Surf’s up

Eat, sleep, surf, repeat. If the swell is good, there’s no need to do anything else in the Algarve.

How to make sure your time in the water is a great one? By following these four steps: Get some pointers. Prepare your trip. Pick the right place. Play in the sea!

Picture above by Clive Symm

See original article in Enjoy the Algarve magazine September 2015


Pointers – Surf tips

How to have a great time in the waves? Who better to ask than a guy who spends most of his time in the water and is extremely good at what he does?! Former UK and European champion Mike Raven reveals his top tips for an amazing surf session.

Mike has been surfing for over 40 years. He is joint owner and head coach at Raven Surf School, which offers lessons on 20 beaches in the south of Portugal. “The surf in the Algarve is consistently good, which makes it a great place to improve your skills and have fun!” Apart from being one of the few ASI Level 4 Master Surf Coaches in the world, Mike’s also a nice guy, so he’s happy to share some pointers with you. Here are his tips:


Tips for all surfers

  • Enjoy, respect and appreciate the beautiful environment that the Algarve has to offer. It’s a paradise here, so leave only footprints and take nothing but memories (clichéd, I know, but true).
  • Share waves and share the surf stoke. Respect the locals and they will respect you. Don’t drop in!
  • If you are unsure of the conditions, don’t be scared to ask for advice. Avoid surfing alone.
  • Using landmarks while in the line-up is a really good way to hold your position and stay safe. It’s also a good idea to surf on a lifeguarded beach.

Picture by Clive Symm


Tips for beginners

  • Once your feet are on the deck (that’s the top of the board) let go of your surfboard, try to look forward, not down, and keep your body centred over your board.
  • When on the board, try to stay loose and flexible.

Picture by Clive Symm


Tips for intermediate to advanced surfers

  • Practise as much as you can. Surf with better surfers and watch videos of good surfers.
  • Mentally rehearse the skills you want to improve (mind surf). Your brain finds it difficult to tell the difference between the real and the mental rehearsal, so you can practise even when you’re not in the ocean.
  • When in the water, get someone to video, so you can really see what you’re doing well and not so well.
  • Sign up for some lessons or coaching if you want to fast track your progression. There are some really good surf instructors in the Algarve and you can literally save yourself years with a small investment. The best surfers in the world have coaches and want to continue to improve.

More info? Check out


Picture of Mike Raven by Tronicpro



Wetsuit? Board? Sunscreen? Check! Ready to go and shred those waves? Almost. Just read this things first.

There’s no need for a membership and there are no ocean opening times. In fact, surfing is one of the freest sports out there. But even though an official surfing rule book doesn’t exist, there are still some points that every surfer should know about in order to keep the ocean a safe and happy place. It’s called surfing etiquette.



Picture by Liselot Sijm

The 10 commandments of surfer etiquette

1. You shall not drop in. 

It’s very simple: it’s one surfer per wave and the one who’s on the inside (closer to the peak of the wave) has right of way. Usually, that’s also the person who has been waiting the longest. Is that person not you? Then wait for your turn. Newsflash: there’ll probably be more waves.


2. You shall not obstruct a surfer who has right of way

If it’s somebody else’s turn and they’re already paddling for the wave, don’t paddle inside them and try and claim the wave out of turn. This is called ‘snaking’ and it’s not nice. You’ll look like a twat. Just don’t do it.


3. You shall not hog the waves

It’s not your sea. Not if you’ve got the most expensive gear, not if it’s your birthday that day and even not if you’re a local. Don’t try and catch every single wave if there are others in the water as well.


4. You shall not paddle through the brake. 

Not only will paddling through the impact zone annoy other surfers, it’s also way easier for yourself to paddle around the breaking waves as you won’t need to duckdive. (With reefs and points there’s sometimes a channel, a part where the waves don’t brake and the rip current makes it easier to get out to the back).


5. You shall not go in without preparation. 

Have a look for warning signs on the beach and, if possible, ask local surfers about the conditions (otherwise, make sure to visit or before you head out). Study the ocean, the sets and the current. Know about any obstacles in the water (like rocks) and know if the tide’s going out or coming in. Simple basic knowledge really. You don’t step into a car without knowing where you’re going either, do you?


6. You shall not lose your board. 

There’s this thing called a leash. Attach one end to your board and one end to your foot. Make sure all straps are securely fastened. Done.


7. You shall not endanger others. 

Take care with swimmers and other surfers, especially when you’re riding a wave. Control your board and beware of others in the water. Getting hit by a surfboard hurts like hell, even if it’s a foamie.


8. You shall not put yourself in danger. 

The ocean is powerful; be realistic about your abilities and your fitness level. If somebody needs to save you, you’re not only putting yourself, but also that person in danger (see commandment 7). If you’re still struggling in the whitewater, stay there. Or even better, get some lessons.


9. You shall not leave any kind of litter on the beach or in the ocean. 

No plastic, no broken fins, no empty beer bottles. Nada! Just take your trash home and protect the planet. It’s the only one we have.


