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4 March 2017    /    

Seeing 100 feet waves in Nazaré, Portugal-

The biggest waves in the world are waiting for you in Nazaré…

Nazaré, Portugal: for surfers and big wave lovers, this little town north of Lisbon has become a true legend. Imagine a moving skyscraper, imagine an ancient giant brought back to life by some sorceress’s spell, imagine monsters rushing from the deep to explode at the surface in gigantic bursts of white foam. Waves in Nazaré hold all records. The biggest wave ever surfed was a 111 feet (34 meters) wave ridden by Garret McNamara here in Nazaré.

See the biggest waves in the world in Nazaré, Portugal. Mind-blowing big wave surf on monsters reaching 100 feet.

Monsters unleashed.

See the biggest waves in the world in Nazaré, Portugal. Mind-blowing big wave surf on monsters reaching 100 feet.

The monster’s back

See the biggest waves in the world in Nazaré, Portugal. Mind-blowing big wave surf on monsters reaching 100 feet.

White water in XXXL size

See the biggest waves in the world in Nazaré, Portugal. Mind-blowing big wave surf on monsters reaching 100 feet.

Splash! Foam explosion

See the biggest waves in the world in Nazaré, Portugal. Mind-blowing big wave surf on monsters reaching 100 feet.

Raging sea

Monster waves: a childhood dream

In an older blog post, I told you about my endless love for waves, and especially the biggest ones: gnarly monsters, freak waves, a sailor’s nightmare made flesh and foam. I fell in love with big waves when I was 7, and have dreamt of them ever since. Seeing 100 feet waves was my ultimate travel fantasy and fulfilled my dearest dream. I am still shaking when I think of what I saw last Tuesday, February 28. A storm off the tip of Greenland descended down North Atlantic and unleashed monsters on Portugal’s coastline. Nazaré is the place where they will rise in full majesty.

 

See the biggest waves in the world in Nazaré, Portugal. Mind-blowing big wave surf on monsters reaching 100 feet.

Underwater creatures

See the biggest waves in the world in Nazaré, Portugal. Mind-blowing big wave surf on monsters reaching 100 feet.

Just like a painting by Hokusai

See the biggest waves in the world in Nazaré, Portugal. Mind-blowing big wave surf on monsters reaching 100 feet.

Open new paths…

See the biggest waves in the world in Nazaré, Portugal. Mind-blowing big wave surf on monsters reaching 100 feet.

Majestic Nazaré

See the biggest waves in the world in Nazaré, Portugal. Mind-blowing big wave surf on monsters reaching 100 feet.

Hypnotic white water

The biggest waves in the world: a sight I won’t ever forget

Why Nazaré? Because of an underwater, 1600 feet (500 meters) deep canyon facing Praia do Norte (North Beach), which multiplies the power and height of a swell. Deep currents come from the open ocean and suddenly face this huge underwater cliff – they then surface like an angry cobra and create the biggest waves in the world.

Sometimes it’s hard to tell on pictures how big the waves really are, how impossibly big. Just look at the black little dots on my pictures. They are big wave surfers and security team jet skis. They will reveal the scale. You see an ant next to a skyscraper. I can’t imagine the amount of recklessness and courage you need to go out in the water and ride such infernal creatures.

I can barely convey the terrifying majesty of such a vision, when the ocean crashes in deafening thunder, and even pictures can’t fully do it justice. Seeing the biggest waves in the world is a truly overwhelming experience, it will send shivers down your spine. I saw people in tears or in prayer, humbled by this otherworldly display of Mother Nature’s power. It was a real emotional roller coaster for me too, and my heart was out of control, beating along with this white water rising and crashing onto the endless surface. There is only other experience I can compare this with: seeing Kilauea volcano erupting in Hawaii. Raw nature power. Sublime, unspeakable beauty. Awe and rapture. You feel dwarfed, crushed into nothingness by the mighty universe, and still exhilarated, so incredibly lucky to be alive. During this glorious Tuesday when I saw Nazaré erupting in white water, I couldn’t stop thinking: “Thank you. Thank you for the feet that brought me here and for the eyes that can see this magic. Thank you for this one life.”

 

See the biggest waves in the world in Nazaré, Portugal. Mind-blowing big wave surf on monsters reaching 100 feet.

Man at sea!

See the biggest waves in the world in Nazaré, Portugal. Mind-blowing big wave surf on monsters reaching 100 feet.

Raw power

See the biggest waves in the world in Nazaré, Portugal. Mind-blowing big wave surf on monsters reaching 100 feet.

A surfer on a 65 feet wave

See the biggest waves in the world in Nazaré, Portugal. Mind-blowing big wave surf on monsters reaching 100 feet.

An open door…

See the biggest waves in the world in Nazaré, Portugal. Mind-blowing big wave surf on monsters reaching 100 feet.

Sunset in Nazaré

But you don’t have to believe me: you can see it for yourself.
Nazaré is the very best place in the whole world to see giant waves. Here is a quick guide to seeing 100 feet record-breaking waves in Nazaré.

Where is Nazaré and how to get there?

