We met the beast of Portugal when a thundering storm found the Nazaré trench, and for once our timing was impeccable albeit accidental. We had always intended to stop in Nazaré, but I doubt either of us knew just how much we would love it. In fact, within the space of 5 months we had gone there 3 times. The last of our visits was an epic fluke, and by far the most exhilarating Nazaré experience so far as we met the perfect monster.
Initially we had planned to shoot over to Morocco for about 10 days. A little surf trip in North Africa sounded like a decent idea, so we booked our flights for February 2017 and started figuring out all the little details we usually leave to chance. My excitement was high, and I couldn’t wait to see this foreign world I’d only ever glimpsed on photos. However, approximately 2 weeks before we were due to depart, all of that excitement came crashing down when I decided to check our Portuguese visa extensions. In summary, our visas said “no”. During the process of extending our visas, we had neglected to indicate that we wanted a “multiple entry” visa rather than a “single entry” visa. This meant that if we had boarded the plane to Morocco, we likely would not have been allowed back into Portugal. Hardly an ideal situation for us.
From there, it was back to the drawing board for us. Sam, always at the ready, had been checking the surf forecasts and weather reports like the diligent surfer he is. So, when I said Morocco might have to wait, he simply said “let’s go to Nazaré instead, it’s going to be good”. His only fault, was that the word “good” was a ridiculous understatement.
the beast of Nazaré’s trench
Although it was only Sam and I that couldn’t go, our friends decided to boot the flights and set off with us. We even acquired another couple of friends who decided to come greet the beast with us. If the opportunity to see Nazaré in it’s full steam crosses your path, take it. There can be no disappointment.
It was bucketing down with rain the night we arrived in Nazaré. Our thoughts to camp at Praia Do Norte were quickly abandoned for cheap accommodation. The storm was rolling in solid and we were waiting it out with beers. Day broke with rainy, cloudy, windiness and soon followed by an experience we’d never forget. It must have been closing in on midday when we finally ventured out to the point. With our convoy of vans and cars parked on the hill, we witnessed the power of the Atlantic. With every crashing wave we were called closer to the cliffs edge. Making our way past the famous Forte. Down we went on crumbling steps that lined it’s way closer to the waves. I still get goosebumps just thinking about it.
We snaked our way to the bottom most ledge and felt this beast come to life. The cliff face shook with every crashing wave. The whitewash reaching up, and up, like a monster reaching out of the ocean depths. The whitewash seemed to be translated into a white noise roar! And we stood watching in awe as the beast took hold of us, refusing to let go. Or maybe it was us who refused to leave. Nevertheless we were there for hours on end, watching as surfers towed into the face of the beast. Shredding Monsters is a 45 minute documentary about the big wave surfers who were out on the day.
Praia do norte
When the sun started to set, we were finally able to semi-disengage from the spectacular hilltop views. Praia Do Norte would be our home for the night, and had been on every other visit so far. We set up camp in the far corner of the dirt track and continued to watch as the surfers kept on. Food on the cooker, beers in hand, and good company with tunes. Undeniably, the good life. We even had a hamster to keep us company for a while.
From this vantage point, it was impossible not to appreciate the size of the waves. It’s as though a wall of white water was racing towards the beach. A wall much taller than myself. And certainly with so much water behind it, it would probably feel like being hit by a wall too. I’m in no hurry to experience the sensation, watching from a distance is fine with me. Even more so when we witnessed one of the surfers brought up the beach after copping several of these monstrous waves on the head while waiting for the jet skis to get to him.
He came to within a few minutes, but we were later told he’d been in a bad way initially. A friend of his came by our camp not long after and had a good little chat to us about it. I’m not sure why, but it was really nice that he did and it seemed as though he was checking in to make sure people were alright. To me it showed the spirit of the surfing community.
in good company
Rolling deep into the night jamming on some instruments, eating good food and talking about what we witnessed during the day. We met the beast of Nazaré in good company. I couldn’t dream of a life that didn’t include these experiences. In short, Nazaré is awesome. I’d find it hard to believe that anyone could watch those waves without feeling an appreciation for the forces of nature. Beautiful, yet terrifying. An experience not to be missed.