Right now, Nazare is Europe's most prominent amphitheatre. There's no denying that when it jacks to XXL, it is a spectacle, a bubbling pit of anticipation, rubbed down with a hard dose of determination. And yet, there's more that goes on around the humble community of Praia do Norte that's almost as eye-popping.
Take Andrey Karr. Russia's first ever big wave surfer looks elsewhere to get his kicks when Nazare isn't setting shores ablaze. And sometimes, even when it is. You see, he's set up a highline that overlooks Praia do Norte where you can, arguably, get a heart stopping look at the colossal waves of Nazare, should you want to.
For those unfamiliar, highlining is you, strapped to a line and walking between two places - which sounds simple, right? Only here, it's as Nazare goes nuclear around you, making for some stunning backdrops. We caught up with Andrey to pick his brain about it all and to talk surfing in Russia...
OK, well, guess the obvious first, why did you decide to set up a project to highline over Nazare?
The first time I came to Nazaré back in 2015, I went down to the lighthouse for sunset and right away I got a picture in my head of what I wanted to do, so last year I thought why not? And did it.
Just saying that sounds insane – who actually comes and completes it?
At first - nobody wanted to play with me [laughs]. So, last season, I bought a slackline kit and a harness and did a few short lines on the cliffs in town, this caught some attention in Portugal and Western Riders highline team came along to try it out with me.
Then pictures went around the world and this year we had Brazilians, French, German, Croatian, Portuguese, Russian and some others trying on it.
Any surfers given it a shot?
Toby Cunningham, I believe, had been hanging on it a little last year, but really none of the surfers seem to be stoked about it as much as I am....
Huh. How long is the walk?
In terms of highlining, it's not long at all, it's barely 30 meters long and about 15 high, but what's going on out there at Nazare, during big swells is beyond imagination. The waves crashing on the rocks shoot up to 40-50 meters in height, and then all this water falls back down over the line.
The visuals are just crazy, from the observer's point of view, and being inside of it is one of the most intense experiences Ive been through... and that's coming from a wingsuit proximity pilot [laughs].
Any safety measures?
Of course, every single part of the rig is doubled, every leash and every metal ring, everything goes through regular maintenance, and more than that we have been changing the line after the first week of big swells.
I’ve seen some pics of you charging Nazare – is that not enough of a kick?
Nazaré is just one big mind-blowing playground, and for all types of weather we get here, there's a toy or two to play with. But, of course, surfing brought me here in the first place, so I choose it over everything else.
Though, the amount of days that Nazaré is on fire is far more than we can surf, so it's just as fun to go play on the line when surf is blown out.
Surfing Nazaré is surely the greatest adventure and challenge for me these past two years
Surfing Nazaré is surely the greatest adventure and challenge for me these past two years. As for highlining, it's a cool activity overall and besides an amazing physical and mental practice that surely pays back in overall performance across other sports, and being there on this line between waves makes you feel the ocean and the waves.
Have you completed the walk there?
At first I couldn't even get up on it properly, and after some training I did walk it a coupla times on a normal day. But when the swell is here, this place turns into a boiling cauldron, with crazy winds, and water shooting at you from all sides, then, making just a few steps is quite a challenge.
Where exactly is the line set up?
From the cliff below the lighthouse of Nazaré to the big rock Pedra do Guilhim in front of it, right where Nazare's crazy right and big mamas break.
Hailing from from Russia, what's the surf scene like over there?
I don`t know really, I heard some rumours about it and it doesn't really sound tempting, chasing short-period choppy swells in -20C and a dry suit? Na. In my opinion, most of the Russian surf scene is happening in Bali, where I started surfing, and as far as big wave scene of Russia - it was born here in Nazaré, two-years-ago.
How do you train for surfing Nazare?
For me Nazaré is first of all a mental game, you just have to adapt to being here in any conditions, think straight and feel confident, and the best training for that is living here the whole season, driving here in any conditions, and then surfing itself is not the hardest part.
Are you permanently based in Nazare now?
During the season I spend most of my time here, but the rest of the year I travel around.
What types of waves do you like surfing?
Barrels. That's something that gets my heart going and the bigger they are, better, but I'm still in a very beginning of this trip, so many waves are just on my bucket list.