Return to Nazaré

Leaving behind the sun scorched beaches of WA, where in summer time all I do is seem to turn bright pink from sun burn, to entering another winter. Another couple of months of sitting through wild woolly weather and hoping for just a couple days of giant perfection with a crisp off shore wind.

Flying over the stunning yet rugged coast of the Algarve’s into Lisbon, I was soon greeted with a big smile from Blakey who was kind enough to give me a lift up to Nazare. Screaming along the motorway at a million miles an hour across valleys and past big pine forests, finally arriving into the town of the big wave surfing Mecca.

My first glimpse of the waves this trip, a giant 50 wedge with someone flying down the face at an uncontrollable speed, somehow making it to the safety of the shoulder where the jets picks them up and whizzes back out. No chance I’m paddling out for this session, 50 foot with a howling cross shore wind. I’m feeling pretty jet lagged after a 25 hour flight and didn’t really feel like drowning on my first day so I sat it out and watched the tow guys go nuts for a few hours.

The next morning I was up the top of the cliff checking the waves at first light, it was still big but looking a bit rouge and wonky. Some giant peaks wedging up and slamming into each other. Slowly making my way down to the harbour to get ready and try hitch a ride out there. Unable to find a ride out there, I linked up with Tom Lowe, we did the long paddle from the village beach, around the cliff and into the line-up.


Photo- Tim Bonython

I’d forgotten how crazy this place is. Watching giant lumps marching in from miles out, criss-crossing all over the place. Waves slamming into the cliff sounding like thunder. There is so much power in these waves which could easily tear your limbs from your body if you were unlucky enough to be in their midst at the wrong time.

The wind kicked up and was blowing a gale from the North, giant chops coming up the faces and a current that felt like a river running into the cliff. It was a nonstop fight against the current to not end up in the rocks. Eventually my wave came along. I took off and almost got airborne with the wind. I was just able to stick to the face when the next challenge fronted, the giant chops coming up the face. I was in full survival stance holding onto the bucking bull just making the wave. After that the current and wind continued to get stronger and more unmanageable, it was time to call it a day and paddle in.

Two days later it’s on again, the infamous giant wedges were doing their thing. Swell lines stacked to the horizon, refracting off the canyon creating some huge peaks. A long swell period made for a few nice lulls in the sets, I thought I may as well try punch through the shore break rather than paddle the couple km from the village. The shore break in Nazare has to be the gnarliest in the world, with 6-8 foot foamy close outs onto dry sand and 10 foot white wash rolling up the beach as well. It’s all about being patient and timing a break.


Photo- Tim Bonython

Seeing my chance I make the dash down the sand and jump onto my board, paddling as hard as I can. Just 20 m off the sand I’m struck by a beast of white water pushing me right into the shore break death zone. Wave after wave on the head getting pulverised into the sand praying my board isn’t going to break. After a slight beating and half a ton of sand in my suit and mouth I’m released from the tight grip of the shore pound. I quickly paddle my heart out to make it out the back before getting sucked back into the vortex for a second time.


Photo- Tim Bonython

It was a fun session a few 15-18ft peaks rolling through managing to snag a couple of good rides and a couple of bombs on the head. Two hours or so into the session there are some giant lumps heading our way which look like they might break miles out. Instinct tells you to start sprint paddling to the horizon. But you have to stand your ground and wait for them to come to you. It starts feathering and I’m in the spot. Just a little under it, with head down paddling hard, I feel it pick me up. I’m looking down the drop and feel like I’m on the edge of a 3 or 4 storey balcony. Just as I stand up I hit a bit of a chop. It throws me into the air but somehow I manage to stick it and make the drop, bottom turn up and head across the wall to kick out. Luckily there wasn’t another wave behind that could have sent me straight to the beach.  With a bit of luck on my side I made it back out without copping any on the head.


Photo- Tim Bonython

The sun set with a bright orange hue illuminating the sky and the stars began to come out. A great end to another day and another fun couple of waves. With the forecast looking slight grim for the next few days its back to training and utility surfs until the next heart in throat moments on the next swell.


Photo- Tim Bonython

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