It’s a very lovely little town on the coast of Portugal. You have to drive 1 hour and 30 minutes from Lisbon, or 2 hours and 30 minutes from Porto. Simply take a plane to Lisbon or Porto, rent a car and drive to Nazaré. But the key is to go there at the right time….

When can you see giant waves in Nazaré?

Winter storms will awaken the monsters. Surfers are keeping an eye on Nazaré from late October to late March approximately. In the heart of winter (January-February), it’s often rough in Nazaré. But to see 50-100 feet waves, the real thing, you have to wait for very specific conditions…

How will you know when the monster waves are coming?

You have to follow surf forecasts on websites such as Windguru or my personal favorite, Magicseaweed. I knew the giant waves were coming thanks to Magicseaweed’s Facebook page, and I also follow the founder, Ben Freeston, on Instagram and Twitter. But you can have a look at forecasts directly on Magicseaweed’s website.
You have to react quickly and be a bit flexible (or lucky): you will know the perfect swell is coming approximately 3 or 4 days in advance.
Another very useful website is Nazaré Waves: it features a live webcam.

What is a good forecast for giant waves?

Big waves are like a magic spell or a wizard’s broth, precise numbers are expected.

* The swell has to be at least 6 meters (20 feet) big. Nazaré’s underwater canyon will multiply the swell three times or more.

* The interval between two waves, or period, has to be at least 14 seconds long – the longer, the better. It enables the waves to store more energy and to go higher. Doubling the period means doubling the height.

* The waves have to be oriented westward or northwestward, facing the shore.

* The wind has to be weak and come from the coast: it will deepen the wave and make it reach better heights.

Where exactly in Nazaré do the waves come?

On North Beach, Praia do Norte. The (lovely) city is built facing the ocean on the main beach (Praia da Nazaré). When you’re on the main beach, you’ll see a big cliff on your right, with a red lighthouse at its tip (Farol da Nazaré). You can reach Praia do Norte simply by driving directly there (you can park), or by walking from the city center and taking a cable car which will bring you up the hill. Then simply walk down to the lighthouse. The waves break around the lighthouse, and it’s the best spot to see them. But the cliff above the lighthouse is also a nice place to take some global shots, and a last spot is interesting: down the lighthouse, there’s a stairway leading you close to the water, on some ocean terrace. This is where I shot the “foam on the rocks” pictures from.

What makes Nazaré so unique is the fact that the waves are so close, so accessible. Big waves often break in remote places, far away from the shore – not here. The monsters will come and eat in your hand.

Where shall you sleep?

Many people rent a van and park on North Beach. I wouldn’t advice camping in a tent: it’s winter, it can get really cold, even in Portugal. But a van sounds like a good option.

You won’t find hotels on North Beach, but in the city center. I slept in Hotel Praia, which was 50 meters away from Nazaré’s main beach and had a rooftop pool and terrace where you could see the ocean. The rooms were lovely, breakfast excellent, and I paid 55 euros.

Did I tempt you? Will you go to Nazaré?

See the biggest waves in the world in Nazaré, Portugal. Mind-blowing big wave surf on monsters reaching 100 feet.

Splash – again!

See the biggest waves in the world in Nazaré, Portugal. Mind-blowing big wave surf on monsters reaching 100 feet.

Foam balls on the beach

See the biggest waves in the world in Nazaré, Portugal. Mind-blowing big wave surf on monsters reaching 100 feet.

In a few moments…

See the biggest waves in the world in Nazaré, Portugal. Mind-blowing big wave surf on monsters reaching 100 feet.

Nazaré’s main beach

See the biggest waves in the world in Nazaré, Portugal. Mind-blowing big wave surf on monsters reaching 100 feet.

Hello, monster!

See the biggest waves in the world in Nazaré, Portugal. Mind-blowing big wave surf on monsters reaching 100 feet.

Just another freak wave

See the biggest waves in the world in Nazaré, Portugal. Mind-blowing big wave surf on monsters reaching 100 feet.

Lonesome surfer

See the biggest waves in the world in Nazaré, Portugal. Mind-blowing big wave surf on monsters reaching 100 feet.

Jaws of the sea

See the biggest waves in the world in Nazaré, Portugal. Mind-blowing big wave surf on monsters reaching 100 feet.

Ride on and don’t look behind!

 

See the biggest waves in the world in Nazaré, Portugal. Mind-blowing big wave surf on monsters reaching 100 feet.

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35 commentaires pour
“Seeing 100 feet waves in Nazaré, Portugal”

  • The photos both terrify and excite me. . . Would love to see more of portugal and make this a definite point of my visit.

  • Thank you Ariana! I think you will love Portugal!

  • Wow. My jaw just dropped reading this! I even got chills. It freaks me out a bit to think of waves that big. I would love to come see it for myself firsthand!

  • Thank you so much, Asia! It was exactly the way I felt and I am glad I could convey it! I wish for you to experience the show one day 🙂

  • Wow amazing pictures! there are so many cool places between Lisbon and Porto, adding Nazare to my list right now!

  • I agree, Portugal is stunning and inspiring! Glad to have shown you Nazaré 🙂

  • I love this! I’m headed to Portugal this summer. Hopefully I can catch a few of these.

