Twenty Four Hours In Nazaré

twenty four hours in nazare

Twenty Four Hours In Nazaré

After what has been a rough last half year, where we had to say goodbye to a couple of loved ones, we finally set off in our camper Louie. We’ve been in Portugal a little over a month now. The first weeks I felt tired and emotions began to ran more freely, now that we created some distance between us and the home land.

i love surfing birds

If it’s good it’s good

I surf here and there, although the mission is very different to previous surf trips. Normally, I drive around to find the best break and jump in. This is probably how most of us do it when we only have a week to get all of our surfing done. Now, I feel less need to get the best waves. It could be that I have more time, but I don’t feel that’s it. I’ve had time before when I lived in Australia and England. Perhaps, I realize now that there’s more to life than surfing even though I like to think I was never really too obsessed with surfing. Then again, that is rather hard to believe considering ‘I Love Surfing’. Maybe life has changed so much over the last six months that I gained a new way of accepting. Just like I had to learn to accept what life brings us. If it’s good, it’s good. If it’s not, it’s not. I am not entirely sure yet but I do feel changed. Anyway, I was going to write about Nazaré.


One evening I come across an article with the title “BREAKING: FINAL XL PULSE OF NORTH ATLANTIC SEASON TO HIT THIS WEEK?”. The title by itself is interesting enough. I can imagine how the author was thinking: “How can we make this totally random ‘final xl pulse’ claim more interesting? Let’s put it all in caps and add breaking to it like CNN does. But we finish with a question mark”. So, basically, it’s a breaking question? You know it is going to hit this week. I mean you are surf forecasters, you know pretty damn well it is going to hit. Your ‘breaking news’ is that you have a question. BREAKING: THE SUN WILL EXPLODE TOMORROW (question mark)…wow, Martijn you are totally off topic. Besides, they use caps in all their titles and you know this is clickbait. You use it to, so quit wining and get to the point. Sorry and you’re right, inner voice, as always.

The article showed a good forecast for Nazaré on Thursday (yesterday as I write this). We arrive on Wednesday and park right on top of the cliff, just before you go down again to the iconic light house. For those of you who have been here, right next to the massive sign that says “bem-Vindo às maiores ondas do mundo”. Also, all in caps, just saying. For those of us less gifted, the English translation is included “welcome to the biggest waves in the world” (no question mark).

biggest waves of the world

World records

As we drove through town, people were looking at us, or better yet, they were staring. The kind of staring that makes you wonder if you are missing a wheel on your camper without noticing. Perhaps it was just the anticipation of the final xl pulse that was buzzing around town. Or maybe it was the surfboard on our roof and they were looking to see if we were Sebastian, Garrett or maybe current world record holder Rodrigo, who beat the previous record by 60 centimetres or 2 feet as we surfers say. How they even measured this tiny differencs on a 80ft wave goes beyond my comprehension. Side note, Tom Butler may have broken this record last December by surfing a 100ft wave at Nazaré, beating the old record by a whopping 20ft. But we’ll probably have to wait for confirmation until the WSL Big Wave Awards this April. Apparently, it takes a couple of months to decide whether someone breaks a record by 20ft.

I’ve been to Nazaré a couple of times before. The first time was back in 2012, not long after Garrett surfed the first (documented) record wave here and gifted the sleepy town with instant fame and, now, massive number of tourists that come to see the wave even when it’s flat. Another time, I surfed it. Well, I didn’t surf any kind of monster wave, or even a big wave. No, if we’re being honest here, I surfed a shoulder high shore break. An unusually powerful shore break for its size, but in no way comparable with what big wave surfers accomplish. But of course, I will never say that when I tell the stories. Instead, I will claim that I surfed Nazaré and if people ask, I’ll just mumble vague sentences. That’s how to do it right?

Anyway, Nazaré is a special place. Not only do you feel the power in the water, that’s created by the unique underwater canyon, but you can also feel in the air. The whole place is magic. When the evening sets in and the tourists leave, what remains is a couple of campers parked on top of the cliff. As I walk our dog Puk just before we go to bed, I wander over to the edge overlooking the town below. It’s an astonishing view. The lights of the boulevard shine bright just as the stars above my head. The wind is already calm and slightly off shore. It’s going to be a good day tomorrow, I can feel it.

sleepy town of nazaré

The mission

The church bell rings and I count five beats. That’s a bit too early Martijn, first light isn’t for at least another hour. I fall asleep for another 45 minutes and get up just before my alarm goes off. I climb out of bed, which is a real climb when you live in Louie, and get dressed in the cold air. It feels the coldest it has been since we’ve been in Portugal. But I can take the cold ever since I read a book about the Wim Hof Method, or at least I pretend I can handle it. I make myself a coffee and gather my camera gear, which I prepared the night before, and double check everything. The batteries, the lenses and the tripod. Everything seems to be there.

I step outside and the first cracks of dawn appear over the horizon. My plan is to make a time-lapse of the sunrise. I scouted my location the day before when I was walking Puk. As I walk down, I can hear the waves before I can see them. My excitement goes up and before I know it adrenaline is pumping through my veins, and I’m not even surfing. And with it, all my plans and preparation go overboard. I start shooting randomly and totally forget why I got up this early. It takes a couple of minutes of photographing birds, filming fishermen, and starting a time-lapse of the city, before I realize what I’m doing, or rather what I’m not doing. Luckily, the Sun hasn’t shown itself yet, and I get everything in place the way I planned it.

While the camera is rolling, I have time to become aware of where I am and what is happening. For the second time this morning adrenaline sets in and before I know it, I forget all about the time-lapse again. I see the waves and drown in the moment. I even forget where I am for a while. The only thing I do is see, smell, listen and feel. I feel intense happiness and with that the emotional gates open up, the guards go down, and sad feelings rise. My twin sister passed away unexpectedly last December and much grief is still buried deep. It are times like these, when I experience intense joy, that my subconscious knows I can handle a bit of the pain and releases it. Surfing, or even watching the surf, is truly healing for my mind and body.

The Sun is shining strongly now and people are starting to show up. That’s my sign to pack my gear and head back. I’m grateful I had this magical time at Nazaré to myself together with a couple of fishermen, some birds and the final xl pulse of the season?

Le Petit Chef Belge

When you find yourself at the top carpark look for the food truck of Le Petit Chef Belge. He’s got the best homemade crêpes and burritos in Portugal. He has an infectious good mood, a kick ass playlist and the best views in town. The vegetarian option has a killer kick to it. I loved it!

Follow him on Instagram
The Legend of Nazaré

This statue seems a bit out of place, but it’s actually about the legend of Dom Fuas Roupino. Pretty cool story, you should look it up.


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