Nazaré: crowds invaded the surrounding amid a global pandemic | Photo: Praia do Norte

The captain of the Port of Nazaré announced that all free surf and tow-in surfing activities are prohibited until further notice.

The decision to end all big wave surfing sessions and events at Praia do Norte was taken after the recent swell attracted thousands of spectators to the nearby cliffs.

Between October and November 2020, Portugal witnessed a sudden spike in Covid-19 cases and deaths, resulting in hospitals, health professionals, and intensive care units under strain.

"Crowds pose an increased risk to public health, and compliance with the pandemic containment measures is practically uncontrollable," states José António Zeferino Henriques.

The lieutenant commander of the Portuguese Navy based his decision to ban all wave riding activities in Nazaré on a statement issued by the regional health authorities.

Walter Chicharro, the mayor of Nazaré, requested an urgent meeting with the national health authority.

"We want to present a contingency plan developed in conjunction with the National Authority for Civil Protection, firefighters, police, and the Captaincy the Port of Nazaré," Chicharro stated.

"We plan to control access to critical working areas - like the beach and the lighthouse road - and limit the number of people in the surroundings to between 2,000 and 2,500 people."

Economics Matter

Walter Chicharro does not rule out the use of private security services "so that the authorities are focused and available for law enforcement measures."

The mayor of Nazaré says the town is ready to assume all costs and plans to ensure that the next tow-in sessions are broadcast online, "so that the connection to the world is not compromised."

The holding period for the Nazaré Tow Surfing Challenge officially opened on November 2, 2020, and the local authorities are trying to avoid cancelation.

"The investment that the city council and the country have made in the globalization of this phenomenon - namely with the campaign of Turismo de Portugal in Times Square - and the support of surfers who visit Nazaré in search of the waves and records, must be respected," concludes Water Chicharro.

"At the same time, we have to guarantee effective access control and the enforcement of health and safety protocols to spectators so that surfers can paddle out and compete."

Nazaré relies heavily on the surf economy, with hundreds of businesses and professionals directly and indirectly involved in the local big wave phenomenon.

As of November 5, 2020, Portugal has around 15,500 cases of Covid-19 per million residents.

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