  • Oh, Portugal in the summer is amazing! No giant waves, but perfect landscapes, beautiful coastline, lovely villages, nice people! Enjoy!

  • Loved this post. I am actually going to Portugal in November so hopefully I may be able to head here and see some of these incredible waves. Your photos are amazing and I love that you talked about how the waves are created and when the best time is to go. Totally forgot that there is a science to it. Thanks a lot!!

  • November might be a good time if you are lucky! Fingers crossed for you :-)) Thank you so much!

  • Oh my goodness I had NO idea about this place but would love to go sit and watch the waves all come in! The surfers must be a little bit crazy to go out in this! Your photos are incredible!

    Adding this destination to my bucket list ASAP! 🙂

  • Thank you so much, Ashlyn! Crazy and brave indeed!

  • I love your pictures! We are spending a week in Portugal and I’m definitely going to see if we can fit Nazare in on the itinerary. Thank you for sharing.

  • Thank you so much! You will love Portugal, it’s a fantastic country. I wish you tons of fun!

  • What a great post about an aspect of travelling I never think about – waves! I love Portugal and hope to go back so might be adding this to my list 🙂

  • Ahaha, waves are my lifelong obsession! Thank you so much Lauren!

  • Wow! Stunning pictures. How did you manage to capture these?

    I must add Portugal to my wishlist after going through this post….

  • Thank you so much! I use a Canon t6i, two lenses (10-22 and 18-135) and Hoya filters. But Portugal’s beauty does most of the job 😉

  • This is absolutely amazing! I also love sea, though I have a lot of respect for big waves… I’d like to see them from a save place though! I found the small dots (the surfers) on the photos, oh my, these waves are really huge.

  • Oh yes they are! Thank you Laia!!

  • These waves are unbelievable!!! As you say, the pictures probably don’t do them justice. Would love to see it! We’ll be visiting Nazare soon, so I’ll be checking those websites for sure!

  • Thank you Jurga! Yes, check them out, you might be super lucky! fingers crossed!

  • Wow, I’m not sure if I’ve ever seen waves so big. They must have been a lot of fun to photograph! I love that they left foam balls on the beach too.

  • Thank you Tasha, I couldn’t stop watching them, I was hypnotized! The foam balls were so eerie !

  • That’s crazy! I’ve never seen waves that big. I can only imagine how awesome it is in person!

  • Thank you! It was crazy!

  • Wow this is so cool! I still can’t believe you got some of these photos without dying. If I head back to Portugal, I’ll definitely be checking this out.

  • There are plenty of awesome places in Portugal and Nazaré is one of the most picturesque ones! Excellent post!

  • Wow this is so cool! I still can’t believe you got some of these photos without dying. If I head back to Portugal, I’ll definitely be checking this out.

  • G’day mate,
    wonderful article and pictures! Portugal is a stunning place and giant waves are super hard to catch. Would you mind to share the coordinates of the place uphill overlooking the lighthouse? Thanks and cheers from a fellow photographer

  • Hi Matteo! I am sorry, I don’t have precise coordinates to share, but honestly it’s very easy to find, you just drive to the northern beach, park close to the lighthouse, and walk up the hill facing the lighthouse, over the city – it’s not a secret spot, it’s easy to reach 🙂

  • Your photos of the giant waves are incredible and your writing style both engaging and alluring. I will be in the Lisbon area this winter and hope to see some of those monster waves thanks to a piece on CBS’s “60 Minutes” as well as your very creative blog post.

    In your post, you claimed that the “biggest wave ever surfed was a 111 feet (34 meters) wave ridden by Garret McNamara here in Nazaré”, but the size of that wave was actually 78 feet as reported in numerous publications (Forbes, Guinness World Records, etc.). Since your post was published, Brazilian surfer Rodrigo Koxa broke McNamara’s Guinness World Record, surfing an 80-foot wave (unlimited – assisted by a jet ski) off the coast of Nazaré in late 2017 (http://www.guinnessworldrecords.com/world-records/78115-largest-wave-surfed-unlimited).

    Thank you for your excellent post!

  • When I went to Portugal last year I didn’t know the waves were there only a few days of the year. So, unfortunately, I missed them… We are now planning to go over winter again and my main focus is on seeing these giants finally. 🙂 I now found this website where you can sign up and receive updates when the waves arrive 🙂 🙂 https://www.bigwaves-nazare.com

    Btw. Maja set a new world record this year for the highest surfed wave by a woman. 🙂

  • Can you tell me how high the cliff is where the lighthouse sits? I’m trying hard to visualize how the waves’ height seems to you when you’re standing up there. They’re gigantic, but do they look far away? Is there any sense of peril that the wave might sweep across where you’re standing? These may be silly questions, but the pictures—with all their incredible majesty—are confusing in this respect. I’m longing to visit Nazare in the winter so I can see for myself; but in the meantime, I would love to know the height of the cliff so I can get a sense of the experience. Thanks ever so much.

  • It’s hard to convey the exact sense of height: they are gigantic! But now, they cannot sweep you across. The lighthouse is well above, and further away from the surf. Do not worry! 🙂

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