10. You shall not get angry at other surfers. 

Even not if they break commandment 1, 2 and 3. Instead, explain the surfing etiquette and treat them like you’d want to be treated. Smile. This way, you might even make some friends to hang out with afterwards.


Places – Surf spots

Where to go for the best waves? Who better to ask than the people who spend most of their time in the water?! Inspirational surfers reveal their secret spots in the Algarve:


Kasper van Nuland – Amoreira

Kasper van Nuland (42) used to spend all his winters surfing in Portugal, emptying his head for another year of working in his native Holland. Eight years ago he chose to be permanently where the waves are and moved to the Algarve with his wife. Now, he’s a distributor of surf equipment in the whole of Portugal, (check out

Kasper’s favourite Algarve surf spot is Praia da Amoreira. “At Amoreira, there are always waves. They’re powerful and high, with a strong current, so this is no spot for beginners. Due to these conditions, the ocean here isn’t too crowded. An added bonus is the beautiful nature: from the ocean you look out over the mountains of Monchique. Amoreira is at the mouth of the Aljezur river, which makes it also an ideal place for other watersports, such as windsurfing, kitesurfing and SUP.”


João Serafim – Arrifana

João Serafim (26) is a free surfer. “I like to compete and always try to improve my surfing, but this is a fight against myself, never against others, that’s why for me free surfing was a natural choice,” he explains. “Surfing means a lot to me; it’s an escape from the real world, like a therapy.”

João’s favourite surf spot in the Algarve is Arrifana beach. “Arrifana is protected from the north wind, and usually it’s a really fun and easy wave in the smaller days, but it works well also in the days with more swell. A very consistent world-class wave starts to break in the pointbreak on the right side of the beach from behind the fishermen port.”

Picture by Projecto Elementar


Jez Browning – Zavial

The favourite beach of CEO and founder of UniSURFity Jez Browning (38)? Zavial. “It’s one of the most powerful waves here and offers everything from barrels to air sections. It demands a lot of respect due to the sneaky and much larger freak sets that turn up every now and then. The bodyboarders are the real locals here; they, along with any other local surfers demand respect too. This is definitely not a wave for beginners or intermediates.”

Picture of Jez Browning by Staffan Rennermalm


Alex Botelho – Zavial

Alex Botelho about his favourite Algarve surf spot: “Zavial is a beautiful and cosy bay that’s quite exposed to swell coming from the west, and the prevailing north/northwest winds are offshore. I really enjoy this place because of the great formation of the waves coming from a particular bathymetry that enables them to be quite powerful.”

Alex started surfing at the age of 9, after having done other sports in the ocean such as sailing and bodyboarding. “When I finally tried surfing it topped all of them and ignited the passion I have today for this activity. It’s still a main factor that drives me through life nowadays and it can even drive you crazy when you’re not surfing. I think everyone who surfs can relate to this.”

According to Alex, there isn’t much needed to have a great time in the waves here. “The Algarve is littered with beaches and points for surfing, and a big contributing factor to the variety of waves is that there are two coast lines facing different directions, west and south. Essentially you need a surfboard and a wetsuit, and above all the will to get out there. Your level of experience isn’t going to determine how much fun you’ll be having in the ocean. Anyone can be as happy as possible with what the waves provide around here on any given day.”

Want to see more of Alex? Check his site


Play in the sea

No waves? Left your surfboard at home? Or just fancy something else for a change? There are plenty of other activities you can do in the ocean, such as Stand Up Paddleboarding (see page 14 in our September 2015 issue). Or choose one of these below:



You’ll need: a sail. And a different board.

You’ll get: a need for speed. (The current wind surfing speed record is 90km/h).

Compared with surfing: the thrill of riding waves is gone, but the feeling of hanging onto the boom and being blown forward by the wind in your sail makes up for a lot.



You’ll need: a canoe and a paddle.

You’ll get: a moment to relax. (Contrary to a surfboard, you’re meant to stay seated in a canoe).

Compared with surfing: unless you’re doing some form of wild water canoeing, it can be a bit tame. Recommended activity for when you feel a bit rough.

Picture by Rob Baak



You’ll need: fins and a different board.

You’ll get: jealous. (When you see all the surfers standing on their boards).

Compared with surfing: as you don’t get up, it’s kinda like surfing for lazy people (sorry all you bodyboarders who feel a bit insulted now. You’re right, we’re wrong. We’re laughing. Don’t hate us).

Picture by Bengt Nyman



You’ll need: a kite. And a different board.

You’ll get: a thrill. (From being able to jump in the air higher than ever possible with just a surfboard).

Compared with surfing: this is proper multitasking. Paying attention to the water, the wind, the board, the ropes, and of course the kite at the same time. Good luck.

Picture by Your Algarve Adventure



You’ll need: a motorboat to tow you. And a different board.

You’ll get: lazy. (As there’s no need to paddle anymore. Don’t worry, your arms will still hurt from holding onto the tow bar).

Compared with surfing: it takes away the effort of having to paddle, but also the thrill of wave riding. On the plus side you can do some crazy tricks.

Picture by Tim Felce


See original article in Enjoy the Algarve magazine September 2015

Posted in Activities, Features.

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