GALLERY: Nazare-Bound and Around Town From A Special Warm Up Session

Jason Lock

by on

Updated 97d ago

Around this time of year, there's a big shift in the little fishing town of Nazare, home of the biggest wave ever surfed. Its cobbled, beachfront streets, that lie under the shadow of the protruding Sítio headland to the north, are becoming busier with tourists. Local people are excited and businesses are in tune with the fact that the monster wave season is starting – already, an eclectic mix of surfers have started to make their annual pilgrimage to one of surfing's most formidable waves.

Yes, Nazare is ready. The year-round, 15,000-strong population are ready. That old town's fort, located at the point of that Sítio headland, where spectators can watch some of the tallest waves on earth, is ready for visitors. And yesterday, we saw an X-medium warm up session for those few surfers now on the ground.

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Nazare, October 16 2022, not the biggest, not the meanest but the first glimpse we've had of it waking up this season. Which begs the question; when will everyone be here?

Nothing big, they say, one of those sessions where people are getting their feet in the wax, trying equipment, feeling things through. Reminding themselves of life in this buzzy yet oddly calming place.

© 2023 - Helio Antonio.

“Waited a bit in the morning for the tide and the swell popped up with it,” said Tony Laureano, who has just arrived at Nazare following a stint in Chile. “Then it got big, good winds. Good to feel the tow boards out there. A lot of the time in Chile, we were on paddle boards, so good to feel it. It got bigger and bigger and bigger, then the wind changed, but then at the end of the day, the swell filled in, proper Nazare size.”

Sebastian Steudtner, current world record holder for the world's biggest wave, is getting his warm ups in.

"It's not big." No? Then it's certainly something.

© 2023 - Helio Antonio.

All that power and energy.

All that power and energy.

© 2023 - Helio Antonio.

“Think I stood there for like three hours and watched it, didn't go back in because the wind was bad,” Tony continued. “Saw some big sets. Been a while since I saw Nazare like that, you know. We've got a few people here now and they're starting to arrive, not full yet but it's getting busier.”

Joana Andrade getting all warmed up.

Imagine not knowing what's going on in the ocean and just seeing this. We're not saying that's what's happening here, but imagine anyway!

Imagine not knowing what's going on in the ocean and just seeing this. We're not saying that's what's happening here, but imagine anyway!

© 2023 - Helio Antonio.

"It got bigger and cleaner than I was expecting," said photographer Helio Antonio. "The morning started slow as predicted but throughout the day it got bigger and there were some big aframes breaking on the third peak. There were also some powerful barrels on the inside and close to the rocks, but both are places that are super tricky to surf. Was also expecting a lot more surfers but guess not a lot of people have arrived. The ones that got there got the place pretty much empty."


What Goes On Around Town Though?

In the foreground, the harbour, where fishing boats rest and skis are launched from. The Costa de Prata (or silver coast) runs along the town front, with the famous headland jutting out in the distance. That's where the monsters lie.

In the foreground, the harbour, where fishing boats rest and skis are launched from. The Costa de Prata (or silver coast) runs along the town front, with the famous headland jutting out in the distance. That's where the monsters lie.

© 2023 - Helio Antonio.

The town of Nazare is essentially divided in two. There's the headland, where you can watch those XXL brutes steam to shore about Praia do Norte (North Beach), which is almost like a separate town from the main commerce and residential hub. From there you can take a stroll about half-a-mile south, walk the length of the neighbouring beach (aka the Silver Coast or South Beach) until you get to the harbour at the end, where most of the big wave crew launch skis from. Well, those who don't attempt to paddle from the beach, that is. It's quite the stark juxtaposition between the north and south, yet it all has a distinctly 'old world' feel about it. The two worlds of Nazare.

With the changing from summer to autumn, the population of Nazare balloons, with spectators all wanting to witness those big waves hit that gigantic offshore canyon, which helps creates those mountainous tee-pees about 500 metres to 1km offshore. But what do the locals think of their home as a hotbed of surfing activity?

Our new favourite person! Look closely and on the sign there is Maria with G-Mac from way back when. Surf fan for life.

Our new favourite person! Look closely and on the sign there is Maria with G-Mac from way back when. Surf fan for life.

