This may be the final time we get to see those colossal Nazare peaks fire up this season. An XL swell pulse rifled into Europe over the past few days, setting off Portugal's behemoth wave as well as a whole range of other locales across the Old Continent's western front – but more on that soon.
As for the past few days at Nazare, the swell arrived late on Saturday evening. And, right now, there's a COVID surfing curfew in place on the weekends, which means you can only be in the water before 1pm, or face a hefty fine. As the swell ramped up all through the afternoon and into the evening, Saturday turned into one of the biggest days of the season, only topped by the October session last year. The biggest day, and no one could surf.
Live cam: Nazare
One crew made the mission out there on Saturday post 1pm. Not to surf, but to film for a new HBO project. Bodyboarder To Cardoso was driving a ski while Laurent Pujol was shooting those empty, gigantic sets rolling through. Those heaving, colossal Nazare peaks will make for some damn good footage. Anyway, these legends thought that filming was exempt from restrictions but were slapped with a fine from the harbour master when they got back to shore. That's going to set them back anything between 200 and 2,000 euros.
"It's a shame because Saturday, it was the second biggest swell of the season and no one could surf," Laurent tells MSW. "We didn't realise you weren't allowed to film out there given the restrictions but we respect the decision and lesson learned, of course."
"It was one of those heart-breaking days," said Portugal big wave legend, Joao de Macedo when we spoke with him earlier today. "But you know, it's just how it is right now. People are in far worse positions than we are and we've got to respect that." And that is just the way Nazare is right now. In order to keep it open, in some form, everyone has to play ball.
Heading into Sunday morning though and some of that swell was still hanging around, with tow teams quick to get after it. Sebastian Steudtner, Maya Gabeira, Nuno Santos, Cotty, Toby Cuningham, Tony Laureano and Alessandro Marciano were just some of the stand outs.
“It dropped really quick like we expected and the banks were weird,” said Sebastian Steudtner. “This whole season's been kind of a weird one with the banks to be honest. But some fun ramps – every day out there is fun. Maybe tomorrow again.”
Steudtner's not wrong, because while this may be the last XL swell of the season, tomorrow (Tuesday March 30) could see be an ideal paddle day at the world's biggest wave.
“It is a good swell direction for A-frames, the swell's clean and lined-up, and good local conditions with moderate perhaps fresh easterlies,” says MSW forecaster Tony Butt about tomorrow. “Looks like the swell will peak in the morning but remain fairly consistent all day.”
And speaking about this session, Tony added: “The swell was generated by the westerly airstream on the southern flank of a low that moved from Cape Farewell to just east of Iceland between Wednesday 24 and Friday 26. By then the open-ocean wave heights just west of Ireland were over 30 feet.
“A tangential component of the swell from a north-westerly direction propagated down into Biscay and along the Portuguese coast, hitting Nazaré by late Saturday. The swell peaked overnight and persisted through Sunday. At the same time, high pressure in Biscay and low pressure over the Canary Islands maintained an easterly flow over the Iberian Peninsula, with mostly light offshore winds at Nazaré during Sunday.”
"Saturday felt surreal," added photographer Helio Antonio. "It was a flashback to the old days when waves would be huge and perfect and there would be no one surfing. Cliffs were empty, no crowds, just a few tourists that found their way to Nazare. I saw only one guy with a camera the whole day. Insane comparing to the hundreds that usually spread all over the arena. What a shame that those waves went unridden.
"On Sunday waves got much smaller, a third or less than the day before. Still, conditions were perfect for the few that went out. Light offshore breeze, peaks all over the beach, some barrels here and there."
We've got more from all across Europe dropping over the next few days, so stay tuned. You can also read about the build up to this swell by going HERE.