UPDATE Monday November 9: It's understood that the mayor of Nazare Walter Chicharro is meeting with authorities tomorrow to discuss a solution. We'll keep you posted on a resolution.
Surfing has officially been banned at XXL surfing's favourite amphitheatre Nazare amidst COVID fears.
MSW understands that Portugal's National Health Commission decided to impose the ban today, November 4, after thousands of people packed the cliff top at Praia do Norte during Thursday's colossal swell. As a result, free-surfing and tow-in activities have been banned to stop gathering crowds. It's not clear when the restriction will be lifted - we've only had confirmation that it is 'until further notice'.
The ban will be enforced by the harbour captain. There's a slight glimmer of hope though because as of right now, it's understood the mayor of Nazare is scrambling to put together an action plan that could allow free surfers in the water (outside of 'events') but there's no clear idea of when this will be implemented. We'll update this article if this plan proves successful.
A source sent over the following statement at the harbour HQ.
The meat of this reads: “In the current context of the pandemic in Portugal, as determined by the regional health delegate and the regional health administration, Free Surf and Tow-in surfing are banned at Praia do Norte, due to the promotion of the public agglomeration, which constitutes an increased risk for the public health.
“Failure to comply with this determination incurs in a criminal offence punished by law.” Police are now patrolling the water as of tomorrow morning.
As the news came in, MSW spoke with a few of the surfers on the ground in Nazare.
“There were too many people on the beach, 20-30k people on the beach man, so yeah, maybe it's the right decision,” said Nic Von Rupp. “They can ban it, but that swell that happened was pretty historic. I don't think there'll be another swell like that.”
MSW pinged Andrew Cotton a message and asked if there are any plans at the moment for surfers to appeal the decision, which will have a huge economic impact on Nazare. “Me, personally, no,” he said. “I understand their position and it's for the benefit and safety of others and the local community. It effects a lot more people than just the surfers though, which is a great shame.”
However, Nazare regular Rafael Tapia, who got injured the day before the big swell came in, said: "I think it's a terrible decision and probably one not taken by people close to Nazare. Although, I totally agree that the situation on the cliff was chaos and maybe on the beach considering the COVID situation in Europe.
"I was in the water for the first day of the the swell and the very small surfing community out there were safe and taking precautions. Second day, I was sidelined from an injury and was on the cliff doing live commentary. That was bad. People came from so many places and there was no real space for social distancing correctly.
But Rafael adds there's a better way to enforce social distancing rules: "Considering that it's so easy to block the entrances to Nazare, I hope this decision is reviewed. Feels like us, the surfers, will be paying for the irresponsible behaviours of spectators. It's our passion, our job and authorities can easily control crowds. Although the risk of getting injured in Nazare is quite high, it's very unlikely we will put pressure on the hospital system, but that is not a reason surfing should be banned."
We'll keep you posted as more comes in, but for now, surfing is fully off the cards at Nazare.