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!
EXPLORING THE COAST OF FREEDOM
The wild, warm beaches of Alentejo and harsh Costa Vicentina are home to very contrasting landscapes, but there is always one constant: a sense of freedom, powered by this coast’s untamed nature and its raw ocean.
A way to escape city life and its obligations. Somewhere you’ll find secret spots, where you’ll camp at empty beaches, and where being alone will be a peaceful and reinvigorating experience. Somewhere you’ll have fun.
This story is all about that: a search for adventure and fun during an endless summer. And, during that adventure, I tried to find out what’s important in life through the contact with death, jumped off an airplane, fished my own dinner and played guitar by a bonfire at the beach, with my best friend. Also, obviously, I got to surf some of the fun waves Portugal has to offer.
This is the journey through the Coast Of Freedom.
The first surf we had down South was at wave hidden from everyone in plain sight. In fact, the wave breaks right in the center of one of the most important tourist towns of the region, producing a fun left and a more powerful right that, on a good day, can make the delights of those who know this secret. I cannot tell you more.
Even though it was a small and windy day, we got to score some of the best waves of Alentejo that day, without the disturbance of anyone in the water.
Some of the most fun waves Portugal has to offer – L Point. More on it on the full video, but I can tell you that, on our last day down South, I couldn’t feel my arms due to the endless hours of surfing non-stop.
We were lucky enough to be authorized to trespass the safety glass that separates visitors from the bones, allowing us to shoot these craniums from very up-close. It’s funny how people usually believe in you: we said we were recording for TAP and they just believed us. We were, of course, but it could not have been the case.
The chapel of bones is a creepy place. I had to show it on this episode because I always associated it with the meaning I have for life: That we’re always walking towards death and, thus, we have to make the most out of that ride while we’re here. That’s only my way of making sense of this monument, though. In fact, the reason why these walls are covered in bones is to transmit the exact opposite message: that this is only our first and less important part of the ride. Either way, you choose to look at it, the only certainty is that it will transmit a powerful message.
Once dead people’s bones become a monument, they lose some of their true meaning and start being viewed as an attraction. If you combine that with smartphones, this is what you get. Pretty weird sight and even more weird to realize that we are able to take selfies next to some sixteenth-century dead person.
As it became all about taking advantage of the good things in life, I decided to keep it real and invited one of my best friends to join me. We ended up having one of the most rad experiences of our lives – jumping off a plane. You can’t quite see it in this photo, but I was still laughing uncontrollably due to the adrenaline rush that was still going through my veins. The laughter lasted some ten minutes and left me with an abdominal ache that lasted for two days. It is my usual reaction to scary situations, to laugh. And I’ve never laughed so hard.
As you can see here…
We are a very tiny production crew. In fact, when I say we, I mean me and Nuno, the producer. And we have to do everything – from the writing to the editing to subtitles, every angle and drone shot you see, the reperage and the racord, it’s all on us. That is why we always carry walkie-talkies, so that, when a wider angle is required in a place where there is no service (beach life means no service life more often than you think) we can still communicate.
This is one such example, on the amazing trekking ways of Costa Vicentina
We had to climb up a rock using a rope to get here. It didn’t look like the safest of routes but it was worth it: the view was mesmerizing.
As you may know, ostridges are not your typical Portuguese bird. Even so, the savannas of Africa and the dry fields of Alentejo can relate in many ways. That is why these flightless birds can thrive in here and stop every tourist car that passes by, offering themselves as models for funny pictures like this one.
As I saw this amazing van, I remembered all the times I parked in this beach on my first years as a driver. I try to come to Aivados every year during the Summer, to camp in my car for a week. Of course, my car is not as a stylish vehicle as this VW, but the feeling you feel inside it must be pretty similar. A hippie community gathers at this beach every afternoon. Some light up bonfires on the sand and eat dinner as the sun sets. At night, as there are no major cities around, the sky shows its every star.
A layback on one of my favorite waves, L-Point. Considered by many as one of the most fun waves in Portugal, this is a powerful left-hander with multiple sections that give you the chance to let your surfing creativity break lose. I was going for a Clay Marzo move. You can check out whether I landed it or not, in the video below.
This man was one of the biggest characters I’ve ever met in my life. I thought it would be nice to have a typical lunch in Alentejo and, because of that, we got to know the true concept of slow food – we ate from two to six thirty in the afternoon and only left because we had to work on Riding Portugal’s first episode, A Quest To The West. Of course, we left the restaurant half drunk and, as we had to journey our way to the coast, we only started working at ten p.m. It was impossible not to fall asleep many times while working on the subtitles, as Nuno finished the final edit of episode one. But the many poetic jokes that this gentleman professed and the incredible wine made up for the lack of sleep and the hangover.
Now that you know a bit of the story behind it, it’s time to watch the whole thing.