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Surfers chase 'monster waves' in the Portuguese seaside town, Nazaré

Riding monster waves in the Portuguese seaside town of Nazaré
Riding monster waves in the Portuguese seaside town of Nazaré © Screen grab France 24
Text by: Anaïs GUÉRARD | Constance MEYER | Selina SYKES
4 min

Surfers have long chased the world’s biggest waves in places as far-flung as Australia, Hawaii and the California coastline. But these days some of the biggest surf can be found in Europe off the Portuguese seaside town of Nazaré. Our team of reporters went to Portugal in search of what’s known as winter’s ‘big-wave season’. 


Ten years ago no one dared to conquer Nazaré’s monster waves but now the seaside Portuguese town is a hotspot for some of the top surfers in the world, including world champion Rodrigo Zoxa.

"It's the best feeling you can have,” Zoxa says. "I've trained all my life to do that...I see God all the time like he gave me this present...Nazaré changed my life."

He’s surfed waves the height of a nine-storey building - 24 metres high - at speeds of up to 80km per hour. The risks are high as surfers who fall off their boards can crash into rocks or even drown. Zoxa has twice relied on an airbag to survive dangerous surfing conditions.

"This is Co2...Oxygen....This can save our lives, you pull and the air makes you come back up," he added.

Surfer Andrew Cotton is still surprised at the big waves here in Europe: "I always thought living in Europe that we had to go to Hawaii, California or Australia to surf big waves, and for me realising that the size of the waves we get here in Europe, especially here in Nazaré, that was a dream."

Nazaré's towering waves are caused by a 5km deep underwater canyon that ends just before the town's shoreline.

Click on the video player above to watch this FRANCE 24 report by Anaïs Guérard, Constance Meyer and Selina Sykes.

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