Useful Answers the Beginner Surfer in Portugal Needs to Know

Are you a novice or beginner surfer? Then you might have some burning questions about starting to surf in Portugal. A unique surf location to start learning how to surf. Allow us to help you out by presenting you some of the most asked questions by our own beginner surfers! Without further ado, a complete Surfing Guide for you beginner surfers out there. Go ahead and click on any of these surf related questions, and you’ll be taken to that specific section.

1. Can you be too young or too old to start surfing?

As long as a person can stand on his feet and surfing conditions allow it, everyone can surf! Of course, friendly waves, having the right surfing equipment and someone experienced next to you to support you properly are a big advantage. A teacher can tell you about the ins and outs about the area, any conditions you have to look out for and teach you techniques to be efficient with your energy.

Being comfortable in the water and knowing how to swim are a plus but the truth is that, for beginners, we usually look for the low tides so that surfers can stand on their feet and keep their focus on the surfing technique and build their confidence. As long as you are comfortable with your own level of health, surfing can be very beneficial for your body and soul.

2. What are the best surf beaches for a beginner surfer in Europe?

The best surfing conditions depend, among other things, on each surfer’s skills. Of course that big and challenging waves are not what a beginner needs… but for sure some challenging waves are needed! Therefore, wave consistency is an important pro when it’s comes to choosing your ideal surfing destination. Places like western France, Spain and western Portugal are definitely Europe’s best options. 

Where can a beginners surfer in Europe go?

We offer our experiences in Portugal. So if you’re into excellent food, beautiful and historical cities close by the sea while meeting some friendly people on the way, we can easily offer you a few reasons to travel to Portugal. In particular around the Porto area. For sure you will get stoked once you will go on a surf trip experiencing our Portuguese waves.

3. Is it dangerous to start surfing in the Portuguese ocean? 

Unless you have sardines-phobia, there are no reasons to be worried about life threatening animals in Portugal, such as sharks or any other bigger fish. Some jellyfishes, especially in southern Portugal, and spider-fishes might come over whenever the water gets warmer. We are used to it though and we locals will always know, so no surprises.

Surfing in Portugal is not dangerous for beginner surfers
Surfing with sharks in Portugal.. Don’t worry, it was just a dream 😉

There is one main comment surfers in Portugal seem to be making on occassion. Surfers that have experienced several surfing spots in foreign countries, such as Sri Lanka or Indonesia, can get a bit frustrated on their first couple of sessions once they’re taking their first dip in our Portuguese sea. This happens mainly because this is the Atlantic and its power is different. J

Just keep two things in mind: 1st– we always take care of our surfers, so there are no safety conditions we won’t be the first ones to know and notify you about, guests and non-guests; 2nd– with our help we will help you get used to deal with these strong waves. Many other surf spots around the world will feel like peanuts after that.

4. What are the best surf beaches in Portugal for a beginner surfer?

If you’re planning a surfing vacation to Portugal you will probably struggle to come to a decision about where to go. The weather, few crowds and very good surfing conditions are some of the points that you should consider. 

Coming from the south, you can choose from Algarve spots, warmer but crowded, or Alentejo. Going more North, you’ll find Lisbon, Ericeira and Peniche, where you can find some of the best waves breaking. Crowd wise, things are not that pretty… in case this is your destination make sure you play by the rules!

On the Central coast, you can find Figueira da Foz and Aveiro. Less crowded spots and quality waves are on offer around there. Driving a bit north, you can find Esmoriz and Espinho spots, just a few south from Porto, where you can find some of the best Northern waves and combine it with the joys of a magical city trip.

Up north you can find the Viana do Castelo area, a bit colder but with consistent surfing conditions and similar crowds.

You can find here a complete guide about the best surf spots in northern Portugal and the best northern and central surf spots for beginners in Portugal

5. What is the best season to learn surfing in Portugal for a beginner surfer?

It all comes down to your surfing skills. Basically, the smaller waves come during Summer, then increase during Autumn and get more challenging during Winter months, perfect for more experienced surfers. Then, in Spring the surfing slowly starts to become easier and more beginner friendly again.

You can dive into some detailed surfing and lifestyle monthly reports, from Spring, traditional Summer surfing days, late Summer and early Autumn, Autumn surfing days and Winter, including also some memorable surfing days.  

6. Surf camps, surf houses or hostels? What is the right option for the best surf vacations for beginners in Portugal?

Will you be traveling alone, in pairs, or with a group? With friends or family? Looking for a genuine surfing vacation, party opportunities or exploring the local culture? These are some of the questions to ask yourself before choosing the accommodation for your next surfing holiday. 

