North Beach - Big wave surfing in Portugal
Many years ago the little fishing town of Nazaré started to grow as a popular holiday resort. Whilst not known to many outside of Portugal the resort has grown some might say to its own detriment. In the summer the main beach in front of the town can be absolutely heaving. However, over recent years it is not the town beach that has become internationally famous but the long stretch of virtually empty coast to the north of the towering headland of Sitio.
Praia do Norte is a 1.5 Km long expanse of golden sand backed by sand dunes, and very little else - but this is not the reason the beach has become world-famous. It was in 2011 that Nazaré's other beach hit the headlines when American surfer Garrett McNamara surfed a record-breaking 24 metre wave here.
This wasn't a one off and there is a reason that Nazaré, and in particular Praia do Norte get some of the biggest (and most dangerous) waves in the world. Through an accident of geology there is a huge channel of deepwater offshore here pointing directly to this coast. The Nazaré Canyon is 175 kilometres long and 5 kilometres deep; it effectively funnels the Atlantic swells into the beaches of Nazaré producing massive waves, and Praia do Norte taking the brunt of this.
Since McNamara set the original record it has been surpassed by French surfer Benjamin Sanchis who surfed an absolutely mammoth 33 metre wave, possibly breaking the legendary 100 feet mark.
Besides the legendary surf at Praia do Norte this is fantastic beach, and pretty much the opposite of Nazaré's other beach. You won't find cafes, toilets, lifeguards or even a car park here, although you may find the odd nudist as you head north!