Officials Ban Big Wave Surfing at Nazaré, Portugal

It’s the end of an era. Big wave surfing at Nazaré, Portugal, has been banned by the National Health Commission due to COVID-19 health concerns after massive crowds flocked to the beach during last week’s “century swell.”

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Big Wave Surfing at Nazaré, Portugal
Big Wave Surfing at Nazaré, Portugal | Image: Luis Ascenso

Announced on Wednesday 4 November, freesurfing and tow-surfing at Praia do Norte is now outlawed  “until further notice,” according to Portugal’s National Health Commission. While it is unclear how long the ban will be kept in place, the Mayor of Nazaré is working behind the scenes to permit freesurfing and access to the water, outside of “events,” such as the Nazaré Tow Surfing Challenge, which began on 2 November.

According to a translated statement from the Harbor Captain obtained by Surfline, “In the current context of the pandemic in Portugal, as determined by the regional health delegate and the regional health administration, Free Surf and Tow-in surfing are banned at Praia do Norte, due to the promotion of the public aggregation, which constitutes an increased risk for the public health. Failure to comply with this determination incurs in a criminal offence punished by law.”

With close to 30,000 people packing the beaches during the recent run of swell, even frequent surfers of Nazaré understood the need for the ban, with Nic Von Rupp telling magicseaweed it was “the right decision.” On the other hand, Rafael believes people made this “terrible decision” outside of Nazaré.

Big Wave Surfing at Nazaré, Portugal
Big Wave Surfing at Nazaré, Portugal | Image: Luis Ascenso

“I think it’s a terrible decision and probably one not taken by people close to Nazaré,” Tapia told Surfline. “Although, I totally agree that the situation on the cliff was chaos and maybe on the beach considering the COVID situation in Europe.

“I was in the water for the first day of the swell and the tiny surfing community out there were safe and taking precautions. Second day, I was sidelined from an injury and was on the cliff doing live commentary. That was bad. People came from so many places and there was no real space for social distancing correctly.”

Suggesting instead to block entrances to Nazaré, surfers are hopeful they can return to the beach for more big wave surfing in the future. For now, locals and tourists will have to wait until the ban is lifted to see these extreme surfers battle giants.

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General FAQ

Where is the biggest surfing wave in the World?

The Nazare Waves in Portugal hold the Guiness World Record for largest wave in the world to be surfed with a wave height of 23.7 meter or 78 feet.

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Why are the waves so big in Nazare Portugal?

The very high breaking waves in Nazare are due to the presence of the underwater Nazare Canyon which increases and converges the incoming swell and enlarges the wave height.


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Elliot Nash
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Elliot Nash

Elliot Nash is a journalist and content producer from Sydney with over five years’ experience in the digital media space. He holds a Bachelor of Communications (Media Arts & Production) from the University of Technology Sydney and a Diploma of Screen & Media from the Northern Sydney Institute of TAFE. Specialising in pop culture, news & current affairs, photography, audio and hi-fi, Elliot’s work has featured in 9News.com.au, 7NEWS.com.au, Next Luxury, Alive Radio and WhistleOut. He currently works as a Context Executive at Yoghurt Digital.