Generally speaking, it all comes down to how committed you want to be with each one of the “things to do”, such as surfing, culture and sightseeing or party life. 

To help you on that decision, have a look at the basic guidelines we set about the accommodation types for a surfing holiday.

7. What about a family surfing holidays to Portugal? Any recommendations?

We see surfing as a culture and lifestyle and, therefore, it’s something that starts from inside the family nest. Like other important values taught, surfing with your family creates special bonds that will allow you to grow as a human being and will make you spread a good vibe among your friends. Yes, it sounds cliché… but trust us, this happens!

Surfing with family will create great memories
Surfing with family is creating quality memories with those we care most

Don’t think twice about gathering your family and come on over for a surf trip. General points to have in mind, like when is the best time to travel attending the conditions can be analyzed on the Surfing with the family during Summer article that we prepared.  Facilities, surfing conditions and how crowdy can the surfing beach be are some things you should consider too. 

8. What does a Portuguese surf school teach you really if you’re a beginner surfer? 

Unless you want to learn Portuguese, most of the surf lessons happen in English. So no worries in case you Portuguese is still rusty!

Usually the first approach to surfing is understanding the currents and other safety aspects. Then, the way you should lie on a surfboard and where to direct and balance it are the next steps. Then all the technical points come along: the paddling, the stand-up and the basic surf position are something you will hear often.

However, if you come for one week make sure you don’t raise your expectations too much: you won’t become a pro surfer! It requires tons of time of water practice and consistency in order to progress. And that’s exactly what makes it so special…

Training out of the water is crucial to make some basic moves automatic

9. How much can you learn in a two week surf holiday? 

In terms of fitness, if you don’t surf on a regular basis after two or three surf lessons your body will complain. Nothing serious. It’s just part of the game! By then, you probably learned some of the basic points, but mistakes get more frequent as you become more tired.

After that, you’ll start to slowly adapt and your progress will continue as you enter in your second week of surfing. By the end of this period, a beginner is usually able to position himself better on the line up, paddling for the waves with fine timings and power, stand up on the board with less mistakes and start to perform some bottom turns aswell as surfing green waves.

Having said this, this learning process is based on experience and obviously each surfer is a unique case.

We think surf packs should attend this natural process and respect both the training and body recovery time. That’s why we custom made them to attend to both the technical and the physical progress.

The learning curve for the beginner surfer
close support and feedbacks are crucial for a faster learning on surfing

10. How long does it usually take a beginner surfer to master his first Portuguese wave?

With proper conditions and the right equipment it should happen on the first session. 

Of course your natural skills, who’s next to you to support your progress and your own physical condition also play a huge role on how things will go.

11. How long does it usually take to get from beginner to intermediate surfer?

Hard one to answer. It might take two weeks, one month, two months… More important is that

it depends mainly on:

  • How often do you surf? The more the better.
  • How talented you are. Natural skills and physical background are very important.
  • How much surfing conditions you can train in that suit your needs
  • Your age. Hard truth is that up to mid-twenties the learning process is easier and especially faster but, if you’re older, do not worry: it will still happen! Just need more time and patience.
  • If you try to advance on your own or rather get extra support on that process. Using qualified surfing coaches that can advise you, tell you your mistakes and showing how to fix them will make everything easier and faster.
  • If you are using the right equipment.
  • How overall fit you are. 

12. Are surfing lessons expensive?

They can be…if you pay for it and don’t get any proper feedback or the attention you were supposed to!

Prices are fair though, if you get a close attention, useful tips… and overall good fun! 

It all comes down to what you want and… where you look. Meanwhile, why don’t you check how we run our own surf lessons?!

13. Is surfing in Portugal very competitive with the locals?

Locals play an important part in surfing as they are the first ones to protect their home spot, beach and are kind of a barrier to massive crowds. And there’s nothing positive to having huge crowds surfing, right?! They can be competitive and for sure some of them act… stupid! But you know what?! There are stupid people everywhere!

Whenever you surf on a new surf spots in Portugal, make sure you:

  • to go by yourself (maybe with one more friend). Don’t go surfing in a group.
  • greet local surfers, be humble and respectful. Don’t  play a badass Kelly Slater character.
  • give priority to local surfers and respect their options. Don’t compete with the locals for the waves
  • before you step into the water, learn the proper surfing ethics, priorities, including where you should position and paddle to when a surfer is suppost to catch a wave. Ignorance is not an excuse.

We try to select the best conditions for our surfers, which always means considering both the surfing itself and the crowd. We are not big fans of surf lessons with many people. So each surfer has a reasonable space for himself. Just focus on surfing and not on the next slalom he has to perform.

