No experience or any surfing equipment needed, just come to the beach and try. You will definitely love it!
Why to go: If you are staying in Lisbon for more than few days, going surfing is a must. Perfect conditions all over the year, cheap surfing classes and the excitement you will feel while riding the waves make it an experience you won’t forget! Try it at least once and you will want to go again, you will see.
What do I need? Well, basically nothing! You can find many places where you can rent the equipment (wetsuit + surfboard) for a very good price – just continue reading for more info. For the first few tries, also a good surf trainer is really handy (not very expensive either, don’t worry), since such a coach makes it a lot easier for you to understand the surfing basics and your learning progress will be a lot faster and the whole experience more enjoyable.
Just a note about the equipment: I know a few beginners who, excited about the possibility of going surfing all the year, bought the surf board and wetsuit the first weeks of their stay. Well, better think twice before doing this – if you are not an experienced surfer, I wouldn’t recommend buying your equipment, since: a)it is expensive, b)you will probably use it only occasionally, c)you would have to transport it to the beach which might be quite uncomfortable (especially with the beginner’s board, which is reaaally big and neither you nor your travel mates won’t be too happy about your choice while being with you on a crowded bus or a train to the beach + think also about the totally wet and heavy wetsuit in your backpack on the way back).
All in all, I would say renting is basically lot more convenient and even more economic, unless you are reallly passionate and at least a bit advanced surfer.
Where to go surfing: If you are staying in Lisbon, you have actually many options. I would recommend going to the maybe most popular surfing destination near Lisbon, which is Costa da Caparica – an immensely long beach on the other side of the river Tejo.
You can reach it by bus number 161 which crosses the Ponte 25 de Abril (the bridge which looks like the one from San Francisco). The bus goes from the station Roma Areeiro (check the exact location of the bus stop here, it’s a bit hidden) and it also stops at Praça da Espanha. It is operated by TST, a different company from the Lisbon public transport,so you won’t be able to use your Lisbon transport card and you will have to buy the ticket on the bus (it is about 3 euros one way, depending from which station you are going). You can find the schedule of the bus here ;-)
By the way, be careful that on the way back, the bus in the direction to Lisbon stops at slightly different place than you get off when reaching the town of Caparica – this is where you should go out of the bus and this is where the bus stops on the way to Lisbon.
Some people also go surfing to the beaches on the train line in the direction to Cascais (going from the station Cais do Sodre in Lisbon) – for example the Carcavelos beach, which is on the way, about 30 mins from Lisbon, can be a good choice and you can find spots for renting surfing equipment there too.
How to get a nice surfing lesson: I have already mentioned that it is better to try surfing with a trainer and that is doesn’t have to be expensive at all. So where to find such a class? Of course you can just go to the beach and take a surf lesson at the nearest rental spot, but that usually won’t be the cheapest option I guess – better check Facebook, there are many surfing clubs, schools and trainers having their public groups, where you can easily book a lesson or find out about group surf trips (some of them even provide free transportation from Lisbon and back).
I would personally recommend Surfing school Lufi at Costa da Caparica, which offers very nice and experienced surf teachers. If you are an Erasmus student or it is your first lesson, you even get a two hour surf class in a small group with equipment for only 10 Euros per person (provided you book the lesson with at least three or four other people). All you have to do is to book in advance through their Erasmus facebook page (not sure if it will work even in the next years though) or Whatsapp number +351 925 892 363.
How does the surfing lesson look like? First, you will have to get into the wetsuit – the staff will help you to find your size, but even with the right one, be prepared that it will take you some time to get in :) But it’s really warm and convenient, making it possible to surf at almost any temperature without feeling cold (well, just the first few whiles in the water are kind of refreshing, since your feet, hands and neck are bare, but you will feel warm soon).
Afterwards, you will get a surf board, which will be probably a lot bigger than you would expect – but trust me, that is good for you. The bigger is the board, the better you will find the balance. As you progress, you can ask for smaller and smaller ones (which are also made from different material), but that is probably not the thing you will think about during the first few lessons. The good thing about the beginner boards is also that they usually have a string which you can attach to your ankle, making it no problem when you fall of the surf in the water – the board will stay close to you.
Then, you will have some warm up with the trainer in a small group. After stretching and a sometimes even bit of running on the beach, the trainer will give you some basic instructions about safety while being in the water with surf board. Listen carefully, since soon you will find out that the waves can be really strong (remember to always cover your head with your arms when you are falling into the water).
Next thing to do is to try the standing up technique on the beach, to get the right feeling how to do it before you will try it in the water. Then it’s finally time to go into the ocean and have some fun! The trainer gives you useful basic advices and helps you to catch your first waves by pushing you and the board at the right time when the wave is coming, while giving you instructions to catch it and ride it like in the movies. And after a few tries, you will!
Is it difficult? No, it is not. You can do it even if you are not really a sporty person. Just if it is your first time, be prepared that you will stand up on the board probably only for few times – don’t worry, it is not so extremely physically demanding, but until you find out how to properly paddle to get the speed of the wave and to keep balance while standing up, it will take a few tries. The teacher helps you a lot with the basics, but still you have to practice to learn how and when to stand up. And even for the first time, when you will spend a lot more time in the water than on the surf board, it’s really exciting and you will have fun, be sure about that :-)
When to go: The summer season with its long sunny days and super hot air is of course perfect time for surfing, but you can really go any time in the year when the weather is nice (and since it is sunny almost all over the year in Portugal, there is a lot of opportunities to go). According to the surfing teachers, the only problem might be when the wind comes from the opposite direction than it is needed, but they would tell you if the conditions aren’t good.
After our class in October, the trainer told us we can even come in December – we laughed, feeling that we probably won’t be willing to go into the cold ocean water when the air is about 14 °C. Well, on the 19th of December, we couldn’t resist and really went surfing again – the last two pictures you can see here are from that day. As you can see, the weather was perfect and we had just as much fun as in the autumn, so really go any time you want!
Anything more? Yes. Don’t forget sunscreen, sleep well the night before and have a small snack before the class, you will need some energy! (our surfing trainer recommended two bannans any time you go – well, you should also know that there is a nice pastelaria with lots of portuguese pastry on the way from the bus to the beach). And that’s it! Enjoy the waves and have fun! :-)