Surfing in the Algarve
Surfing is a tough sport, it really is. It’s hard! Personally I have been surfing since I was 14 years old and while I can catch a wave, I am by no means good at it. However, this does not mean that you can’t enjoy a day out at the ocean learning your best, practising shakas and getting into the surf vibe. After all, it’s a wonderful way of life.
The problem with surfing though is that it is wildly addictive. The minute you slide down that first wave and feel the power of nature surging below your feet with the white water crashing around you, you’ll be hooked!
The Algarve really is a surfer’s paradise, but there are some caveats. Firstly, we’ll need to take a little weather lesson. The majority of our weather here in the southern region of Portugal comes from the Atlantic, and North Atlantic storms push waves onto our shores year round. This means that the western coast of the Algarve with beaches likes Carrapateira, Arrifana, Amoreira and Odeceixe get the most consistent swell.
The prevailing wind is our “nortada”, which sweeps down the coast from the north to the south generating cross shore winds. This is definitely something surfers need to take into account as wind affects the waves in a big way (you’ll definitely prefer a slight offshore to anything else).
Occasionally, the high pressure over the central Algarve gets shunted out of the way and creates perfect conditions for the “sueste” or “levante” which pulses out of the Straits of Gibraltar. It creates a wave with a much shorter period of pushes from the southeast howling it’s way across the Algarve. Sometimes it brings rain from the Sahara which includes a shedload of magical desert dust, heralding a rush for the Elefante Azul (or car cleaning machines). Whilst you can surf this eastern wave in places like Tavira and Faro beaches, a good solid western swell is much cleaner and more pleasant to surf.
So, you’ve heard about surfing and you’d really like to give it a try. What to do? Well, there are a host of surf schools in Lagos that will offer you a day out.
Meet them in Lagos in the morning and they’ll truck you out to the west coast beaches for a day of surf training and fun in the sun. Alternatively, you can head for Faro beach where the Clube Surf de Faro camps out and has done for over 20 years.
Vilamoura has a nice little break and with it a few surf schools that operate in the area. Albufeira has the legendary Albufeira Surf Clube whose base is a lovely little beachside restaurant just near Galé called Pedras Amarelas (Yellow Rocks). Portimão marina offers a ton of choice as well where you can hire boards, suits and get lessons for the day. The choice is yours wherever you are.
Personally, I love to surf near Faro in the winter when the westerly swells roll through. Recently, an opening in the barrier islands has been opened up just to the east of Faro and it has created a perfect break. The problem is, it takes a long time to walk down there, although if you have a boat, it helps a lot to speed down there in the Ria Formosa and enter the ocean for an incredible surf session.
Remember, this only really happens in winter. In summer, Faro is generally pretty flat. If I get the chance, heading out to Arrifana and Amoreira beaches on the west coast is the ultimate surf trip. In order to endure the 120km trip out there though, the surf needs to be epic and well worth the journey. However, it’s always a gamble even if you are well equipped with the Magic Seaweed app, Windfinder app and others. Enjoy your surfing adventures!
By Nick Robinson
Nick Robinson is growing a community which helps people explore the outdoors in the Algarve and assists people in moving to Portugal using online content. His blog, audio podcasts and videos are available for free on www.algarveaddicts.com