Don’t think you can show up with a ski at Nazaré, catch a few bombs and waltz on out. It’s not that easy anymore. Nor is it legal. According to a message from Portuguese surfer and former Billabong XXL nominee Hugo Vau, tow surfing’s restrictions by Portuguese authorities must be respected. This is especially unfortunate as the biggest swell of the year is set to hit Praia do Norte, Nazaré, this weekend.
This news doesn’t mean that it can’t be surfed, however. Surfers aren’t prohibited from paddling Nazaré, according to an article by Surf Portugal. Towing, on the other hand, seems to be out of the question. For some.
There is one way to circumvent the law which is to get permission from the Captain of the Port of Nazaré. Garrett McNamara and his tow team are allowed to tow as they have received permission. So has the Red Bull team of Maya Gabeira, Carlos Burle and Felipe Cesariano. Any tow team must, by law, include two personal watercraft, a person on land as look out, an emergency vehicle on the beach and connectivity established between all aforementioned parties. Anyone driving a Jet Ski at Nazaré must also have a letter from the Navy.
There are fines issued to anyone, or any organization, who chooses not to obey the laws. Though there are steps to garner permission to tow in Portugal, it is still illegal. The ways around the law are, however, permitted in special circumstances.
Had surfers not found a way to bypass these restrictions, Nazaré probably wouldn’t have received all the media attention it has in the recent years. While it is a stringent set of rules, they were designed for the safety of big wave surfers. A bigger support team and the knowledge of exactly who will be in the water makes for a more controlled situation and, therefore, safer tow sessions. Of course, danger is ever-present in big waves and should a bad wipeout occur, like that of Maya Gabeira’s on October 28, injuries and even death are still possible.