© 2023 - Helio Antonio.

Maria da Conceição, pictured above, runs a stall out at Nazare selling nuts and dried bananas. “Bless the surfers," she said. "Before they got here we only did business between March and October and it was slow, except for the summer months. Now it’s summer all year. Lots of people every time. All thanks to Garrett McNamara. He was the one responsible for all this. I know there’s a lot of them now but Garrett will always be my favourite.”

The silver coast from Helio's lens way up high.

The silver coast from Helio's lens way up high.

© 2023 - Helio Antonio.

Helio, a lifelong Nazare resident, added: "Nazare still gets the biggest share of tourism in the summer months. Of course nowadays, people come here all year-round, even if there's no huge swells to watch because they have no idea how it works.

Commercial hub. Top right; yeah, there's some ponchos here, (which are not very traditional in Portugal) but on the right-hand side, those are all traditional tablecloths. That one next to the shop-keeper here, with the Rooster of Barcelos, is quintessential Portugal.

Commercial hub. Top right; yeah, there's some ponchos here, (which are not very traditional in Portugal) but on the right-hand side, those are all traditional tablecloths. That one next to the shop-keeper here, with the Rooster of Barcelos, is quintessential Portugal.

© 2023 - Helio Antonio.

"Obviously the ever growing community of big wave surfers and their crew is starting to show up and the town is getting busier by the day. All local businesses that depends on tourism gets a big boost on the big wave hype, so for them, what would be the time to rest and have a vacation has now turned into a really busy period. I've never seen so many people at North Beach. It was usually empty, even in summer. Nowadays the huge parking lot gets packed easily because people want to see the waves. It's crazy."

Antonio Mafra, 70, has been a fisherman all his life.

Antonio Mafra, 70, has been a fisherman all his life. "The waves... they've always been here. We used to go for a sea swim in the summer and nowadays, there's more tourism than ever before."

© 2023 - Helio Antonio.

Thomas and Anja, a young couple from Germany are spending their first season at Nazare and were 'stunned' by the session earlier this week. Thomas surfs but was looking for something a bit more inviting. They're on the road until February.

Thomas and Anja, a young couple from Germany are spending their first season at Nazare and were 'stunned' by the session earlier this week. Thomas surfs but was looking for something a bit more inviting. They're on the road until February.

© 2023 - Helio Antonio.

"Generally, people seem really stoked around town," said Cotty, who has just posted up for the season in an apartment close to North Beach. "It's been pretty mellow on the surf front, a couple of teams got out yesterday."

Just down from the headland is The Sanctuary of Our Lady of Nazare, built in the 14th century. It's said a local sheriff was chasing a deer (possessed by the Devil) that jumped from the headland in an attempt to get the sheriff to plummet to his doom. The sheriff spoke the intervention of the Madonna, which made his horse turn away, a chapel was built near that spot, if you believe the legend.

Just down from the headland is The Sanctuary of Our Lady of Nazare, built in the 14th century. It's said a local sheriff was chasing a deer (possessed by the Devil) that jumped from the headland in an attempt to get the sheriff to plummet to his doom. The sheriff spoke the intervention of the Madonna, which made his horse turn away, a chapel was built near that spot, if you believe the legend.

© 2023 - Helio Antonio.

Along the town, south of the headland where the big waves breaks, the day's just like any other. And right, you don't have to look far to find the ocean at Nazare.

Along the town, south of the headland where the big waves breaks, the day's just like any other. And right, you don't have to look far to find the ocean at Nazare.

© 2023 - Helio Antonio.

Lonely out there, sure, but it's not going to be for long.

Lonely out there, sure, but it's not going to be for long.

© 2023 - Helio Antonio.

© 2023 - Helio Antonio.

A brace of X-medium goodness!

A brace of X-medium goodness!

© 2023 - Helio Antonio.

We don't like saying goodbye, so it's more a 'bye for now', until this crazy/beautiful place wakes up again. Stay tuned.

We don't like saying goodbye, so it's more a 'bye for now', until this crazy/beautiful place wakes up again. Stay tuned.

© 2023 - Helio Antonio.

Winter's just getting started too. Keep an eye on our Nazare live cam | Mundaka | Fistral | Croyde |