down under.

But, most importantly, the structure located on the fort on the furthermost promontory of the local cliff will give you critical data and valuable riding clues on how to survive the mammoth wave.

In this particular case, knowledge is power.

The iconic Portuguese lighthouse will allow you to study multiple patterns, including the time between sets, the size and breaking angle of the waves, the exact location of the peak, the effects of wind on the face of the wave, the tides, and the tricky currents that may push into deadly no-go zones.

The more you observe Nazaré's Praia do Norte from up above, the better you'll be prepared for the ride.

4. Talk with the Veterans

The Nazaré wave has a lot of secrets. Some of them have not yet been unveiled.

To know about when, where and how to ride the world's biggest wave, ask local surfers and foreign veterans about the idiosyncrasies of Praia do Norte.

The winter season at the Portuguese big wave surf break can be long and tough. Try to gather precious information and tips from fellow watermen and waterwomen.

They'll guide through the tricky process of taking off, drawing a line, and successfully kicking out of a 75-foot wave.

Nazaré: a jet ski may save a surfer's life | Photo: WSL

5. Get a Jet Ski Partner

You can't surf Nazaré without a team. Make sure you get yourself a partner you can trust.

He will not only tow you into the best waves, but he will also be ready to rescue you and eventually save your life in case you pass out.

The more you train and know each other, the more chances of surviving the death-defying experience.

6. Train in Medium-Sized Conditions

Nazaré has waves for all sizes and tastes. During summer, you may be catching one-foot waves on a longboard. When fall comes, a double overhead is warning you for what is about to unfold.

And when the cold season arrives, the swells start building. Initially in the 30-foot range, and later in 50-to-80 range.

The trick is to get used to bigger and bigger waves, like layers of a cake. The bigger they get, the more comfortable you are because you surfed through all the increments of fear.

The biggest wave of the season generally is the cherry on top of the cake. In other words, it's the final stage of a long and strenuous process.

Praia do Norte: never go left | Photo: WSL

7. Adopt a Conservative First Step Approach

Nazaré has a highly sensitive temperament, and it is constantly changing and mutating.

As you arrive, spend a few minutes watching its behavior and beat temptation. Observe its breaking patterns, and watch others taking off.

Once you feel ready, share your thoughts with your jet ski partner and study the opportunities.

Remember that the first the wave of the set must be perfect for you to go for it. If you fall or wipe out, you'll be taking the upcoming waves on the head.

8. Don't Surf the Lowest Third of the Wave

Nazaré is a big wave, but it's not famous for allowing you to ride it at high speeds.

That is simultaneously an advantage and a problem. An advantage, because you won't be descending it at full throttle; a problem because you won't be able to escape a falling lip or whitewater mountain as fast as you wish.

So, whenever you take on an XXL experience at Praia do Norte, remember to stay in the first top half of the wave where you'll be closer to the exit door.

9. Don't Go Left

Although many times seen as a golden opportunity, Nazaré's left-hand wave often carries a ticket to hell.

Why? Because the left at Praia do Norte traditionally ends in a purgatory zone, a place of human torture where eight-story waves break over rocks.

Surfers have taken the risk and nearly paid the ultimate price. Are you that stubborn?

10. Kick Out Early

If you're a too-much-is-never-enough adventurer, then Nazaré is not a wave for you.

Here, the experience is short and intense. Anything beyond that is not a smart move. So, don't be greedy. Plan your exit before you can.


Discover the 10 commandments of the big wave surfer.