10 reasons why Portugal is one of the best surfing destinations
Great weather, incredible waves, accessibility and let’s not forget fun… these are the things surfers look for when searching for the best surfing destinations. Yet there’s so much more.
We’ve come up with 10 reasons why Portugal is one of the best surfing destinations in the world. That part was easy. As an extra challenge, we’ve made sure that each reason starts with the letter “C”. How’s that for a tautogrammatical task?
Featured image of Supertubos by SayLuiiiis (Flickr CC)
How did Portugal become one of the best surfing destinations?
While Portugal has always had the potential for a great surf scene, things were a bit difficult under the oppressive and authoritarian regime of the Estado Novo, which lasted from 1933 until 1974. But after the Carnation Revolution, the country opened up more to tourism and foreign influences, including the Hawaiian pastime of surfing.
In 1977 Portugal held its first national surfing competition at Ribeira d’Ilhas in Ericeira. However, Portugal really began to put itself firmly on the international surfing map during the 1990s when the sport exploded in the small Iberian country. Since then it’s grown and grown to become the second most popular sport after football.
So what makes Portuguese surfing so great?
Here are 10 reasons why Portugal is one of the best surfing destinations — all beginning with the letter “C”.
- Climate — Some parts of Portugal average 300 sunny days per year. Even the regions with a bit more rain are almost guaranteed to have sun pretty much all summer long. A mild climate and consistent surf mean local and international surfers enjoy Portugal’s waves year round.
- Clean beaches — Portugal is home to some of Europe’s most unspoiled nature. There isn’t much of a fossil fuel industry here and most of the country’s natural resources are the kind you can enjoy, such as the environment. In 2015, 299 beaches and 15 marinas in Portugal were awarded Blue Flag status, the most widely recognized standard for water quality, sustainable tourism, safety and general environmental responsibility.
- Coastline — In Portugal the furthest you can get from the coast is around 200km at the eastern border with Spain, meaning a surfable beach is always pretty close. And with a continental coastline of almost 950km (600mi) — not including the over 900km of shoreline on Madeira and the Azores — you can literally journey up and down the entire coast trying out countless surf spots.
- Comfort & convenience — Portugal is home to a well-developed tourism industry and surf tourists in particular are well catered to. Hotels and restaurants are friendly to foreigners and do there best to accommodate travellers of all stripes. There are amazing surf camps, surf lodges and surf schools to choose from, most of which are run by young people. Often foreigners themselves, these surfing expats saw how great things were in Portugal and decided to stay! Wherever there are good waves, chances are there is a surf scene and a school or camp to show you the ropes. As a highly developed European country with a good transportation network, Portugal is considered a safe and convenient place to travel, stay and enjoy a holiday.
- Communication — In terms of language, you’ll find that English is widely spoken in the tourism industry, by young people and even among the general population. While it’s nice to learn and use a bit of Portuguese, knowledge of English will be enough for you to get by very well on any surf holiday in Portugal. Educated Portuguese often speak at least two languages so don’t be surprised if you meet many French-speaking Portuguese as well. Spanish is also widely understood and you might even get by with Italian in a pinch. Rest assured, Portuguese people are very nice and happy to help a stranger — so don’t be afraid to ask anyone for assistance!
- Consistent surf — The Portuguese coast is dotted with lots of incredible surf spots, from world-class point and reef breaks to wide and gentle beach breaks that are perfect for beginners and longboarders. There is great surf all year round: from Espinho in the north to Sagres in the far south — and an incredible cluster of breaks around the surf capital of Ericeira, which is just 45 minutes up the coast from Lisbon. There are 7 major surfing regions in mainland Portugal, which can be divided like this (from north to south): Porto, Beira, Peniche, Ericeira, Lisbon, Alentejo and Algarve. Add the islands of the Azores and Madeira and you have 9 regions and countless spots for surfing. Perhaps you’ve heard of Peniche, Espinho, Praia do Norte (Nazaré), Sagres, Carcavelos or some of the many breaks in Ericeira?
- Cost — Portugal offers all of the convenience and comfort of Europe’s priciest destinations at a fraction of the cost. Lisbon is a perennial entry on lists of the most affordable cities in Europe and outside the capital things are usually even cheaper. In terms of Western Europe there is simply no competition when it comes to affordability, especially in a surfing destination.
- Crowds are small — So much coastline and so many great surf spots mean smaller crowds. Despite the popularity of surfing in Portugal, many parts of the country are not tourist hotspots, meaning it is not difficult to find breaks with only a few surfers. Plus, all beaches are public so you may even find a nice spot and get it all to yourself!
- Cuisine — Like fresh seafood and locally grown fruits and vegetables? What about excellent regional wines? Portugal is a budget gourmet’s dream, full of both domestic and international restaurants offering very affordable fare. Vegetarian and vegan diets are also well catered to. Wine here is exceptionally good for the price, with great local varieties of mid-range wines going for just €3-5. Unbelievable, right?
- Culture — This small country was once an international powerhouse, exploring the world and changing it forever. And it still knows how to do culture. Impressive Moorish castles, medieval towns and a wide range of museums will attest to Portugal’s rich history and modern design flair. Places like Lisbon and Sintra are perfect examples of its unique cultural wealth. Like music? Try homegrown Fado or enjoy an evening of Jazz or Brazilian sounds. Festivals, concerts, fairs and other cultural events are common all year round.
Convinced that Portugal is one of the best surfing destinations in the world? Come see for yourself!