I’ve surfed in Australia, California, Cornwall and now Portugal and the thing that amazes me is that no matter where you go, the experience is generally the same. The surfer lifestyle always strikes me as idyllic and the instructors are just as friendly no matter the continent they coach on. There’s always a shed where you pay a few bucks to hire a wetsuit that’s no doubt already wet and hanging on a rail, giving the shed that familiar musty surf shack smell. A pretty girl will take your cash and put it in an envelope or something equally insecure (because surf people are just too cool to have to worry about theft) and a guy with an enviable tan, no shoes, long (possibly dreadlocked) hair and a blob of suncream on the end of his nose will size you up and chuck you a surfboard. Then you’ll run to the beach and realise how unfit you are while you warm up and try to remember the tips and techniques the guy show you.
And then you’re out there. It’s just you and the ocean. The first few waves will wake you up, fill your guts with saltwater and remind you how physically demanding surfing can be. But then your body will get used to the constant battering of the waves, you’ll remember which way to hold your board to stop it bowling you over and each wave becomes a new, exciting adventure. Only then are you truly disconnected from distractions – you’re living in the moment and purely focussed on the challenge of the next wave. Is it too small? Is it too big? Does it have enough power to carry me in? Should I go out further? Am I too far out? When should I jump on my board? Have I paddled enough? Has the wave caught me? Have I continued paddling enough to catch its momentum? Am I brave enough to stand up? Is my balance okay? Am I bending my knees enough? Am I looking where I’m going? And at that moment you hear people cheering. You’re gliding along a rail of water. You took on the ocean, gave it your all and the ocean said ‘mate, you’re doing great, have this wave on me’. Wherever you go surfing in the world, there’s no other feeling quite like successfully standing up and catching that wave you dared yourself to go for.
I rediscovered this feeling during my day with Moana Surf School. The guys were fantastic and gave genuinely useful tips – for me it was about lowering my centre of gravity and knowing the best waves to go for; for my girlfriend they helped her get out past the waves breaking on the shore. For her that was the hardest bit, once she got out there she did great!
The beach is a perfect surfing beach. We had wondered about who good the surf would be due to the stillness of the waters at Cascais and Estoril where we stayed, but of course round the corner of the coast Guincho beach faces the Atlantic and the rollers come in thick and steady. It’s a super popular place for kites and kitesurfing too due to the coastal winds. The rocky hills either end of the long dusty sand beach look strikingly familiar to St Ives in Cornwall and not a million miles from Byron Bay, Australia or the Pacific Coast, California.
Of course, you’ll have worked up an appetite after a decent surf and the Bar do Guincho burgers next to the surf school are a fantastic treat after an ocean workout.
Need to know
If you email Alex from Moana at email@example.com the day before, he will let you know what times the lessons are and can advise on transport
€25 for a 1 hour surf lesson (allow longer for getting changed, walking to beach etc)
€15.50 for Bar do Guincho burger and lemonade
€6.50 return bus (no 405 or 415) from Cascais to Guincho (approx 20 mins)
For a wicked GoPro video of our surf trip, check out my girlfriend’s blog here
Have you ever been surfing abroad? How was it?