Portugal is renowned for its waves, I would learn on this trip that it is also a good source of food, wine and hospitable good company. Surf houses or surf retreats are rapidly becoming as popular as yoga retreats and many are combining the two!
Do not get me wrong I am no pro surfer but simply someone who wanted an active, different holiday learning something I want to get better at so I didn’t look like a total idiot when summer came back to the UK. So I looked into a surfing holiday, just for a weeks getaway. I found Ericeria, a little village home to the ‘Chill in’ Surf House not far from the capital, Lisbon. It was convenient, small, a good price and looked friendly. I booked through booking.com and got flights out to Lisbon from Bristol, UK in March 2015. The transfer time from Lisbon airport to Ericeria is only 40 minutes.
Ericeria is beautiful. Set on a hill by the coast of the Atlantic ocean I arrived in time to wander into the village in search of food, rosé and see a stunning sunset above the village harbour. Portugal is also famous for its pretty tiled buildings and Ericeria did not disappoint, it really was gorgeous.
The surf house itself is set on a hill just outside the village, it has spectacular views and is brightly decorated with words of wisdom painted onto the walls and interesting decor which reuses objects for new purposes. For example the light shade in the bathroom was a green watering can and my wardrobe consisted of two chairs on the walls from which hangers were hung. No two rooms are the same and I loved how different it was. I chose to go for a shared twin bedroom with shared bathroom facilities to keep the costs low. There is a communal kitchen area and communal dining/lounge area which had views straight out to sea.
Little did I know that this little surf house is jointly run by the first female pro surfer in all of Portugal, Joana Rocha. Joana was a professional surfer for more than ten years and has traveled all over the world, she is also a fun, kind, down to earth lady who was kind enough to let me borrow some of her clothes (as I under estimated how cold Portugal is in March!). She has an entire wall in her kitchen dedicated to magnets she has collected from all the places she has been, it was incredible. Her old coach Miguel was teaching the surf lessons when I was there and I felt very honoured to have him coach me.
During the week it was only myself and a few others as it was low season so I got a room to myself and we spent our evenings hanging out with the Chill in crew who were more than happy to go out for dinner with us to the local spots, they knew all the best stuff on the menus and the best wine! I ate (and drank) very well that week and learnt that Portuguese people have 40 different ways to cook Bacalhau (Cod) and that is what they eat at Christmas! We were also shown possibly the smallest Gin bar in the world housing over 70 types of Gin, these guys knew how to make Gin cocktails and all I can say is that at least we could walk back to the surf house!
Being one of the best spots for surfing in Portugal (and the world) around Ericeria are a variety of different spots you can easily access, so no matter what the wind is doing you should always be able to find at least reasonable surf. My aim was to learn how to stand up on a board by the end of the week. I had three full days surfing, on the first day I worked a lot on my paddling and practicing catching waves and on the second day we went to a sandy beach spot to work on standing up in the surf. Third day we went back to the place I had come on the first day and the waves were much bigger, I remember them looking at least 4ft, just a bit scary for someone only 5’2ft. Miguel helped us to catch the waves, catching my first ‘big’ wave was a little terrifying, the board moves as fast as the wave and I was surprised to find that it vibrates with the speed but it is an incredible rush. I wasn’t standing up quick enough, as soon as you catch the wave you need to stand. Once I started getting up quicker it was easier and managed to stay up a few times! I was super proud of myself for achieving my goal, the addiction is to keep going and going but we had already been out for hours, the time between sets was getting shorter and I got cramp in both legs so was best to call it a day at that point!
I had one of the most memorable trips and met some absolutely amazing people in my short time in Ericeria and I hope one day to return to this beautiful surfing spot on the Atlantic ocean.