Editor’s Note: A few days ago, we ran a piece outlining a few potential problems that arose for the author during the Hercules swell at Nazaré. Via Facebook, Garrett McNamara responded. This is what he had to say.
Nazaré is one of the most magical places I have ever been. It has the most passionate and loving people, and the biggest waves I have ever seen or ridden.
My first time to Nazaré was in 2010. There was no Zon sponsor and not even a North Canyon Project – and no surfers, just body boarders charging. Luckily, when I arrived, Portuguese surfer Jose Gregorio offered to go out there with me. We had to follow the rules then, just as we do now. They were put in place by the Navy to keep everyone safe. We had to find good working skis, we had to get insurance, we had to get licenses and we had to have safety on land. We had to accomplish all of this with no money – just heart, dreams, and an attitude that anything is possible.
In the last 30 years, I have learned that preparation is everything. The laws that the Navy has had in place for years ensure that people are prepared and safe. We should be showing them and the local police appreciation for keeping us safe. If someone unprepared goes out there and gets in trouble, it is putting the innocent people on the beach or in the water who have to help them in danger.
Despite all this, I still feel many people are missing out on what really happened during the Hercules swell. As soon as it popped up on the map, I began monitoring it very closely. I knew Nazaré was going to be huge, but the conditions might make it impossible to ride. Still, I prepared for it anyway. I had plane tickets on hold, I made sure all the skis were working and all the licenses were still up to date. In the end, I decided to stay in Hawaii because I knew Praia do Norte wouldn’t be ridable on the biggest day. Even the day after, it was still a mess. There were much better and safer places to surf. The reason no one was out at Nazare wasn’t because of the rules, it was because the conditions were not good or they didn’t get prepared in time. Nothing can ever change the fact that Farol da Nazaré is the best place in the entire world to watch and experience giant waves. Nowhere in the world can you safely be that close to all that power. Whether there are surfers out or not, it is an incredible experience that everyone should have at least once in their life.
The determined surfers will find a way to get out there on the big days, and they don’t need to be rich to do it. They just need to have the passion and determination and not give up. From my experience, everyone, whether they’re a surfer or a spectator, is welcome to surf or see the Holy Grail of huge waves. If it is too crowded, you might have to walk down to the lighthouse instead of driving, and if it is too big you might have to apply for a jet ski license instead of paddling out, but anything is possible.