Le big wave surfing au Portugal

ARTE channel just released a documentary about the big waves in Nazaré which includes scientific knowledge about the Nazaré Canyon processes and the importance of MONICAN monitoring system (https://www.arte.tv/de/videos/079474-015-A/re-die-perfekte-welle/ for the German version) or https://www.arte.tv/fr/videos/079474-015-A/arte-regards/ for the French version).

Extending more than 200 kilometers offshore the western coast of Portugal from abyssal depths in excess of 5000m to a few hundreds of meters from the beach of Nazaré, the Nazaré Canyon is one of the largest submarine canyons of the European margin. Among the large range of impacts that this submarine canyon promotes on the coastal ocean conditions offshore Nazaré one of the most spectacular is the nearshore amplification of the incoming swells. This process leads to the development of giant waves off Praia do Norte (located just north of Nazaré village) particularly during winter when the large swells generated by storms in the North Atlantic reach the western Portuguese margin.

With the aim of monitoring the oceanographic and meteorological conditions that affect the area of influence of Nazaré Canyon, a real-time monitoring system (MONICAN system) was installed between 2009 and 2011 by Instituto Hidrografico forming the backbone of the Nazaré Canyon Observatory which is presently contributing to JERICO-NEXT network.

Since its implementation, the MONICAN system is supporting the local coastal populations and nautical communities providing real-time measurements and operational forecasts which are disseminated through a dedicated web page (http://monican.hidrografico.pt ) and in the form of tables sent daily by email to local users such as the Town Hall offices and port authorities.

This information is particularly relevant to support the nautical communities in the planning of marine activities in the area or to support local authorities during periods of extreme conditions such as during storms. An expression of this interest are the more than 200.000 visitors that were received during 2017 in Forte de S. Miguel, the old fortress and lighthouse that is located just in front of the area of formation of the big waves and where the Nazaré City Hall installed an exhibition about Nazare, the big wave surfing and (in collaboration with Instituto Hidrográfico) the science and monitoring of the Nazare Canyon area.

Breaking News: Rodrigo Koxa received yesterday the WSL Biggest Wave Award for the biggest wave surfed in 2017/2018 which was 24.38m height and is a new Guinness World Record for the biggest wave ever surfed, breaking the previous Guinness Record obtained in 2011 by  Garret McNamara (23.77m).

João Vitorino
Oceanography Division
Instituto Hidrografico
R. das Trinas 49
1249-093, Lisboa

Figure 1. – Garret McNamara surfing a wave estimated in 30m height during the 28th January 2013 (Photo: AP Photo/Tó Mané/Nazaré Qualifica).
Figure 2. – Minutes away from the deployment of one of MONICAN multiparametric buoys during one maintenance action conducted by Instituto Hidrografico.