Big Wave Surfing in Portugal

Surfing fans need to take note that Portugal is one of the main midwinter venues of the Big Wave Challenge, along with a growing number of other top international surf destinations.

When Nazaré, a charming seaside town on Portugal’s rugged west coast, regularly hosts the Portugal challenge in the winter months with temperatures close to freezing and the waves often as big as a house.

Along with the USA, Portugal is one of the very few countries in the world to stage every type of surfing competition, but the Big Wave Challenge is a truly unique event that combines the awesome spectacle of giant waves with a rare breed of fearless surfer.

It was an American by the name of Garrett McNamara who can claim the credit for putting Nazaré firmly on the surfing map when he had his bid for a new world record confirmed by the Guinness Book of World Records for riding the largest wave ever.

In early November 2011, Massachusetts-born McNamara was taking part in a competition in Nazaré when a massive wave built up behind him and somehow he managed to stay on his board despite the wave sweeping him up and carrying him a large distance.

Surfing in Portugal

The wave was finally estimated to have been twenty-four metres in height, so McNamara had successfully beaten the previous Guinness World Record set by Mike Parsons at Cortes Bank in southern California in 2008 by approximately half a metre.

McNamara, who first began surfing when he was just eleven years old, was astounded by the scale of his achievement and told reporters at the time: “Everything came together. Everything felt right. It was the most challenging, dangerous wave I’ve ever surfed. Nazaré is the only place in the world where a giant canyon reaches all the way to the beach.”

In January 2013, he broke his own world record by surfing a gigantic thirty-metre wave, also in Nazaré. The record has been broken a couple of times since, but McNamara remains an ambassador for surfing and other high-octane sports in Portugal.

More recently, German surfer Sebastian Steudtner broke the record in October 2020 when he surfed through an 26.2-metre (86-foot) wave.

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