Last Updated on 05/31/2018 by Mark Beckenbach
The seaside village of Nazaré in Portugal has become sort of a pilgrimage site both for surfers and surf photographers. Only the most experienced adrenaline junkies, however, would dare ride Nazaré’s epic waves. For the uninitiated, we let Zurich-based Jürg Kaufmann introduce you to the home of the biggest waves ever surfed through his impressive photos.
Everyone, say hello to the awe-inspiring monster waves of Nazaré. Jürg’s beautiful snaps certainly show the imposing form of each wave as it swells, curls, barrels down, and breaks into massive, foamy sprays. If you can’t quite imagine the sheer size of these waves, we’ll get to that part in a moment.
Jürg says that he photographed the majestic Nazaré waves one “crazy Wednesday in November 2017,” which were building up overnight. “Right before midnight, I drove down to the faro, the lighthouse from Nazaré. It was dark; no light, no stars, and no moon,” he recalls. “No horror movie will ever be as impressive as the noise of these waves crashing in the rocks below the lighthouse. The next morning with the first light, I finally could see with my eyes the Nazaré waves.”
Indeed, it would have been a sight to behold. It’s also one thing to observe it from a safe distance, and another to photograph it. What would have been awesome was if Jürg also caught some big wave surfers perilously riding the massive swells. But since he seems to do a lot of water sports photography, I’m sure it’s something he’ll do in the future.
Now, let’s go back to sizing up the famous Nazaré waves. Big wave surfers flock to the Praia do Norte (North Beach) to ride these waves, which have been recorded to go as big as 80 feet (24 m) in November 2017. A few months after Jürg’s visit, the surfing community saw the so-called mother of all waves — the 35-meter “big mama” — which they were waiting on for seven years. Here’s Hugo Vau riding the record-breaking wave on January 17, 2018:
Why do the waves get this big in Nazaré? Jürg answers with a fun fact: “That’s as big as it gets, thanks to a big underwater canyon ending right in front of the Praia do Norte. The swell comes to the shore and with the end of the canyon the wave will build up to what we know as the Nazaré wave.”