Nazaré surfing: Big waves, big hype

Over the past couple of years we’ve seen an explosion in big wave surfing, at least in terms of media attention. Thought there are big wave spots across the world in places as far flung from one another as Chile and Tasmania, one place has been at the center of the big wave phenomenon: Nazaré, Portugal. But not all Nazaré surfing happens on big waves.

For example, check out this video from the 2010 Nazaré Surf Pro competition. Looks pretty normal, right? But that was back then. Now Nazaré surfing is synonymous with Garrett McNamara and his fellow big wave surfers like Andrew Cotton, Carlos Burle and Maya Gabeira, who almost lost her life doing a bit of big wave Nazaré surfing. Never mind that though, it’s more press for big wave surfing events.

From an official press release for the 2014 Billabong XXL Big Wave Awards:

This has been an extraordinary year for big wave surfing and with the Northern Hemisphere winter still to come, there is little doubt this will be the greatest ever in the 14 year history of the Billabong XXL Big Wave Awards. There have been amazing waves everywhere, from Tahiti to Tasmania to South Africa and Hawaii. But the epic St. Jude’s swell that hit Europe in late October became one of the most famous moments in the entire history of the sport. It’s hard to find anyone on the planet that didn’t hear the news reports of possible world record waves being ridden at Nazaré, Portugal and the incredible surfing feats of Carlos Burle, Maya Gabeira, Andrew Cotton and the rest.kquote>

I’ve warned about the perils of big wave surfing in the past, but I can totally understand the popularity of extreme spectacles like what happened in October. Nazaré surfing may not be the safest surf spot, but it’s not all big waves either. I’ll just reiterate: big wave surfing is a dangerous spectator sport, while normal surfing can be for everyone. Quality surf lessons help ensure that you have the safest, most enjoyable experience on the waves.

Nazaré surfing

A group of friends hit the waves at Foz do Lizandro, Ericeira. Pic: Francisco Morais (Flickr CC)

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