Nazaré, legends and tradition... until the wave record

Nazaré, legends and tradition... until the wave record

Since Garrett McNamara's surfing exploits, Nazaré has become "trendy". However, this is not the relationship I have with this ancient village that I have seen grow and change as I did. You see, I have been fortunate to have a home there and to come since I was born every summer.

When I selected the first images that could be used for my tea towels, it was quite naturally that I was attracted by those Artur Pastor made of Nazaré. As I said before, so little changed between the 1950s and 1970s in this country trapped under the dictatorship of Salazar.

Portuguese culture heritage site Nazaré
Portuguese culture heritage site Nazaré

Nazaré still has its own magic as well as its identity. As a child, I learned to adore these courageous and proud people whose sea is friend as much as enemy. I was lucky enough to witness the pulling of the boats by the oxen and the men, to sleep in the shade of the boats between two dives in the sea and to have me called meu amor ten times a day by all the Nazarene women.

François Mauriac wrote beautiful words about Nazaré in 1955: “These fishermen, dressed in polychrome woolen fabrics, propel their boats into the waves and throw their nets as if they were under the order of an invisible master.
I do not believe that one can feel in Europe a feeling of disorientation and astonishment as intense as what one feels in this village burnt by the sun, among these biblical people where I suddenly found myself out of time. There are many other wonders in Portugal but Nazaré remains my strangest memory ”.

portuguese culture heritage site

If the courage of the fishermen has made it its fame, nevertheless Nazaré has had its own legend for centuries, like many Portuguese cities, cradled by their Judeo-Christian culture.

The legend tells that at the birth of the day of September 14, 1182, D. Fuas Roupinho, mayor of the castle of Porto de Mós, hunted along the coast, surrounded by thick fog, near his land, when he saw a deer which he immediately began to hunt. The deer headed for the top of a cliff. D. Fuas, in the fog, isolated himself from his companions. When he realized he was on top of the cliff, at the edge of the cliff, in danger of death, he recognized the place. It was right next to a cave where an image of the Virgin Mary and the baby Jesus was worshiped. Then he begged, in a loud voice: My Lady, save me ! Immediately, the horse miraculously stopped, planting its feet on the rocky boulder suspended above the void, the Bico do Milagre, thus saving the rider and his mount from certain death which would result from a fall of more than a hundred meters. The deer was the devil who, however, dissolved into smoke. The horse's hind legs were engraved on the rock and, people say, they can still be seen there today.

D. Fuas Roupinho ordered the construction of the chapel of Nossa Senhora da Nazaré in that same place, which became known as Memória, in honor of the extraordinary miracle that saved this Portuguese hero.

Nazaré Portugal heritage

Successive shipwrecks marked the Nazarene population in black and mourning for decades, and the construction of a safe harbor, which would guarantee maritime safety conditions and reduce the risk of fishermen's lives, was the greatest desire of the population throughout almost the entire XX's century.
The dream of progress, after years and years of promises, will only be fulfilled in the first half of the 1980s, helping the departure of boats and fishing activities from the beach and greater safety for men and boats.

Now, all that is left from the past are the narrow, silent lanes, the crumbling walls and the howling of the waves. Time to time, I love to wander there and get lost to regain the atmosphere of the village of yesterday. Especially during the winter.

Nazaré has long been a spot for vacationers or beach enthusiasts, but everything has accelerated since 2011.

Nazaré Portugal heritage

Nazaré Garrett McNamara

Each year more and more surfers, from various corners of the planet, come to Portugal, to challenge the biggest wave of the world! For 30 years, Portugal has been a surfing destination – notably at Peniche and Ericeira – but still nobody went to Nazaré. One of the reasons was that no one could figure out how to reach the waves.

McNamara heard about Nazaré for the first time in 2005 when he received an email out of the blue from Dino Casimiro, a local bodyboarder. At the time, he didn't pay attention, as he himself said "as an average American, one who got his education in the ocean, I didn’t know where Portugal was.” 

It took five years to convince McNamara to take a closer look at Nazaré, but as soon as he went up to the lighthouse and looked down at Praia do Norte he knew his life was about to change. McNamara began to put the infrastructure in place to take on the waves, especially organizing rescue with jet skis. 

And finally, on November 1, 2011, at 44 years old McNamara achieved the unimaginable:  surfing a 23.77 meter wave in Praia do Norte, Nazaré! Slowly, the surfing world has been won over, too. Nazaré is simply the most reliable spot in the world for big waves now. 

 Nazaré Portuguese heritage

Since then, Nazaré has experienced a renaissance between regulars, curious people and surfers. What was once a small quiet village is now a must see place and the streets remain crowded except for a few days during winter.


See our collection inspired by the sea : Esperança, , Família, Saudade. Meu pai.

Watch HBO 100 Foot Wave

Photographs credit:
B&W photographs by Artur Pastor (50's)
Color photographs by Lisbon by Light (2015)
Surf photography: source unknown


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