Those autumn swells are about to rifle into Europe as the season gets under way in a few weeks time. When it comes good though, it's Nazare that will capture attention, those voluminous mountains of liquid fervour, detonating into the coastline of Praia do North makes for a mind-blowing experience.
And while we wait for Nazare to awaken, now's the perfect time to reflect on just what has made this locale so special. Remember when it launched onto the scene? Cries of it being a mushburger? Well, the world's biggest wave by a woman and a man have been surfed there – the record flip-flopping from Gmac to Cotty to Koxa and the women's from Maya Gabeira to (potentially) Justine Dupont – confirmation of whether her colossal ride last year will nab the top spot is due soon. And while there's Jaws and Mavs, those Irish slabs and the plethora other hellish spots across the world, it's Nazare that sets hearts racing.
Did you know we have a LIVE Nazare cam? Stream it HERE.
But it's more than 'the biggest wave in the world'. Some of the most experienced big wave surfers around will tell you how gnarly it is. Like Kai Lenny. Like Gmac and Sebastian Steudtner and anyone else who witnesses it at full grunt. Like RCJ who got rinsed into the death zone.
So here's a countdown of the greatest moments ever at Nazare to get you pumped for those behemoth swells.
15) Tom Butler Goes Nuts in 2018
Back in December, 2018 Tom Butler propelled himself into an absolute bomb. Remember, Butler's no slouch at Nazare. “I have been shooting probably all big days since day one,” says Jorge Leal, “when me, Garrett and our team started the Nazaré big wave project. I can tell you easily that Tom's wave is one of the biggest waves surfed at Nazaré.” It rightfully set pages ablaze with talk of the largest wave ever surfed. It fell short, but the hype sure was real at the time.
14) Pedro Scooby's Ski Drama
Pedro Scooby, December 2017, took one hell of a spill. And the subsequent rescue was pure drama from start to finish. A few months later, Pedro was back on it, charging down the face of Nazare once again. This is heavy.
13) This Hugo Vau Wave and The Scale of Nazare
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PROUD OF YOU VAU!!! Today i saw probably the biggest wave surfed at nazaré by @hugovau on the biggest swell ever! @hugovau team up with @alex_botelho and @marcelolunaoficial ... hard conditions but perseverance from this amazing Portuguese team was speechless! We stay, we seat, and big mama came! Jesus call and Alex with an amazing drive put Hugo on the bomb!!! I’m felling so proud of @hugo and @alex_botelho as a team!...
If there's ever a cut of Nazare that pays homage to sheer scale, to velocity, to the hulking mountain that personifies it, it is right here. In the mist of this shot, Hugo Vau's on this wave. And it is a monster. A true tribute to everything Praia do Norte can throw up.
12) Ross Clarke-Jones in the Nazare Death Zone
And oh, did this make your heart pound right through your chest? Tonnes of experience in the heavy stuff, Ross Clarke-Jones ain't no slouch when it comes to getting out of these types situations. It's all that experience that saved him after being washed into that Nazare death zone. All smiles upon exit. Heavy doesn't quite cut it.
11) Nazare Throws Its Own New Year's Party
While the rest of the world shook off hangovers, Nazare was on a bender and the start of what would be a phenomenal year for big wave surfing in 2018.
10) Sebastian’s Steudtner's wave in 2018
Sebastian Steudtner's an aficionado when it comes to tall waves, single-handedly taking German big wave surfing and propelling it into the spotlight. He's been chasing swells hard at Nazare for years now. The wave is incredible but it was also amped up because for a time, global media attributed as Rodrigo Koxa's biggest wave in the world. You can read about that here. Like everyone else, we're pumped to see what Mr Steudtner does this season.
9) Kai Lenny Treats it Like a Plaything
It's Kai Lenny. If this was even 2015 and we witnessed a chop hop on a 60ft wave, it would have been the greatest clip out of surfing in quite some time. The thing that makes Kai more impressive is that he's normalising this stuff. We expect it from him now and that is terrifying.
8) The 10 Days of Nazare
OK, not technically a moment but hear me out -- it was one of the most spectacular swell events in history a 10-day run of colossal waves and throwing grist to the grinder at Nazare earlier this year. If we're talking about the greatest moments from Nazare, as a collective, this was certainly one of them. We implore you to relive it, HERE.
7) Cotty’s Wipeout
By now, you know this story. Cotty faded on a gigantic wave in 2017, got clipped, detonated, bouncing his way down that huge wave face. Back broken, Cotty was kind enough to lend MSW a few moments on the phone. “I pulled up over a lump. I knew it wasn't going to barrel or that I wasn't going to out run it, so I just hit the eject button and thought, fuck, I gotta get out of this. Then a whole world of pain happened,” he told us. Cotty's all better now of course and back in the ring, but video is worth a recap. He also won wipeout of the year, so, that makes up for it?
6) This Absolute Lunacy
If ever an image summed up scale, power, velocity, difficulty at Nazare, it's this image. Helio Antonio is the master when it comes to shooting liquid mountains. This photograph from 2017, the day Cotty got boomed, is, simply, jaw dropping. And if you want more from Helio, slide on over to his Insty, right HERE.
5) Years of Training and Dedication Pays off for Justine DuPont
November 10, 2019. Justine's been putting the time in at Nazare and here, she could be in with a chance of toppling Maya's world record for biggest wave ever surfed by a woman. We did posit in fact that the French surfer had toppled the record. The jury is still out though, and we'll find out soon enough when the big wave awards announce the winner over the next few days.
4) Cotty's World Record
The world felt this one. Cotty, a relative unknown surfer from Devon, solidified himself as one of the ultimate hellmen when he broke the record for biggest wave ever surfed on February 2 2014. What's interesting here is the approach. Compare it to his wipeout in 2018 and you can see, in four years, how surfing has progressed at Nazare. How the fade has worked itself in.
3) Rodrigo Koxa Sets the Current Record for Biggest Wave Ever Surfed
November 8 2017, right as the season was getting ready to kick start, Rodrigo Koxa pulled into this colossal Nazare bomb – at the time, we speculated whether it was the biggest wave not just at Nazare but of all time. Of course, the rest is history and Rodrigo still holds the record for the biggest wave ever surfed measuring a daunting 80ft.
2) Maya Gabeira's Wipeout and Redemption
After a wipeout where she nearly drowned six years ago, the Queen of Nazare Maya Gabeira got back in the saddle and now holds the title for the biggest wave ever surfed by a woman (surfed on Jan 18 2018) – it measured 68ft. Maya is unafraid and charging and to shrug off a near-death experience and go as big as this paved the way forward and inspired a whole generation. Truly incredible moment.
1) Gmac's World Record
This is the wave and the record that opened the door for all of the above moments, surfed in November 1 2011. Without Gmac pushing the limits at Nazare, putting it on the map, it's hard to know where we'd be now. It was Garrett who mobilised the troops, and continues to do so when the buoys become gigantic. This is the moment that started the movement.
And that's it! Prior to publishing this list, we contacted our man on the ground, and the master Nazare lensman, Helio Antonio, in case there's any we missed. My memory gets a little hazy, but Helio weighed in with a few suggestions and here we are. But that doesn't mean it's a perfect science -- have we missed any? Sound off in the comments below.