Sagres: A Surf Tripper's Guide
Rare is the day there's not something to shred in the Algarve region of Portugal
Looking for an easy, affordable surf trip destination somewhere in Europe? A place where the waves are consistent and cater for all abilities -- home to wide open beaches, nooks and crannies, beaten paths and not-so-beaten paths, friendly men and womenfolk, naughtiness in the summer, niceness in the winter?
Want somewhere to "go with the lads"? After a spot to "take the Missus"?
Look no further! Portugal's southernmost reaches will tickle all your boxes and then some.
Words by Ricardo Bravo
Sagres, Lagos, Vila do Bispo.
Mainly easy beachbreaks but also the odd pointbreak and some powerful hidden wedges that can get you in trouble on bigger days.
When to go
The best season to go is really all year long, although it partly depends on what you're after. Rainy days are a rarity around here so you can count on warm weather and lots of sun, even during harsh winters when generally European shores are freezing. Smaller waves from May to August, but still plenty of surfable beachbreaks. Winter can deliver some epic uncrowded days, but there'll be little in the way of a party scene.
The basic 3/2mm should be enough for most days and a shorty for summertime is a good option for those days spent on the beach with quick sessions. If you're 3/2's a bit knackered then a 3/4 back-up suit can be nice for morning surfs in winter, but it's by no means essential.
Your regular shortboard will do the trick, unless you’re coming in the winter and looking for some adrenalin on the heavier spots (wedges). For those spots, a bigger board will get you sooner into the wave making the difference between a nice barrel and a nasty wipe-out.
With 99% beachbreak spots, there’s no real “best waves". They all keep changing so take your time and look for the best one. Even the locals keep searching and have a hard time to find good waves.
You can choose to surf on the south or west coast, so there’s no big mystery. You can surf almost any swell. If it’s a small one from north or west, head to the west coast. When the big stuff is from those same directions, you can search for a spot that handles all the power, or just turn south and relax on medium sized waves.
A south swell can deliver some nice waves on the south coast, but you have to be lucky to score one.
The Sagres area
Located on the southwest tip of Europe, it’s one of the few Portuguese coast jewels that are still safe from the building fever that’s been spreading like a disease. Expect to find empty beaches, amazing landscapes and local people that don’t seem too keen on strangers but be patient and take your time to meet them, respect their culture and habits and you won’t be disappointed. Sagres, it’s just a small village (population 2.000) surrounded by nature. The roads are nice and you can find all the basics: camping, supermarket, restaurants, gas station, bars, surf camps and surf shops.
A brand new hotel – Baleeira – and many other options. Rooms and houses to rent, camp site, surf camps and small hotels, you just need to have a look at your budget and decide. In July and August you need to make your reservations ahead or you’ll be sleeping on the beach. Sagres is so fashionable these days that last summer the Coca-Cola supply was over during August!
To drop in on one of the locals, specially the bodyboarders. They surf like hell and been surfing on those spots for years, so just follow the basic rules (small groups or even alone; wait for your turn) and you’ll be ok.
To find Marlon Lipke. He always manages to find the best empty spot… “I wonder where Marlon is?" is a recurrent thought every time I go shooting in Sagres and can’t get in touch with him.
Watch out for
Drunk drivers. There’s not a Summer that goes by without someone telling a story of a friend that had a serious car crash because someone had too much to drink and still wanted to drive.
Five things to do
- Go out at night and keep getting in and out of the 3 bars that stand by each other on the main street. They are door to door, and they all throw Summer parties at the same time. Don’t pick one, just keep changing all night long.
- If the swell is too small and the north wind starts blowing hard, get a bike and ride it over the hills. Besides shaping up, you’ll get to appreciate the landscape and – who knows? – maybe you find a new spot.
- For a night out with some urban feeling, try Lagos (20km drive) or if you really want a big night out, go to Portimão (60km drive) where you can find big discos and feel the Summer beat with all the tourists and locals looking for some serious fun until the sun rises.
- Go to the local surfshops, restaurants and general commerce. Give your contribution to the local economy.
- Try the seafood and the fresh fish, delicious and not that expensive.
More info in our Surf Tripper's Guide To Portugal.