Garrett McNamara


These days, Portugal’s Nazaré holds an outsized role in the big wave surfing world. And November 1st is also a pivotal date for this.

Do you know how the world’s most exciting big wave spot came to be and how it’s grown to become world renowned for surfers and non-surfers alike?

Back in the mid-2000s, Hawaiian big wave surfer Garrett McNamara was tipped off by one of Nazaré’s local body boarders, Dino Casimiro, that just a stone throw’s throw from the historic fishing village’s Praia do Norte (North Beach) was a wave that, in winter, broke bigger than any wave this local had ever seen.
For this he had the support of the local Camara Municipal and the plan was to try to create an attraction for the winter months when the summer beach tourists were no longer present.

Intrigued but a bit skeptical, McNamara made the trip to Portugal for some fact-checking. Standing on the cliff beside the 16th century-era Fort of São Miguel Arcanjo, at that time abandoned and shuttered, McNamara soon discovered that his local tipster was a straight shooter. Waves 50ft (15m) and higher raced in from the horizon with dizzying consistency.

McNamara returned and he did a mind-blowing 78ft (24m) monster that earned him a Guinness World Record. Suddenly, McNamara and the little, sleepy town of Nazaré were world famous.

That was on 1 November 2011 and the start of this new surf’s meca had just happened.

“We’d been invited by the government of Portugal to Nazaré to investigate it for a big wave competition,” he recalls. “There is an underwater canyon 1,000ft deep that runs from the ocean right up to the cliffs. It’s like a funnel. At its ocean end its three miles wide but narrows as it gets closer to the shore and when there is a big swell it acts like an amplifier.”