It is widely recognized that the Portuguese coastline is top-notch.
Even the World Surf League (WSL), during their comments on live streaming contests around the globe and when there´s a Portuguese surfer involved, always emphasize the beauty of the country, the variety of waves (beach breaks, pointbreaks, reef breaks, slabs), and… pastéis de nata (the famous Portuguese egg custard tart pastry)!
We are proud to share with you some of the best surf breaks along the Portuguese Coast, around the Lisbon area!
Before getting into a more detailed mode, did you know that despite the country's familiarity with the sea, the first Portuguese surfer, Pedro Martins de Lima (who recently passed away), struggled to cope with the Maritime Police (cabos-de-mar) during the 1960s? He was arrested several times when the waves were pumping and the red flag was up. Or, even funnier, when the Sunday walkers called the cops because they thought the surfers were drowning in the sea. In fact, they were sitting on their surfboard, waiting for the set.
Thirty years later, everything changed, and as the Brazilian globetrotter and surfer Tito Rosemberg stated: “Surfing is not anymore against the system; it is part of the system.”
As promised above, we gathered 5 top surf spots in the Center of Portugal for those surfers who want to improve their skills. We did an exhaustive description of each of them, with some important advice and also measuring how often the surf breaks and the amount of crowd.
The former is on the “Frequency” section, and the latter is on the “Crowd” section. Both ranged through a metric: from * (minimum) to ***** (maximum).
So, before waxing your surfboard, read carefully the text below. It will save you time, energy, and it will help you avoid surprises.
Praia dos Belgas, Peniche
Type of wave: barrel and power.
Good swell direction: north.
Good wind direction: southeast.
Swell Size: 3 feet on average, but holds a perfect 5 feet.
Advice: when there is a big swell, pay close attention to the currents. To paddle out it's not a big deal however, never underestimate the power of the sets. In summer, be aware of the morning fog.
Praia dos Belgas is 1 hour and 30 minutes from Lisbon.
Since 2009, Peniche has hosted the WSL championship tour and is, at the moment, the only contest in Europe after Hossegor (France) dropped out. So if you're around the area (generally in March), don't miss the opportunity to get inspiration from 36 of the best surfers in the world.
Praia Azul, Santa Cruz
Type of wave: depending on the bottom, but usually powerful with a barreling section.
Good swell Direction: west.
Good wind direction: east, however southeast is also acceptable.
Tides: mid-tide or low.
Size: from 2 feet to 5 feet.
Advice: check the ocean before jumping into the water. Spot the currents and look closely at the sets. It's very common to check the waves from a higher perspective, but in fact they look much bigger than they do.
Santa Cruz is located 1hour 30 minutes away from Lisbon.
A8 is the highway that connects three of the most popular spots for surfing: Ericeira, Peniche, and Nazaré. However, in 2016, the local media reported on an old idea that would finally come true: changing the name of A8 to Asurf (highway of surfing). Santa Cruz is also on the route, but for no apparent reason, it was ignored. In the end, there was no "Asurf," and it still remains "A8."
Ribeira D'Ilhas, Ericeira
Type of wave: Right-hand point break rigththander with a mixed bottom (sand and rocks). It's a very long wave (up to 200 meters) with different sections. It starts with an easy drop and a nice wall in the first section. Then it softens a bit, and finally the wave stands up on the inside section.
Good swell direction: It works with any swell, depending on the sand bottom and its location over the slab. Swells from the south and west are known for building a nice facing wall.
Best wind direction: east, but it also holds light onshore winds (west and south). It's side-on with north winds, smoothing the waves.
Tides: mid-tide or totally low.
Size: from 2 feet to 8 feet.
Advice: be careful when jumping off and exiting, in order to avoid being dragged over the rocks that split with the beach next door (Ali-Baba). In case you get caught in the current, the best option is to paddle quickly towards Ali-Baba's channel. The bottom is sandy, with slabs covered by seaweed and sea urchins, so pay extra attention while walking at low-tide, to avoid cuts and abrasions.
This surf break is located 50 minutes away from Lisbon.
In May 1977, Ribeira d'Ilhas hosted the first national surfing competition, and in 1989, the first international surfing contest. Since then, this pointbreak has become a regular stop on the European surfing circuit, hosting many international competitions over the years.
Praia Grande, Sintra
Type of wave: Barrel and powerful. This spot has three different breaks, the left in front of the restaurant Bar do Fundo, right and left in front of the hotel (middle of the beach), and the right next to the swimming pool.
Good swell direction: west but also works with northwest and southwest.
Best wind direction: east, but it also works with south.
Tide: mid-tide. High tide can cause significant shore break.
Swell size: summer time 3 to 4 feet, winter time 5 to 8 feet.
Advice: before getting into surfing, look carefully at the ocean. With so many currents, it's especially tricky and dangerous here. During summer, be aware of the morning fog.
This surf break is located only 30 minutes away from Lisbon.
Some of the best Portuguese big wave riders are originally from Praia Grande, namely Nicolau Von Rupp, João Macedo, António Silva, António Laureano, among others. As it grows larger, it appears that the energy of the entire Atlantic Ocean is concentrated in this particular section of the coast.
Aside from surfing, Praia Grande is also a great spot for hiking and exploring the nearby natural parks and cliffs. The area is known for its stunning coastal scenery, and there are many hiking trails that offer panoramic views of the Atlantic Ocean.
Cabana do Pescador, Costa da Caparica
Type of wave: beach break.
Good swell Direction: west/ northwest.
Best wind: east or no wind.
Size: from 2 feet to 6 feet.
Advice: as with most beach breaks, be aware of currents when the swell is pumping.
Costa da Caparica is located 20 minutes away from Lisbon.
Did you know that Semente Surfboards was originally created in Costa da Caparica? Nick Uricchio moved to Portugal in 1980 and, with António Pereira Caldas originated one of the first surfboard factories "Lipsticks Surfboards". Two years later, Uricchio and Miguel Katzenstein created Semente Surfboards and moved to Ericeira.
Flat or stormy days? We've got you covered!
Looking for an alternative program to flat or stormy days? Here are some cool options to visit during your stay in Lisbon. And you can always do some pastries pit stops (pastel de nata).
São Jorge Castle, a medieval castle from the 11th century, was built by the Moors as a defensive fortification.
Jerónimos Monastery, built in the early 16th century, is intrinsically related to the Portuguese discoveries.
Belém Tower, a defensive fortress to guard the entrance of Lisbon´s harbor, was built in the early 16th century.
City views: Sanctuary of Christ the King, Panoramic of Monsanto.
Alfama neighborhood and its Fado restaurants (Fado is a deeply emotional and cathartic traditional form of music from Portugal).
And also, Sintra, 30 minutes away from Lisbon (Pena Palace, Moorish Castle, Quinta da Regaleira, Sintra National Palace, Monserrate Palace).
Remember to respect the ocean and your fellow surfers, keep the beach clean, protect yourself from the sun, and be ready to explore the west's charms.
See you out there !