Conditions are looking big if not a little funky for this weekend's XL swell that's about to rumble into Europe. In magnets like Nazare, although the swell is there, the direction isn't ideal and the wind is pretty scattered. Still, as the surfing ban has been lifted on that giant – you can bet the crew are chomping at the bit to get back out there.
And that comes with its own set of caveats. As tempting as it is to ditch what you're doing and go and see the big waves of Nazare, there's still some real safety concerns around people gathering on the cliffs. Best thing to do is let the surfers do their thing and enjoy the footage as it filters through – otherwise, we face a real threat of that magical place being shut down again. No surfing. No tourism. Let's armchair this session for now.
But it's not just all about Nazare, you know. Places all across western Europe will be blessed with this XL run of swell. And for that breakdown, we kick it over to forecaster Tony Butt.
“On Tuesday December 16 a low began to form off the east coast of Canada. It then moved north and is currently slow-moving just off Newfoundland and deepening fast,” the wave guru said. “Tomorrow Thursday it is expected to move east and expand, merging with another system to the northeast and stalling west of Ireland by Friday.
“On Saturday it is expected to weaken as it turns towards the northeast and passes north of Scotland. At the same time, an area of high pressure moves up from the southwest, expected over Madeira by Saturday and influencing the far south of Portugal.
Nazaré will be well over 20 feet, but the westerly direction probably won’t produce such good A-frame peaks
“An area of storm-force westerly winds on the southern flank of the system is developing as we speak, which will expand and travel eastwards across the Atlantic between now and Friday. The combination of consistent, strong winds from the same direction and the extended fetch produced by the movement of the windfield itself means that a large, long-period swell will be generated.
“The swell is from a westerly direction and will produce large surf mostly at west-facing spots south of northwest Ireland. The swell will struggle to reach north-facing spots, particularly in the far northwest. Although the west coast of Ireland and surrounding area will still get wave heights of up to ten feet, with moderate southerly winds.
“The first long-period forerunners will arrive at extreme westerly exposures during Friday, with periods of around 20 secs and wave heights ramping up during the afternoon. It initially mixes with a previous dying swell but this disappears by Saturday.
“In western Ireland, Cornwall and other mid-areas the swell already exceeds six feet at the most exposed spots by late Friday, and increases to over ten feet on Saturday before ramping down again on Sunday. Winds are mostly strong southwest throughout.
“Further south, the swell hits hard in the far northwest of Spain, hitting 20 feet at exposed spots on Saturday, but with fresh to strong southwest winds. Further along the north coast, things clean up but wave heights are smaller due to the westerly direction. Expect some very good surf at Mundaka, with wave heights peaking at around six to eight feet and moderate southerly winds. Expect good waves on Saturday, Sunday and continuing into Monday. The big-wave reefs in the Basque Country will also be very good, particularly those that thrive on a westerly swell.
“Down into Portugal, conditions become cleaner the further south you go, with wave heights hitting 15 feet at exposed spots and winds ranging from moderate westerlies in the north to light and variable in the south. Nazaré will be well over 20 feet, but the westerly direction probably won’t produce such good A-frame peaks.”