Portugal is situated west of Spain on the western fringe of the Iberian Peninsula. Rich in culture and history, this small seafaring nation has the ocean in its DNA, with its explorers roving far and wide in medieval times when most people thought the globe was flat. Bodyboarding has really taken off in Portugal and is at least as popular as surfing.
The riches Portugal plundered from the New World are now largely forgotten and it was only in 1974 that a military dictatorship was overthrown. Membership of the European Union has brought prosperity, but Portugal’s dark past is still visible in the cracks and dirty edges of its new suburbs and infrastructure, and is unfortunately also seen in the poor water quality near the city beaches, especially Porto in the North.
Away from these, the coastline is diverse, the surf aplenty and the climate perfect for bodyboarding and exploring new spots. Further afield, the mid-Atlantic Azores are a stunningly beautiful wave-drenched haven a two-hour flight from the capitol Lisbon.
The Portuguese coastline is littered with variety, and prone to powerful swells from the south right round to the north. From points, reefs and beachies, to wedges, rivermouths and shories, you can find almost every type of wave in Portugal, especially in the southern half of the country, which sees an influx of barrel-hunting travellers when the autumn swells start to light up the coastline.
In the far south, the Algarve’s south-facing coastline turns on when big swells and northerly winds abound in the winter months. If the chart looks promising, a quick trip to the exposed Azores can also satisfy the reef-hunters who want some raw Atlantic swells and some frontier slabs.
Portugal is buzzing with a hotbed of bodyboarding talent, with many local’s absolute rippers. This charge-hard attitude has given them a great deal of respect from the surfers, who seem quite happy to share the lineups and swap waves with bodyboarders. With so many awesome shorey barrels and sections to learn their trade on, it is no wonder the IBA world tour has seen an influx of Portuguese riders stake their claim in recent years. Bodyboarding in Portugal is a booming industry, with a solid national magazine – Vert. The feather in its cap is the Sintra Portugal Pro; an IBA world tour stop held each year with the world’s best riders putting on a show to huge crowds lining the beach.
Portugal Travel Tips
Although many of the better known spots can get congested, many local boogers won’t paddle out til late morning, so wake up early to get the uncrowded glass to yourself. Strangely, when it rains the lineup thins out quickly too, so if it does look like a rain shower is coming in, get ready to have the peak become a lot more profitable…at least until it brightens up. Off the beaten track are many empty spots, so get out there to sample the lesser-known delicacies.
Portugal is generally a friendly location without a great deal of hassle, but the usual rules apply with not dropping in or paddling out with an attitude – some violence has been known to erupt. Be respectful, as you would want to be treated on your home turf.
Autumn is by far the best time to surf in Portugal, although just because the weather is still warm, don’t expect the sea to join in – you’ll need to bring a 3/2. Portugal’s currency is in Euros and super-cheap flights can be had by budget European airlines to Porto and Lisbon from most major airline hubs. A quick, smooth and hassle-free train connects the two cities and within a few hours you’ll be getting your froth on.