Brazil dominates ‘magical’ Nazaré Big Wave Challenge as swells reach almost 40 feet

Brazil dominates ‘magical’ Nazaré Big Wave Challenge as swells reach almost 40 feet


Brazilian surfers Lucas Chianca and Maya Gabeira dominated at Nazaré’s Big Wave Challenge on Monday, with the legendary Portuguese coastline boasting waves between 30 and 40 feet.

With the waves growing as the day ran on, powered by storms battering western Europe this week, no one could stop Chianca from winning a consecutive title in the men’s competition.

He then continued his impressive track record at the event by winning the team competition alongside compatriot Pedro Scooby.

“This is a dream for me, I never expected to win so many times here,” Chianca said, per the World Surf League (WSL).

“This place is magical, Nazaré has given me everything in my life. This win is probably the most special to me because we were a 100% Brazilian team.

“It was such a pleasure to tow with Scooby, one of the guys who pushed me, helped me and inspired me when I started surfing big waves. I’m really happy to give him back a little bit with our performance today.”

Lucas Chianca and Pedro Scooby celebrate on the podium during WSL Big Wave Tour in Nazare, Portugal on January 22, 2024 // Hugo Silva / Red Bull Content Pool via AP Images  // For more content, pictures and videos like this please go to

There was yet more success for Brazil, with Gabeira winning the women’s competition.

The Brazilian held her nerve after being wiped out earlier in the day, recovering to secure a “rewarding” win.

“I’ve been injured for what seems like forever now so it was great to compete again and to get the win is a great way to come back,” Gabeira said, per the WSL.

“Today was a very difficult day to surf and especially to perform rail surfing. And to do that under a time pressure is tough, normally in the free surf when you’re tired you rest, here you have to go and you tend to take more risk than you probably should. It’s very difficult but so very rewarding in the end.”

Europe has witnessed extreme weather this week, as Storm Isha caused havoc with flights, with dozens of cancelations, diversions and go-arounds in western Europe.

While bad news for some, it was perhaps good news for surfers with the swell on Monday providing thrilling competition for spectators who had flocked to Nazaré.

Maya Gabeira, from Brazil, rides a wave during the Nazare Big Wave Challenge surfing tournament at Praia do Norte, or North Beach, in Nazare, Portugal, Monday, Jan. 22, 2024. (AP Photo/Armando Franca)

While the waves were big, they are known to get much bigger on the coastline.

Nazaré is a notorious hunting ground for big wave surfers with storms out in the Atlantic creating huge breakers – the waves are also magnified by an underwater canyon five kilometers deep, according to Reuters.

In 2017, Brazilian surfer Rodrigo Koxa broke the then world record for the biggest wave surfed, after riding a wave measuring 80 feet (24.38 meters) tall in the Portuguese fishing village.

Koxa’s record beat the previous mark of 78 feet (23.77 meters) surfed in 2011 by American Garrett McNamara, also in Nazaré.

In 2020, Sebastian Steudtner broke the world record again, surfing a wave 86 feet (26.21 meters) tall, equivalent to an eight-story building.

While the coastline is considered a paradise for big wave surfers, it’s also incredibly dangerous. Multiple surfers have been injured and even died tackling the infamous waves.

Last year, for example, veteran Brazilian surfer Marcio Freire died while practising tow-in surfing on the giant waves.


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