O Is For Ocean and Onda.

Ocean. Onda, Portuguese for wave.

That’s the Atlantic Ocean at its best, telling you to admire it from a safe distance. The name of this beach is Cova Gala, in Figueira da Foz, and it is possible to swim in it when the water is calmer. This photo was taken in August with the red flag flying, so I just sat there watching the waves splash on the breakwater. That can be immensely relaxing.

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© Nightjar, all rights reserved.


  1. says

    Oh, this makes me so homesick! (My ocean was the Pacific, but ocean is ocean.) I don’t think I’ll ever have a day where a part of me doesn’t ache for the ocean. Fabulous photo, Nightjar.

  2. johnson catman says

    Caine @1:
    Ocean may be ocean, but in my anecdotal experience, there is a lot of difference between Atlantic and Pacific. I live in the east, so most of my exposure to the ocean is on the coast of NC. Even though we get hurricanes here, the ocean is generally pretty calm. The one time I went to San Francisco and went to the beach and got in the water, it about beat me silly within 10 minutes. The waves crashing at the shoreline were 3-4 feet. I have never seen anything like that on my coast. Granted, that is just one data point, but it stuck with me.

  3. Ice Swimmer says

    This is gorgeous, the water splashing, the foam, the surface of the blue sea.

    Waves like that are relatively uncommon here, especially in the maze of islands, bays and peninsulas that is the Finnish coastline of the Gulf of Finland.

    I did swim in the sea today and had slight problems with the waves. While they weren’t very high per se, the incoming and reflected waves formed interference patterns, basically two waves at an angle, with high peaks and low troughs. One had to be careful about timing the breathing.

    (A single) wave is aalto in Finnish. The waves on the surface of a part of a body of water is called aallokko (it isn’t a plural, more like a collective noun). Sea is meri and ocean is valtameri (valta means dominance or power over something or someone). The kind of waves I described in the previous paragraph are/is called ristiaallokko (risti = cross).

  4. Ice Swimmer says

    Oh, and regarding valtameri: Huge or enormous is in Finnish valtava and oceans are huge areas of sea.

  5. Nightjar says


    Thank you! I am the same but I’m lucky in that I’m only 50 km away from the ocean. Still, I wish I could see it more often and if many months go by without me going there I will start longing for it as well. Lakes and rivers are just not the same.


    Oh, thank you, I didn’t know that song!

    johnson catman

    The one time I went to San Francisco and went to the beach and got in the water, it about beat me silly within 10 minutes. The waves crashing at the shoreline were 3-4 feet.

    I don’t know the Pacific, but I think the difference you describe may have more to do with geography than with the ocean itself. I’ve seen the Atlantic behave pretty much as your description above. But only on Portugal’s west coast, the south coast is very different and way calmer, probably because it’s more sheltered, forming a kind of bay with Morocco’s coastline. Similarly, San Francisco looks way more exposed to the open ocean than anywhere on the east coast, the overall coastline geography is different. That would be my guess but, again, I’ve never been to the Pacific.

    Ice Swimmer

    Thank you! Oh, swimming, I miss swimming. I really want to do it this year, it has been a long time, but I will have to wait until June. Before that there are no lifeguards in most beaches and I’m not willing to take such risks.

  6. Nightjar says

    Sea is meri and ocean is valtameri

    That is interesting and makes sense. In Portuguese sea is “mar” and ocean is “oceano”.

  7. says

    Johnson catman:

    That has more to do with the coastline than anything else. The coastline through California is all towering cliffs, and northern Cal has a lot of huge rock formations in the water, just a bit out from the beach. If you know where to go, there are a number of lovely coves where the Pacific gentles, and you can go and have a wonderful swim. The Pacific in that area is not known for gentleness, it’s very rough and tumble on many of the beaches, but I grew up with that, and surfed and body surfed, and you expect to get battered a bit. I did cliff diving too, but went over into Mexico for that. Cliff diving in SoCal is a dicey business, you have to know what you’re doing, and more importantly, you have to know where the rocks aren’t. There are always a fucktonne of idiots who get very close to killing themselves thinking it’s safe to jump off a cliff, or go standing out on the rock formations, in spite of signs with DANGER all over them.

