Big Wave Surfing at Nazare in Portugal

Nazare is the stuff of legend. It’s where the biggest waves are surfed, and the best legends are born.

McNamara, Burle, Gabeira, Roxa-this little Portuguese fishing town has welcomed all the superstars of surfing and has etched its name onto the record books multiple times.

What is Nazare?

Nazare is a Portuguese fishing village that is home to just 15,000 people.

But every year, the population swells with tourists and surfers, and many of them flock to the beach to catch or watch the biggest waves take shape.

6 of the biggest world record waves were surfed at Nazare and it currently lays claim to both the male and female world record waves.

The undersea Nazare Canyon, in combination with the local water current, is what gives Nazare its monster waves.

There is also a nearby lighthouse that affords a great view over the waves and allows fans to watch their superstars in action.

The Most Insane Moments at Nazare

Every time you hear about a new world record, your mind immediately goes to Nazare.

It has a reputation for being one of the biggest and wildest locations in the world, and its reputation is 100% deserved.

To highlight just how crazy the big waves are here, take a look at some of the most memorable moments (good and bad) at Nazare:

Garret McNamara Sets the Tone

In 2011, Garret McNamara claimed the world record for the biggest wave ever surfed. Initially, it was estimated to be over 100 feet, but it was eventually recorded as 78 feet. It is one of the most iconic moments in surfing and has come to define the sheer scale of the Nazare surf.

If not for G-Mac’s monster ride, we might not have seen the other big moments on this list. The record-breaking surfer introduced many other surfers to this location.

Maya Gabeira Returns in Style

Maya Gabeira very nearly lost her life on the waves, when a massive wipeout knocked her unconscious.

She was brought back to life by Carlos Burle and eventually recovered in hospital, only to return at a later date and earn her place in the record books.

She surfed a 68-foot wave in 2018 to earn her redemption, and then she went 2 better in 2020 by surfing a 70-foot wave.

Her efforts have earned Gabeira the title of “Queen of Nazare”, as well as the female world record.

Rodrigo Koxa Sets a Record

In 2017, Rodrigo Koxa smashed McNamara’s record when he surfed a monster wave that was eventually measured at 80 feet.

The Brazilian remains the world record holder at the time of writing, although a few surfers have gotten pretty close to his record (including Gabeira) and it seems likely that it will be broken before long.

Justine Dupont Gets Close

French surfer Justine Dupont came very close to breaking the record for the biggest wave surfed by a woman in 2020.

She put the hours in on the waves and was looking good throughout, but she ultimately fell just short, surfing the second-highest wave ever by a woman.

Andrew Cotton Wipes out

One of the most epic Nazare moments caught on film came in 2017, when Andrew Cotton wiped out on a massive wave and broke his back.

In 2014, Cotton announced himself on the world scene with a massive record on the waves, and while his skills had improved by his 2017 ride, Nazare ultimately got the better of him.

It is one of the worst wipeouts caught on film and has to be seen to be believed. You can footage of the wipeout below.

Big Wave Surfing at Nazare, Portugal

Coincidentally, the name “Nazare” is the Portuguese version of “Nazareth” or “Holy Land”, and thanks to the likes of McNamara, Roxa, and Gabeira, it has become the holy land of surfing.

If you want to witness the big waves and maybe see a record or two, heading for this Portuguese surf spot.