Portugese surf perfectionBy TheStudentGuide
Choosing your European surf destination can be tough.
In recent years the surf camp industry has exploded in response to the number of people wanting a piece of Mother Ocean.
If you’re a city dweller, well then you want to make sure you’re going to get some quality surf time and not step foot back onto concrete feeling cheated. Criteria: Consistency, value for your hard earned pound and FUN.
I found a place that has it all as ‘goes-without-saying’ standard and have laid out a few other extras for good measure.
Among eleven other camps and schools spattered around the peninsular, Peniche’s Baleal Surf Camp is the original, and by far, the best.
Eighteen years down the line and the local Bairros brothers have it down. With their passion for surfing and clued up business savvy they have created a place where people who surf want to be.
With the constant ebb and flow of people all year round there’s still a genuine sense of “family” which you feel part of from day one.
Conditions on this pearl of a peninsular are more consistent than anywhere else in Europe, having thirty spots within a twenty kilometre radius. This may have something to do with it, but there’s more to it than that.
Location location location. The camp couldn’t be closer to the beach if it tried.
I was stoked to find some fellow girl surfers chilling in the lounge, red eyed and relaxed after a day in the water. With our own spacious room (balcony and ocean views included) we couldn’t have been happier bunnies.
The squeaky clean, hostel-style Surf House is a home-away-from-home. Super comfy beds, fully equipped kitchen, cosy lounge and perfect wide patio, which doubles as the best seats in the house for watching some spectacular Portuguese sunsets, beverage in hand.
With a love for surfing as a common thread the mixture of nationalities at the camp, from Kiwi’s to Swiss, all clicked. The down time between tides and changing wind directions was more like high time, with a trip around the coast, super interesting Fatum Surfboard factory tour and a visit to the prettiest medieval town, Óbidos, where drinking cherry liqueur from chocolate shot glasses is customary, if not compulsory.
For those starting out, you’re guaranteed an experienced and focussed instructor who also knows how to have a laugh. Someone you can trust and who’s going to challenge you where you need it most. They truly love what they do and get pleasure out of sharing their passion and enthusiasm for the sport. Being told to “Visualise yourself on the wave” and “Respect the ocean, don’t try to fight it” are some of the pearls of wisdom imparted on those learning the ropes. And wise words they are.
Unique to the camp is their exclusive concession to Baleal beach during the bathing season, which means the 11 other camps have to go someone else and battle for waves.
So, next time you’re planning a surf trip to the land of piri-piri chicken and Port wine, head for this little stretch of surfing heaven. There are no surprises, just good waves and good times.