Surf’s Up: Where to surf in Lisbon
“It’s the reason I moved to Lisbon", explains French property entrepreneur Arthur Moreno, when asked about the city’s surf scene.
“The coast surrounding the city offers some of the best surfing in the world year round. I manage to get out at least a few times a week and then on weekends too – it certainly adds another dimension to life”.
In addition to developing some of the city’s most interesting residential property renovation projects, Moreno opened a beach bar and restaurant this summer along Lisbon’s Costa da Caparica at Praia da Princesa, a heavenly stretch of rugged coast-line and pristine golden sand just 30 minutes drive from the city, which local surfers tip as one of the best spots to surf in Lisbon.
The dynamic surf culture along Lisbon’s surrounding coast-line appears to be booming, attracting an increasingly international crowd to surf or invest in a property for sale in Lisbon and the surrounding areas. Santiago Bebbiano, the hospitality mogul behind one of Brazil’s hippest beach bars Rocka, is one of an growing number of Brazilians who head to Portugal come Autumn to catch the Big Wave scene, which he classifies as “one of the best in the world”.
“There’s starting to be a real buzz about Portugal’s surfing scene on the international circuit and the Big Wave contest that kicks off in Nazaré in October. It’s truly an experience that I would recommend everyone to go and see at least once – even if you are not a surfer. The vibe there is still very intimate and laid-back, and while there are parties, the experience is more about immersing yourself in the surf scene and watching some of the world’s best surfers take on seriously monster waves”.
While the many options along the coast make for great weekend trips, it is lunch-break surfing that gives Lisbon a serious boost in both the style and sporting stakes, and is one of the perks offered to residents of Second-Home, the innovative British-born co-working hub that opened in Lisbon recently. A customized combi-van is set to ferry workers direct from their desks to the best Lisbon surf breaks of the day and back again before their lunch hour is out. As the previous host of global tech conference WebSummit, it’s this kind of out-of-the-box initiative to increase productivity that should appeal to Lisbon’s growing entrepreneurial scene. According to research from California State University, 30 minutes of surfing is associated with an increase in positive, upbeat feelings and a decrease in negativity and fatigue.
“Because you are out there alone, it’s just you, it’s really an activity that allows you to clear your head”, explains Ryan Pittsinger, who led the research.
Insider guide: Where to surf in Lisbon
Wondering how to get your surf wings in the city? We asked our network of local experts to share their insider tips on when and where to catch the best breaks, the must-have addresses and what to watch out for.
Central – Competitive and Convenient
Lisbon has a great surf scene, centred around Praia de Carcavelos. This is a seriously good beach break that can get heavy and barreled in the winter. It peaks up and down the beach, which helps to spread the constant crowd. Everyone surfs here, from beginners to pros, but you have to be lucky or clever to get it empty. Even before dawn on a good day, you can paddle out and find someone else in the water. The wave, when it is on, is classic and very consistent. While it works in most tides, the best is mid-to-high, but when big swells hit, only the hard-core venture out, and most people go to the next beach, Praia de Torre. Round the fort at the east end – it is a sheltered little beach that has the waves when Carcavelos is too stormy, but it is popular with kids and schools and the water can be dirty. Further East is Santo Amaro, a heavy right point wave that only gets good a few times a season. Again, it’s always crowded when it’s on by good locals and beware, a great wave comes with a price as the break crashes onto a dry reef, so you pay for mistakes here. There are some more reef and point setups out west from Carcavelos such as Bafureira and São Pedro – all can be good, but they need specific tide swell conditions.
West of Lisbon: Chic and Great in the Summer
When the swell is smaller, head even further west: Guincho, a windsurfer’s paradise, is a popular beach just past Cascais. It’s one of the city’s richer districts, and you can tell as everyone has brand new boards and wetsuits. The standard is not as high here as it is in Carcavelos but it picks up a lot of swell, so on small days it is popular. Next up is one of the most popular beaches, Praia Grande which holds a crowd and can have waves throughout the tide. Because it is west facing, it is exposed so picks up a lot of swell and is probably the centre of Lisbon surf scene during the summer when waves are generally smaller. Praia Grande is a bit like Carcavelos, it can be full with all sorts, from beginners to pros and it’s a fun wave but can get a bit heavy. For surf spots away from the crowds, try Praia das Macas or Praia Adraga. The Portuguese love to stick together, so if you go away from the main beaches, it’s easy to find a less crowded spot – unfortunately empty around here does not happen very often anymore when the conditions are good! This area is beautiful because it is the coast of the Sintra region, which is a protected natural reserve with lots of little villages and a laid back vibe…
South of Lisbon: Warm Waters and Fewer Crowds
Head over the 25 de Abril bridge to the Costa da Caparica – here is a long stretch of beach broken up by rock jetties that’s really popular with Portuguese locals to walk and hang out. While it is not the prettiest place in the world, here the surf can be really good, with fun, forgiving waves that can be quite long when it has good banks, but again it is popular!! If you go a little further south, towards the Algarve and Alentejo, there are even more beaches where the crowd thins. Praia do Castelo is a favourite as there is a great restaurant on the beach to eat grilled fish after a surf and it feels like you are hours away from a city.
If you have time and money for petrol, commute north. 50 minutes from Carcavelos is Ericeira, a world-class area with loads of good reefs and some really heavy pro-only waves. Crowds here are more tranquilo – in Lisbon, it is competitive and locals can be unfriendly to foreigners – here, the spots are great and the crew of locals are much more relaxed.
1 hour and 15 minutes north of the city is Peniche, where supertubos is. It’s one of the best beach-breaks in Europe, some would say the world, and a spot on the world tour. There are so many good spots around Peniche and the surf industry here is huge, it’s a great place to spend a week immersing your-self in a surf camp. In ten years it has grown a lot, but there are loads of beaches there where you can find empty perfection, I have had all my best surfs in Portugal at these spots and I want to come back to them, so unfortunately I am sworn to secrecy about where they are…sorry! You’ll have to discover them for yourself!
When to go?
The best time to go depends on your level: if you are a fair-weather surfer, then late summer or late spring are good, you still have some proper waves but lovely weather too. If you really want the juice, then head out in winter from November through till march are good. Last year January was the best month, the year before, it was December.
Surfers’ black book
To buy a board
Xhapeland: The Portuguese brand located in Cascais crafts some of the most beautiful surf, SUP, Kite and wake boards.
Best to Learn
Moana surf school in Praia do Guincho
The Surf Camp
Tipi Valley: This tented camp combines vegan food and yoga lessons on Portugal’s sunny Southern Coast
The Surf Lodge
Surfer’s Lodge Peniche: Brave the cold for the best waves and expert instruction at Peniche’s well regarded Surf lodge.