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Riding the waves: sustainable surfing in Portugal

It’s not always the best waves, least crowded breaks or the longest rides that make a surf trip memorable. More often than not it’s the people we share moments in the water with who make the biggest impact and carve a special place in our hearts.

I sometimes struggle to explain to people who don’t surf, the bond that connects me with my surf friends. It’s more than friendship, it’s an instant meeting of minds. There is no need for small talk, pleasantries or formalities – you see the mutual love for riding waves written all over each other’s faces and it’s a catalyst to a deep connection. It doesn’t matter what your backgrounds, cultures or professions are – you find a common language and, more often than not, it turns out that other than the passion for surfing you share similar values and dreams.


People get into surfing for different reasons and at different stages of their lives. The friends I cherish the most are the ones who see wave riding as more than just a sport – for us it’s the way to be at peace with ourselves and disconnect from everyday problems. It puts us in a meditative state and lets us be with our own thoughts.

In today’s world full of distractions, technology, advertising and constant noise, surfing is our oasis. Being so closely connected to nature, it’s no surprise that most surfers are big advocates of sustainable travel. A surf trip can be as simple as packing a van and driving off to the sunset but a lot of us would prefer the modern-day comforts after a day of paddling and playing in the ocean. As much as simplicity is key, a comfy bed at the end of a surf day makes a big difference to the next day’s adventures.


One country I love to go back to time and time again is Portugal. Some of the friendliest and most welcoming people, the Portuguese also love to surf. And with over 500 miles of coastline, who can blame them?! Most coastal towns from Viana do Castelo on the north to Sagres in the south, are blessed with waves at some point of the year. There are hundreds of surf houses, surf hostels, surf camps, eco surf camps, villas, private houses and hotels to choose from depending on your budget and taste.


So how do you go about having a sustainable surf holiday?

  1. Choose an eco-friendly accommodation – one that is built and run in a sustainable way – whether that’s using solar power only shopping local produce and serving seasonal food or banning plastic on their premises.
  2. Cycle to the surf instead of driving or get a group together in a van to avoid individual cars piling up on the beaches.
  3. Carry a refillable water bottle and a flask of coffee to avoid buying plastic bottles or take-away coffee cups.
  4. Shop local – get your veggies at the market or buy from the farm shops instead of supermarkets. Look out for ‘bioshops’ with organic food – they often stock local produce too.
  5. Take your rubbish with you and pick up any litter you see on the beach or in the water.
  6. Use coral-friendly SPF or surf zinc to protect the delicate fauna and flora of the oceans.
  7. Use natural wax on your surfboard.
  8. Have fun, the best surfer out there is the one having the biggest smile, so make friends, be polite to each other in the water and enjoy yourself!