This is the complete story of RIDING PORTUGAL. A quest through Portugal guided by a surfboard to find what is hidden in this magical country, besides the waves.
Videos, Photos and the Description of these adventures are the content you will find as you scroll down this journey. Enjoy the ride.
A QUEST TO THE WEST
The West coast of Portugal was our obvious first step. Why? Well, it is the country’s surfing Mecca, with Nazaré, Peniche and Ericeira occupying the center of the surfing stage at a global level.
They are indeed very special places: Nazaré holds the world record for the biggest wave ever surfed – it was done by Garret Mcnamara, a Hawaiian who now calls this place home. Peniche is one of two European surf spots that host a World Tour event. Supertubos, its most famous break, is considered one of the best beach breaks in the world. A place with which I have a love/hate relationship, as it has produced both some of the best surfing moments of my life but also some of the scariest. A place that makes my heart beat a bit faster. Ericeira, South of Peniche, was the second stretch of coast to be considered a world surfing reserve – right after Bali.
But these places weren’t always all about surfing. Another thing they have in common is that they were all fishing villages for centuries. It is still a part of their essence, as the whole culture of these places is shaped by the stories of sea people parting in boats at dawn, not knowing if they would come back. Fish and seafood are always on the table and the people are only now starting to reflect the characteristics of living in a surf town.
How did this transition happen? And, most importantly, how does the waterman of the past and the waterman of the present influence life on the WEST. That was the motto that guided this quest.
The harbor of Nazaré is the place where this parallelism is more visible. The garages that store fishing nets or boats and the ones that store jet skis and surfboards live side by side. Fishing boats usually head South and stay inside the harbor if there is a storm on the horizon. Surfers constantly seek that storm on the forecast and, when jet skis leave the safety of the dock, they are going to the North Canion’s giant waves.
A dead fish deemed as garbage in the eyes of a fisherman is a seagull’s dinner. There may be hundreds of rotten fish at the dock.
Peniche is obviously more known for its waves on more recent times. But it wasn’t always like that. Apart from it being a fishing village, it was also the place where one of the most infamous political prisons of Portugal was located. The stories this place has to tell are as chilling as can be, but it is, in my opinion, something you cannot miss. To ignore the past is to leave the door open to repeat the mistakes that were made in the future. And so, even if places like these make you anxious, the history written on its walls is a must. Now, this place is a museum and we ended up talking to its keeper. Turns out he lived the dictatorship as a bread delivery boy in this prison. Talking to him was the most intense moment of the week for me.
I’m standing in the middle of a sandbank that makes way to “A Ilha”. This place divides two coasts within the peninsula that is Peniche. It is the fact that Peniche has breaks that face every direction that makes it such a consistent surf zone – every wind is an offshore wind somewhere and every swell direction will find its way to a good break. We ended up surfing on the northern part of the peninsula, probably the only place in Portugal that had some pulse during that week, and we managed to get some fun surfing done.
Carving in a sandbank somewhere in Peniche.
The unusual wonderer watching me go to the air.
Getting to know people is the best way to know a place. An old couple from the mountains of Serra D’aire e Candeeiros. For some reason, this lady was really happy to grab my arm, talk to me and kiss my face… a certain degree of funny discomfort was felt, I admit, but they were amazing hosts (and the food was great). As we drove down from Nazaré to Peniche, we decided to make a detour and explore inland. It’s weird for a surfer to spend time away from the coast deliberately, but the beautiful sights made it all worth it.
The sun rises in Mira D’aire.
This is Cabo Carvoeiro. One of the best sunset spots I’ve ever seen, as the layers of rock shaped by millions of years of wind and water create these amazing columns that stand some 30 meters above ground. To get one of the shots, I climbed to the top of one of them. It was a very windy day and the fall would have been pretty nasty (like, “I would have died” nasty). My heart raced like it does when a big set is approaching at Supertubos for the whole 20 seconds I stayed up there before I yelled to Nuno, the producer, that I had to get down immediately.
We waited the whole day for the increase of the swell. A last-minute decision was made to check out Coxos before the sun disappeared. It was small… but sunset sessions are my favorite and I ended up surfing alone at a wave which is usually shared by 40+ surfers.
The amazing towers of the Convento de Mafra, near Ericeira- They are part of one of the most imposing monuments of Portugal, built in the times of one its most magnanimous king, D. João V. Many people died in the process of building it, a Nobel prize novel was written about it and we lost our car keys inside it, delaying the shooting schedule due to the two hours we spent frenetically searching for them. Good times.
Nick Uricchio – one of the most iconic individuals of Ericeira’s surf scene. He was among the first groups of surfers to explore the (then) empty waves of Coxos and Ribeira D’ilhas. Today he is one of the most renowned shapers of Portugal and he goes to town with the harmonica. The documentary ends with a duet between him and me: “Summertime and the living is easy…”
Want to know what else happened?
Watch the whole thing!