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How are giant waves born in Portuguese Nazaré?

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In summer, the town of Nazaré, which is located on the western coast of Portugal, an hour’s drive from Lisbon, is a typical resort, generous with the gentle sun, friendly beaches and fresh seafood. From October to February, he surprisingly changes his temper and turns into a real mecca for surfers and adrenaline lovers. It is here, in small Nazaré, or rather on its northern beach Praia Do Norte, that the largest waves in Europe rise, up to 30 meters high!

What is so special about Nazar that makes it the cradle of such giants? The answer is simple: the structure of the ocean floor relief. Nazaré is located near the underwater canyon of the same name – Nazare Canyon, which is considered one of the deepest canyons in Europe. Its length is 227 km, and its depth is about 5 km. As you approach the coast, the depth of the canyon decreases, forming a kind of springboard for the waves and increasing their height many times over.

Waves in Nazaré are born literally in a matter of seconds. In the fall-winter season, when the stormy season comes, a giant wave can appear in as little as 14 seconds. It was here, in Nazaré, that the world record was set for the passage of the largest wave by a person: in 2017, the Brazilian Rodrigo Koja managed to conquer a wave with a height of 24.3 meters, for which he was entered in the Guinness Book of Records.

When shallow bathymetry slows down a part of a wave, this causes the waves to refract. Similar to the way a magnifying glass can bend light to focus it into one bright spot, reefs, sand banks and canyons can focus wave energy toward a single point of the coast. This is what happens at Nazaré to create giant waves.

At Atlantic Surf Routeyour website for a surftrip with a campervan in Portugal and Spain, to bring you one of the destinations most demanded by surfers: Nazaré.

The Nazaré Canyon causes very big waves, making Nazaré a very important point on the world surfing route. On November 1, 2011, Hawaiian surfer Garrett McNamara surfed a gigantic wave, breaking the world record, with 23.77 meters in Nazaré. In January 2013, it was confirmed that he had surfed a larger wave still 30 meters high in Nazaré too, probably beating his own previous record.

Although Praia do Norte has captivated the attention of the world, Nazaré has not only giant and powerful waves, but also corners and waves accessible to all athletes.

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