Portugal is not only one of the best surfing destinations in Europe, but also one of the best in the world, with surf breaks all year round and for all types of surfers. In the winter the swell is bigger and more appropriate for experienced surfers, whereas summer time is great for beginners as the waves tend to be smaller. For those eager to initiate in the sport there are surf schools all across the country and some even organise intensive courses and summer camps to learn and improve skills.
In this journal post we tell you more about surf in Portugal and why our country is a fantastic destination for those aiming to tackle some waves.
The history of surf in Portugal
It's unclear exactly when surf emerged in Portugal, but one thing that's certain is that it's been growing ever since. The first record of surf as we know it in the country dates back to the late 50's and early 60's with boards that came from France. In the beginning there were very little surfers, but after the Portuguese revolution there was a clear boom. The 80's were a decade of profound growth, with the appearance of a Surfing National Team, the Portuguese Surfing Federation and a National Surf Circuit.
Despite being recognised as good surfers in Europe, Portugal was only perceived as a surfing destination in the 90's, through media exposure of the great quality waves in Ericeira. Since then, news about surf in Portugal have been a constant, particularly because of the gigantic swell in Nazaré.
Surf in the north of Portugal
In the northwest coast of the country there are some surf breaks worth mentioning. If you're visiting Porto, the second biggest city, head to Matosinhos, Leça da Palmeira or Espinho as these are the best spots around town. In Mindelo and Póvoa de Varzim there are some options too, but heading further north to the Minho region is a better idea, specially if you have a car to drive along the coast. The best beaches are located near Viana do Castelo, particularly Cabedelo, Afife and Moledo. In this part of the country it's common to have strong gushes of wind blowing from the north, which means that windsurf and kitesurfing are also great options.
It's important to mention that the sea water is way colder in the north, particularly in the winter, which means a thicker wetsuit, booties and even a hood help you stay in for longer periods.
Surf in the central coast of Portugal
The central part of Portugal is the Mecca for surfing due to the amount of surfing spots with consistent good waves.
Figueira da Foz, Nazaré and Peniche are the first ones in this route and they're all mandatory pit stops. Praia do Norte in Nazaré is the place to go for big wave surfing, but let's be honest, you're better off in safe ground as the waves that break here can go up to 24 meters. Another fishermen village with a laid-back atmosphere is Peniche and Supertubos phenomenal barrels are the reason one stage of the WSL takes place here. Ericeira is located further south, near Parque Natural Sintra-Cascais and it's another strong contender.
If you rather commute from Lisboa, there are other solutions too, being Guincho, Carcavelos and Caparica the three main spots around town.
Surf in the south of Portugal
The southwest coast of the country, where Sudoeste Alentejano and Costa Vicentina Natural Park is located, is another common surfing destination specially during the summer period. For this reason it also tends to be a bit more crowded with both Portuguese tourists and foreigners.
In the coast of Alentejo the main surfing destinations are Sines and Zambujeira do Mar, but the best options are in costa Vicentina, already part of Algarve. Having a car to drive around inside the park is pretty much mandatory as beach hopping is the real deal. This way you can surf a couple of different spots everyday and really experience the variety the southwest coast has to offer. We highlight Aljezur, Carrapateira and Sagres as the best spots to base yourself, not only due to the great waves, but also because of the cool atmosphere.
Surf in the Portuguese islands of Açores and Madeira
Açores and Madeira can never be left behind. Being archipelagos, ocean plays a big role on the locals' daily lives and surfing is no exception.
In the island of São Miguel there are some good surfing spots near Ponta Delgada, but the most popular break is near Ribeira Grande, in praia de Santa Bárbara. In fact, this beach is home to one stage of the MEO Rip Curl Pro Portugal. Another azorean island worth mentioning is São Jorge, where there's a idyllic break point at Fajã da Caldeira de Santo Cristo.
In Madeira surfing is reserved to the western portion of the island, where we have to highlight the waves in Jardim do Mar and Paul do Mar. After all, it's not by change that the word "sea" is present in both.
With around 3000 hours of sun per year and a coastline with almost 1800 km, Portugal is a fantastic destination for surfing. To add to its charm, the food is delicious, people are welcoming and friendly and the history and culture date back to hundreds of years ago. If you're looking for short escape or a long holiday destination, get in touch and we'll help you out :)