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THE PERFECT SWELL

THE PERFECT SWELL

ROUTE: BEACHES | SANDRA NOBRE STORYTELLER | JOANA RAY ILLUSTRATOR

A giant wave in Nazaré has invaded a skyscraper in Times Square last summer. The fame of Portuguese waves put on the map by Garrett McNamara in 2011 has reached that far. Any surfer knows it. I had known it for a long time, it was a frequent conversation among friends who surf to impress the girls and those waves were not for them, nor for me, I am more into sunbathing. But after the world has watched the American’s high skills, others came to break the record held by the Brazilian Rodrigo Koxa since 2018, with impressing 24.38 metres high, equivalent to a nine-story building. Can you imagine a wall of water like that coming towards us? I often watch them from a distance, of course. They are breath-taking!

Next to the Tagus river and beyond, Lisbon is surrounded by beaches. On the south bank, Costa da Caparica is the first stop. By taking the ferry to Trafaria, we reach at the very typical Cova do Vapor, at the mouth of the Tagus, with a panoramic view to the capital and to the Bugio lighthouse, in São Lourenço Fort, erected on a sandbank in 1693 and rebuilt in 1775, after being destroyed by the 1755 earthquake.

By car, at the pace of traffic jams, a hit of the late 80s by the Portuguese rock band Peste & Sida must be added to the trip’s soundtrack: Sol da Caparica. . “In a convertible through the bridge with my hair blowing high / In the burning heat, rushing to arrive / Ray-Ban dark glasses and the singer rocking / The Ramones’ tape for us to enjoy./ Here I go to Costa/ Here I go eager to make it / From Lisbon I will go to the sun of Caparica.” From here, the long strip of sand is divided as a puzzle, each beach with its own name and different attractions, like restaurants and terraces or water activities: S. João, Rainha, Morena, Sereia, Riviera, Nova Vaga or Fonte da Telha are the most popular. Going south, from Setúbal to Cabo Espichel we can discover small paradises of more difficult access: Figueirinha, Galapos, Portinho da Arrábida. And, in an urban environment, Sesimbra. Crossing the pine forest, 30 km from Lisbon we find Meco, the beach that became famous since the 1970s among naturists and the favourite for artists. In Setúbal, you can choose to take the ferry, cross the river Sado and go to the famous beaches of Tróia, Comporta, Carvalhal or Pego. A favourite refuge for VIP and wannabes, this was where the world saw in the social media Madonna riding a horse and where helicopters going up and down rival the clouds of mosquitoes from the nearby rice fields.

In the opposite direction, from the capital you can follow the Cascais Line, with the advantage of taking the train with the surfboard and the bicycle. In Carcavelos, music echoes as in a rave, you can play volleyball, there are skateboard ramps and surf academies, so you are not expected to have a minute of boredom. All other stops have a few feet of fine sand to lie your towel, at least at low tide. After Cascais, move on to Cresmina, more family-friendly, or to Guincho, more radical, where the wind defies swimmers. Next to it, Abano beach is more famous for its terrace and cocktails. A few kilometres ahead, the beaches near Sintra — Magoito, Azenhas do Mar, Maçãs, Praia Grande, Adraga, Ursa, next to Cabo da Roca, the westernmost point of Europe.

As we move away from Lisbon, the Atlantic Ocean rules and waves have other strength. The World Surf Reserve, created in 2011, it the preferred spot for surfing and bodyboarding; from Ribeira d’Ilhas to Praia do Norte, there are 11 kilometres and 12 beaches with waves of different technical levels. Moving north in the map, the National Ecological Reserve, where Peniche is located, is the scene for the best in the world, who compete here in a stop of the World Surf League, in October. Supertubos gets to the podium. Nazaré is straight after, the Mecca of giant waves, the water cannon, the skyscraper of Times Square. It is not for boys and girls, it is for men and women who are bigger than their dream and still fit well in a lycra or neoprene suit… let’s face it, not everyone has the body of a superhero.

THE SURF MECCA

COSTA DA CAPARICA
Fonte da Telha
Riviera

Cascais Line
Carcavelos
Guincho

Sintra
Praia Grande

Ericeira
World Surf Reserve
Praia do Norte

Peniche.
Supertubos

Leiria
Canhão da Nazaré

SUNBATHING AND FLASHES

Costa da Caparica
São João
Rainha
Sereia

Setúbal
Galapos
Sesimbra
Meco

Alcácer do Sal
Comporta
Carvalhal

Grândola
Tróia

Cascais Line
Cresmina
Abano

Sintra
Magoito
Maçãs
Adraga

Ericeira
Foz do Lizandro

SURF ACADEMIES

Costa da Caparica
Gecko Surf School

Carcavelos
Angels Surf School

Ericeira
Tiago Pires (Saca) Surf School

Peniche.
Peniche Surf Camp

Leiria
Surf Academia do Baleal