  8. Nightjar says

    and you expect to get battered a bit

    Yep. One thing is for sure, with big waves you just never get bored. :)

    (Which is what often happens to me in our south coast. I appreciate the warmer temperatures, but I get bored quickly. “How come I’m still standing in the same place effortlessly!? Play with me, ocean, play!”)

  9. says


    Play with me, ocean, play!

    That’s me all over! Too many people think an ocean is like a swimming pool. They generally get shocked right out of that idea. :D

  10. Ice Swimmer says

    I like the sea both when it’s calmer than a municipal swimming pool and when there’s a bit more of this play stuff. Of course, in the bays, shielded by islands it’s more like a lake than an ocean here.

    What I’m not terribly fond of are these choppy little waves that are tall enough to splash you in the face and get your nose or mouth full of water at the slightest distraction, but not substantial enough to carry you with them at all.

    BTW, surfing is also done in Finland. I’ve never seen or tried it, but they’ve found spots that are good for surfing during windstorms, often in the autumn or winter (it’s in the video title, December 2015), mainly in the ends of long peninsulas and islands sticking out into open sea.

  11. chigau (違う) says

    I grew up on The Prairies; water is rivers and lakes.
    The very first time I encountered The Ocean, it tried to kill me.
    Fine. It is necessary. Got that.
    I will never, ever, ♥ It.

  12. Nightjar says

    BTW, surfing is also done in Finland.

    Oh, thanks for the video, I had no idea. That’s such a beautiful setting too.

    I’ve never tried surfing either, though I love to watch it. BTW, the world record for biggest wave ever surfed was recently set here, on November 2017 at Nazaré. 24.4 meters, it’s quite impressive (do not mistake the jetski at the beginning for the “tiny” surfer!). I do love the seagull, just casually flying by as a world record was being filmed. :)

  13. says

    I wouldn’t be able to surf anymore, don’t have the balance for it, but it was great fun when I was young!

  14. says


    The very first time I encountered The Ocean, it tried to kill me.

    Did that when I was nine years old. Never impacted my deep and abiding love for ocean.

  15. says

    Did that when I was nine years old. Never impacted my deep and abiding love for ocean.

    Only time I got into a dangerous situation was in the north of Spain. I was something like 11 or so and I underestimated the pull of the tides. Swimming out was easy, but swimming back I noticed that I hardly made any purchase.
    Well, I have always been a good swimmer and I have always been able to keep my head in a crisis so I simply decided that as long as I was moving a little closer to the beach when the waves went in than when they pulled back I was going to make it.
    The Atlantic still is my love.

  16. says


    Well, I have always been a good swimmer and I have always been able to keep my head in a crisis

    Same here. I got caught in an unusual cross current, which pushed me down into deep water. I knew it wouldn’t last, so I waited, and eventually got spit out. :D

  17. says

    Beautiful and dramatic picture.

    Since I grew up in on e of the few countries on the earth that has no access to ocean or sea, the first time I saw sea it was Baltic sea in East Germany at around 10 years of age. I do remember how impressive it was and the impression that the water is actually towering over me.

    I saw both the Atlantic ocean (in Atlantic City) and Pacific ocean (in Santa Monica) when I was in US. I cannot say I remember any difference between them :).

  18. Nightjar says

    Thanks, Charly!

    Caine and Giliell,

    Same here. I’ve been in a situation much like Giliell described, I knew the tide was pulling but in my case I guess I overestimated my energy. It’s easy to get exhausted when you’re having fun with the waves and the tide is pulling, you’re constantly fighting and having to control your breathing. When I decided it was time to swim back I was too tired, I felt like I had less energy than what I needed to get out. I didn’t panic, though, and that’s really the best thing you can do. Used the same strategy, patience and knowing how to take advantage of the push/pull movement of the waves. The following day I was in the water again… the ocean just pulls me in, in more ways than one.

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