Even though surfing is getting more popular each year, it is still possible to find differences in terms of crowd between the South and Central Portuguese coastline (say up to Peniche) and the spots located up North, such as Figueira da Foz, surfing in Espinho and Viana do Castelo.

14. How do I know a wave is surfable?

That’s a hard one to answer! It mainly comes with practice…

The speed in which the wave is breaking, its direction, the type of the spot (reef, beachbreak, point break) are some of the points that usually surfers look at. Then, in terms of surfing forecast, the swell and wind directions, the period and waves’ energy are on the top of the list of things to consider.

What are the surfing conditions in Portugal
Windless conditions and waves breaking slowly both right and left. A surfer dream!

But no worries… Once you come over we will explain it to you in detail and guide you towards surfing on proper waves. One thing is for sure: practice is crucial but having someone next to you to give you the proper feedback will make everything that much faster.

15. What’s the thing about priorities on the waves?

Rules are important so that surfing can happen safely and so that everyone has the opportunity to ride some waves. Yes, locals break those rules often aswell… but that’s how it works in the real world, so move on!

Generally speaking:

  • the surfer with priority on the waves is the one who’s furthest inside / closest to the peak (A)
  • never drop into the surfer with priority or try to sneak yourself in
  • When paddling back to the lineup, make sure you do it wide. In case you get caught inside stay in the white water
  • It might be handy to call the wave (left or right)
  • Avoid letting your surfboard go as it might be dangerous for the other surfers. If you really have to do it, always make sure no one is close!

16. Do I have to wear a wetsuit in Portugal and what does 3/2, 4/3 or 5/4 mm wetsuit mean?

There are differences regarding the water temperature along the Portuguese coastline, maybe up to 3 or 4 degrees difference between Northern and Southern waters. During the seasons, water temperature can change from 12 to 23rd degrees, depending on where you are.

In northern Portugal and during the winter months a 5/4 mm wetsuit would make you feel more comfortable, which is its thickness on the torso/arms and part of the legs (thinner parts being the arms and legs). 

A proper wetsuit is an important decision for every surfer in Portugal!

Spring, early Summer and Autumn, say April-June and October & November, a 4/3mm wetsuit is your best friend. This kind of wetsuit can be used during Summer as well, even though there’s a few weeks that water temperature turns warmer (up to 21-22 ºC), usually September, and you can use a 3/2mm wetsuit or going all-in with just your board shorts. Actually, from mid August to mid September ’21 Northern water was for nearly a month around 21-22 degrees last year! Shorts, bikinis and spring suits were on the lineup, along with some visiting dolphins!

17. What surfboard is best for a beginner surfer?

More foam means more flotation, which makes the first steps easier. Yes, they are also heavier, harder to carry and to handle in the water. But what’s the point of getting a high performance surfboard if you can’t use it?!

Have a look at our guide about the best surfboard for surfing vacation in Porto, where you can find all the details to consider.

18. Is it worth buying surfing gear for a beginner?

Depending on how often you will use it, on its prices and the flight’s fees you eventually need to pay every time you want to travel to surf the best surf spots in Portugal.

If you plan to surf only a few times a year, some days in a row, maybe rentals can be a wise option. Rates can be very different depending where you are but, if you set Espinho as your surf destination, you may count on the best deals around!

19. What surf related exercises can I do to get fit before my first surfing experience?

Best training for surfing is… surfing! We have said it since day one.

However, you can prepare yourself before trying it for the first time and rise your surfing fitness levels. Cardio, arms, torso and legs power and flexibility exercises should be part of the menu. Jogging, swimming  and (home) gym are some good options. If you have a board and a lake close to you, paddling can be worth it too.

For more tips, have a look to some useful surfing fitness tips and get ready to enjoy the best surf beaches in Portugal

Only about 1% of surfers can afford to be lazy about their fitness and still surf! Better safe than sorry!

20. Being a beginner in surfing, is it worth hiring a car for my surf trip? 

Most of all, as long as you pick a beach that offers surfing conditions that match your skills, moving around depends on how much you want to explore the portuguese waves… and maybe on your budget. If you want to check the surf conditions, check the surf forecast for Espinho and other Portuguese surf spots.

There are lots of surfing spots in Portugal that offer the right conditions for beginners and offer all the facilities within walking distance. The public connections to bigger cities are also easy, allowing to explore all the local culture and, therefore, avoiding the cost of rentin a car. Watermark Surf House in Espinho is one of them…

Espinho surfing close to the action
close to all the action

Hope you have a better understanding now to what surfing in Portugal for beginners is all about. But maybe you have some more questions? Please send us a comment and we are happy to answer and add them to the list. We want you to feel good and prepared. And remember, there are no dumb questions here.