Whenever the European winter approaches, the expectation for the giant waves of Nazaré that happen normally between October and March increases. The best surfers on the planet go there at that time and provide record breaks every year. But what explains the formation of these water walls in Portugal?
Located north of Lisbon, Nazaré receives the giant waves generated in the storms of the Atlantic Ocean, hundreds of kilometers away. What makes these waves much larger in the region than elsewhere on the Portuguese coast is the presence of a submerged canyon, also called a cannon – the famous Cannon of Nazaré.
Canhão da Nazaré
© MAÍRA PABST
“Canyons are geomorphological formations normally associated with soil erosion caused by a river.
To understand why the cannon is important for the formation of giant waves, it is necessary to understand the contrast between the seabed of the beaches of Nazaré and the North. At Nazaré beach is the canyon, with a depth that varies from 50 meters to almost 5,000 meters. Meanwhile, at Praia do Norte, the bottom is the continental shelf, much shallower.
Due to the depth, the waves that travel over the Cannon of Nazaré do not lose speed and have their direction changed. The waves that travel over the continental shelf lose speed and do not change direction. Both are in front of Farol da Nazaré, 200 meters from the beach. This junction causes the peak to rise even more, a major factor for the massive conditions in Nazaré.
Some of the best known records:
– the American Garrett McNamara, in 2011 joined Guinness World Records after surfing a 78 ft (23.8 m) wave
– November 8, 2017, Rodrigo Koxa from São Paulo reached the mark of 24.4 meters (80 feet).
– Maya Gabeira renewed her own female world record for the biggest wave surfed, with Guinness World Records with the 22.4 meter mark