We're still not sure if Rob has actually ever been to Portugal!
It was getting late and we found a small picturesque cove with free camping facilities where a few luxury motorhomes were parked up. It was a warm night and a full moon lit up the whole bay so we could see the small, clean surf. Tired and already late in the day we couldn't be bothered trying to erect a four man tent in the dark so slept outside.
A makeshift shelter was quickly propped up, cleverly incorporating our 'Clio's' electric windows. Other than the local Park Rangers swinging by the site in the early hours, we had a good nights sleep. The Portuguese don't allow open fires when camping, so respect this and you shouldn't have any problems. The next morning produced dissapointing 1ft surf so we decided it was best to head North and chase the swell.
Having seen the charts before we left we knew the swell was Northerly and that the UK was probably pumping.After about an hours driving, we'd already found one or two spots that could be potentially classic. We passed through an ancient, Moorish town called Aljezur built around 700yrs ago and followed the signs for camping.
One of them took us in the direction of Arrifana so we took a gamble and it paid off. We found a great little campsite complete with 'super mercado', bar and shower block with en-suite swallow colony! We were literally the only ones camping there. It felt quite surreal having a shower whilst being watched by little bird heads poking out of their nests a couple of feet above you. We quickly made camp, screwed fins back into boards and hit the coast. It'd had been a long night, without much sleep and we needed a surf badly.
First stop was Arrifana - a small fishing village with a 'world class' pointbreak situated just off the harbour wall. There's a really nice cafe there, overlooking the break which does great apres surf snacks whilst pumping out relaxing tunes. It's very easy to waste your whole day there if you're not careful! Unsure of the sea temperature we hit the water in full Winter rubber but soon realised that it was the equivalent of a warm Summer's day back home and we were roasting!
There was a local surf competition on, so we paddled over to surf some hollow lefts on the far side of the bay. You could feel the power in the waves even at 2ft in the shorebreak as we paddled out. We had it to ourselves and surfed it uninterrupted for most of the day. The surf gradually picked up to a clean 3-4ft with the odd rogue set coming through to keep us on our toes. Despite feeling shattered, we all had a good surf.
The main break here turns into a hollow shorebreak at high tide which is when most people seem to surf it. We visited Arrifana several times over the week with it being our local and most consistent spot on this stretch of the coast. It tended to work best for a few hrs before and after high tide as the swell tended to dissapear into a small closeout at low tide.
The pointbreak, further out and to the right hand side of the bay looked to be a formidable wave but never really got going during our stay. The photographs of it in the cafe, paint a totally different picture with large cordroy swell lines and perfect waves peeling for hundreds of yards. A couple of times we saw 3-4ft surf but no-one ever surfed it and closer inspection revealed hidden rocks poking up through the wave as it peeled down the line. It definitely needs a big swell to get it going and become rideable as it then tends to break further away from the rocks making the take off easier.
The locals all seemed really friendly and the surfing standard was pretty high on both long and shortboards. Some of the locals whistle at you instead of calling for waves. We couldn't help but laugh really, as it sounded like they were wolf whistling us! Just down the road from where we were staying was Monte Clerigo, a quaint picture postcard fishing village with a few restaurants thrown in for good measure. No-one gets up early here! so at 8am it was like a ghost town. An old fisherman walked back up the beach, fresh from his morning's Octopus hunt - a favourite pastime in this neck of the woods. They spear them at low tide, prodding the crevices in rock pools. The surf looked good, with 4ft barrels reeling down the left hand side of the bay.
After a quick survey we decided it looked okay to surf and we hit the water. The rip here was incredibly strong, dragging you sideways, off the peak towards some uninviting rocks. Aran was first into it and picked off a few long lefts out the back. I gestured to him to paddle in a bit as he was miles out and it looked like the rip could easily drag you out and around the coast and we'd already lost our other compadre Rob as he was busy battling the rip on the inside.
The four foot barrels we'd spied from the road were actually alot bigger and heavier than we'd first thought. It was more like four to six feet and pretty gnarly to say the least, with fast drops into gaping barrels and shallow reef beneath. We stayed just off the peak and tried to pick off the more makeable ones. There were nice lefts to be had but the paddle out was hard going. It was a very shallow sandbar with good sized hollow waves and a strong rip so we didn't last long. We decided to move on.
Our next discovery was Bordeira It took us three visits before we actually found out what this beach was called but it provided some quality left and right handers. A reef running through the middle of the peak produced a really nice hollow, bowling section. Providing you were careful and surfed it on the push, there were no problems. I saw quite a few rock boils and the odd rock sticking up but never touched bottom.
Lots of surfers especially Germans were camped up here in their vans. No-one seemed to surf it unless someone was in first so we normally had an empty lineup for the first hour or so.
The local boogers also liked this spot and tended to hog the peak a bit, practising their drop knee take offs, 360's etc - the standard was high compared to what I've seen back in Blighty. The rip to the left of the peak was a tad annoying as the tide pushed in but we'd all had enough good waves to make it bearable! Aran seemed to be a wave magnet and ended up having 'one of those sessions' where perfect waves followed him wherever he went!
A dirt track runs around the edge of this beach, along the coast to another spot - Carrapateira where perfect swell lines could be seen wrapping in around a point into a long sandy bay. Unfortunately for us there were already ten surfers on it and not many waves to go round so we vowed to return at a later date. The swell was dropping by mid week so we took another peek.
This time there were no crowds but only a small 1-2ft wave coming in to the left of the bay. We thought we'd give it a go anyway but it was hard work trying to catch anything. The bottom was sandy with large pebbles scattered about and the odd wave connected through to an inside shorebreak but it was nothing special.