Surfing in Portugal
Ah, Portugal. This sun-soaked country on Europe’s south-western edge is a salt-crusted haven for surfers, no matter their skill level. From the relentless waves of Nazaré to the relaxed beach breaks of Algarve, Portugal’s 800 km coastline serves up a diverse menu of waves. But it’s not just the surf that makes Portugal a premier destination. The country’s rich seafaring history, infused with a laid-back, friendly atmosphere, creates an irresistible backdrop to your surf trip. Picture this: finishing off a session with a sunset paddle, followed by a beachside feast of freshly grilled sardines washed down with a glass of Vinho Verde. Sounds good? That’s just the start of your Portugal surf adventure.
Where to Surf in Portugal
Let’s start with the beginners. Lagos, in the Algarve region, provides a collection of beach breaks that offer smaller, more manageable waves, perfect for those just finding their feet on a board. Carcavelos, near Lisbon, is another excellent spot for beginners. This popular beach break offers consistent waves and a wide sandy beach for plenty of space.
Intermediate surfers have a wealth of options. Ericeira, a World Surfing Reserve, is an obvious choice, with consistent surf spots like Foz do Lizandro and Ribeira d’Ilhas providing good fun without being too intimidating. São Pedro de Moel, located between Porto and Lisbon, is a great right-hand point break that’s a dream for longboarders and shortboarders alike.
Now, for the thrill-seekers and advanced surfers, Portugal is home to some of the world’s most famous big wave spots. Nazaré, known for its mountain-sized waves, is where surf legends come to test their mettle. Another must-surf location is Supertubos in Peniche, known for its powerful, fast barrels that give the spot its name. Lastly, don’t miss out on Cave in Ericeira, a powerful right-hand wave that breaks over a shallow reef, providing one of the most challenging rides in Portugal.
All these spots are just the tip of the iceberg – Portugal’s surf-rich coastline is an open invitation to explore and find your own perfect break. Grab your board and start the adventure!
When to surf in Portugal
With over 800km of coastline, Portugal is a surfing gem that offers quality waves all year round. However, the ideal time to go surfing in Portugal largely depends on your surfing skills and what kind of waves you’re after.
For beginners, summer (June to August) is a great time to learn the basics and build confidence. The water is warm (around 18-22°C), the waves are smaller and more consistent, and the weather is generally pleasant and sunny. Beach breaks along the Algarve, as well as Cascais and Carcavelos near Lisbon, provide perfect conditions for those starting out.
For intermediate surfers, the shoulder seasons of spring (April to June) and autumn (September to November) bring more frequent swells and bigger waves without the full force of the winter’s intensity. Crowds are fewer, and spots like Ericeira and Peniche start to show their real potential. Water temperatures can drop to around 15-18°C, so a wetsuit is recommended.
Advanced and professional surfers usually eye the winter months (December to February) for the biggest swells. Renowned spots like Nazaré, Supertubos, and Coxos come alive, drawing surfers from around the globe to challenge their monstrous waves. This time of year can see water temperatures dropping to around 13-15°C, and the weather can be unpredictable, so make sure to pack a quality winter wetsuit.
Regardless of when you visit, remember that conditions can change rapidly due to tides, wind, and incoming swells. Always check the local forecast and respect the power of the ocean. Portugal’s surf scene is waiting for you – bring your stoke and dive right in!
Culture and Non-Surfing Activities in Portugal
Surfing might be the main attraction, but Portugal has so much more to offer when you’re not chasing the perfect wave. The country is steeped in history and culture, offering a wealth of experiences that can enrich your surf trip.
Start with exploring Portugal’s vibrant cities. Wander through the narrow cobblestone streets of Lisbon, taking in the historic architecture, colorful tiled buildings, and bustling markets. Don’t forget to ride the iconic Tram 28 and visit landmarks like the Jeronimos Monastery and Belem Tower. Up north, Porto enchants with its medieval riverside district, the Ribeira, its striking blue-and-white tiled churches, and of course, its world-renowned port wine cellars.
But Portugal is not just about its cities. The country’s natural beauty is staggering. From the dramatic cliffs and pristine beaches of the Algarve to the rolling hills and vineyards of the Douro Valley, there’s plenty for nature lovers to explore. Hiking, cycling, and wildlife watching are just a few of the non-surfing activities you can enjoy.
Food and wine are an integral part of Portuguese culture. Indulge in delicious seafood, taste the famous pastel de nata, and savor the diverse wines – from Vinho Verde in the north to the rich, full-bodied reds of the Alentejo region.
Last but not least, Portugal’s vibrant nightlife and music scene are not to be missed. From the bars and clubs of Lisbon’s Bairro Alto and Cais do Sodré districts to the traditional Fado houses of Alfama, there’s something for everyone.
In Portugal, every moment off the surfboard can be as exciting and enriching as catching that perfect wave. Enjoy and dive into the Portuguese way of life!
“Know before you go” surfing in Portugal
Before packing your board and setting your compass towards Portugal, there are a few essential things you need to keep in mind.
Language: While many locals and surf instructors speak English, especially in popular tourist areas, having a few basic Portuguese phrases in your pocket can make your experience more enriching and help you connect with the local culture.
Respect: Portugal has a deep surfing culture, and locals take their surf etiquette seriously. Always respect the lineup, don’t drop in on others, and remember that the surfer closest to the peak has the right of way. This courtesy goes a long way in ensuring everyone enjoys the waves.
Insurance: Ensure your travel insurance covers surfing and related activities. It’s important to be protected against any potential injuries or damages to your gear.
Weather and Safety: Portugal’s coastline can throw up some powerful swells, especially in the winter months. Always check the weather and surf conditions before entering the water. Rip currents can be common, so understanding how to spot and deal with them is crucial. Remember, safety first!
Transport: Having a car is advantageous if you want to explore the vast coastline and its many surf spots. Portugal has an excellent network of highways, but remember that there are tolls on many routes.
Visa: If you’re from a non-European Union country, check visa requirements before traveling.
Wetsuits: Even in the summer, the Atlantic can be pretty chilly, especially up north. Bringing a wetsuit is recommended. In winter, a good quality 4/3mm or 5/4mm wetsuit is essential, along with boots, gloves, and a hood for the chillier days.
Above all, come prepared to fall in love with Portugal’s epic waves, vibrant culture, and welcoming locals. Boa viagem!