As the mercury drops and the nights draw in here in Blighty, sensible surfers everywhere are starting to cook up plans for winter escape missions.
While most tend naturally towards the classic choices of The Canaries, The Algarve or Morcocco- and these are certainly classic choices for a reason- the possibilities along Europe’s long, diverse and well-connected coastlines are endless.
The wave-rich stretch along Portugal’s west coast, from Lisbon to Peniche, is often considered an Autumn destination. However, unlike Hossegor and The North of Spain, it actually fares pretty well at fending off the winter bleakness through January and February. The sun still shines, the water is still 4/3 warm, brain freezes are a distant memory and the crowds are surprisingly sparse away from the main spots.
For the more gentile among you, there’s also plenty of cultural stuff to do when it’s not pumping. Lisbon itself is widely heralded as one of Europe’s most exciting cities, with loads of history, gardens, parks, custard tarts and excellent nightlife. To the north, there’s the historic town of Sintra which is well worth a mosey. Just in-land there are beautiful vineyards, including our personal favourite at Quinta De Sant’ana and a giant old library at the Mafra Palace, with its own colony of bats, who protect the books from paper-hungry insects. Back on the coast, there’s a dedicated interactive surfing museum in Ericeira, which celebrates the area’s status as a world surfing reserve.
And then of course, there are the waves. The regional highlights sit in the zones around Ericeira, which boasts a plethora of world-class reefs, and Peniche, which has bays facing in every direction almost-guaranteeing fun waves no matter what the swell-wind combo. Both are an easy drive from Lisbon, which can be reached direct by plane from Bristol, London, Edinburgh and Manchester. Once there, rent a car, try and eek some tips out of the locals and take as many turnings from the main road to the coast as time will allow. As a general rule if the roads aren’t paved you’re probably on your way to a good wave. Happy hunting.