Surf in Ericeira, the only World Surfing Reserve in Europe
31 October 2018
With 1,800 kilometres of coast (not including the islands) there is a wealth of spots to choose from when surfing Portugal. Home of the ASP World Tour Surf Championship, which takes place at the world-famous Ribeira d’Ilhas beach, is one of the most spectacular destination for surfers and non-surfers alike in Portugal.
In 2011 was made a World Surfing Reserve by the Save the Waves Coalition. It is the first and only WSR in Europe and one of only a select few (4 to date) world wide.
Some facts and the history of the town
Located in the municipality of Mafra, Ericeira is only 35 km (22 miles) northwest of Portugal’s capital, Lisbon. Its comfortable climate and beautiful seaside made it a perfect place for the Portuguese royal family to cool their boots during the 19th century. Around 400 years ago, Ericeira even almost had its own “king”, a monk-turned-hermit who physically resembled a former king of Portugal, though the guillotine cut short his reign before it had even started.
Ericeira’s proximity to Lisbon, along with its charms – not least among them its natural beauty – made it an ideal retreat for the capital’s aristocracy, many of whom built homes in the area. But it was Ericeira’s transformation into a commercial port which really put the then tiny village on the map. By the 19th century, Ericeira was the 4th most important seaport in Portugal, though its importance declined with the advent of the railroad. Subsequent developments in the fishing industry made seafood the town’s primary fortune.
Another historical claim to fame is that Ericeira was where the last King of Portugal, Manuel II, left to live a life of exile in London. He narrowly escaped a carload of armed revolutionaries, who arrived on the beach just after the deposed king had disembarked.
During the Second World War Ericeira acquired an international character, with refugees from Poland, Belgium, Germany, France, the Netherlands and Belgium settling there after fleeing Nazi persecution.
Nowadays surfing rules Ericeira and once again foreign tongues mingle with the local Portuguese language. Surfers, bodyboarders, beachgoers and other water sports enthusiasts contribute to a vibrant nightlife during the summer months. The recent addition of the massive Quiksilver Boardriders store, featuring its own skateboard park, further solidifies Ericeira as a Mecca of surfing and other board sports.
What’s it like to surf in Ericeira?
To answer this question ask the world’s best surfers, like all-time great Kelly Slater or Portugal’s own, Tiago Pires, who grew up here. The pros come here to compete and train but most of all to enjoy some of the best waves in the world. There are around 8 kilometres (5 miles) of coastline to surf in Ericeira, with spots to suit all levels – with big and small wave beaches, right and left breaks, sand bars, beach and reef breaks – all located within a short distance from each other and the main village.
There is a reason why Ericeira is the only World Surfing Reserve in Europe. This lovely fishing village remains one of only 5 World Surfing Reserves in the world. This dedication points out Ericeira’s environmental, cultural and economic value, in terms of surfing and beach going alike.
Ericeira’s Surf Breaks
Ericeira is the site of 9 world-class surf breaks and a there are 30 top surf spots within the region. You can reach them easily by car or (sometimes) public transport. Ericeira is situated in Mafra municipality only 35km (22mi) away from Lisbon. This part of Portugal has a mild Mediterranean climate and is one of the most untouched coastal areas of Europe. In the 19th century the Portuguese royal family made it their seaside residence away from home. The country’s upper class followed suit, building many beautiful homes here. The town built a major commercial port before they constructed Portugal’s railroad; Ericeira afterwards developed a successful fishing industry, which became its main source of income and delicious fresh fish daily.
Europe’s only World Surfing Reserve
The famous Quicksilver Pro Portugal competition is held every year on Ericeira’s Ribeira d’Ilhas beach and is an event included on the ASP World Tour Surf Championship. Another great thing about Ribeira d’Ilhas is that it is also great for beginners, making it the perfect place to learn to surf. Similar spots for beginners to surf Ericeira include Foz do Lizandro beach, Praia do Sul and São Julião, whereas the more difficult spots of Cave and Coxos are recommended exclusively for skilled and experienced surfers.
Blue Flag Beaches
Of course you’ll come to surf Ericeira for its great waves, but you’ll also appreciate its high environmental standards. Ericeira is one of Europe’s most untouched and undeveloped coastal areas. Therefore it is no surprise that Ericeira’s beaches received the Blue Flag eco-label award due to their safety, water quality, and pristine conditions. In addition to Ericeira’s perfect waves, there’s plenty of nightlife, traditional markets and delicious food to explore.
Quick surf facts about Ericeira:
- 8 km (5 mi) of coastline packed with world class surf spots
- 30+ good surf beaches accessible in the region
- Traditional Portuguese fishing village where rustic flair and hospitality meet world-class surfing
- Breath-taking local scenery of cliffs, valleys, bays and beaches
- Site of major events like the ASP World Tour, surfing competitions as well as “Sumol Summer Fest” music festival
- High standards for beach cleanliness: Blue Flag (international) and “Gold Quality” (Portugal)
- Lisbon is only 35 km (22 mi) away
- Great local surf shops like Quiksilver Boardriders and Magic Quiver
- Modestly priced surf lessons, bars, restaurants and accommodation
- Friendly locals and also a relaxed surf scene
12 Surf spots close to Rapture Surfcamps in Ericeira
This place is a summer break that generates all summer swells. Perfect on north/northwest swells. Very hollow and has to be surfed at high tide. Uncrowded.
2. The Cave
The heaviest spot in Europe – this place is insane! Only the best in the world can surf this spot, because it breaks more or less right onto rocks. If you wipe out you’re on the rocks. Local pros only discovered the Cave within the last few years and looks perfect from afar. Also, it is uncrowded and can only be surfed at high tide and above 2 meters.
3. Crazy Left
Can only be surfed at high tide and is a perfect spot for hollow left hand barrels. It’s a short ride, but fun and uncrowded. Rock bottom.
4. Foz do Lizandro
A river mouth beach break, only a few steps away from the camp. When the sand bars are settled this place can be the best beach break in Portugal. It usually works best on a south/west swell at low tide. Foz is for all types of surfers and great for beginners. Can get crowded but offers great left as well as right hand peaky waves all over the beach. You can also get barrels on mid tide.
Another spot for solid swell. Can be an awesome spot to surf if the banks are right. Uncrowded.
6. Pedra Branca
Also known as White Rock. It is an extremely hollow left and holds large swell. Best surfed at 3-4 ft. Only works at high tide because it has a rock bottom. Usually crowded with bodyboarders on weekends.
Located at the furthest tip of Ribeira and can be perfect with the right winds and swell, but usually closes out on a westerly wind. Normally uncrowded.
8. Praia do Norte
This place works well with all swell and is another high tide spot. We don’t recommended surfing it at low tide, because of the sharp reef. Can be a good long right hander for all types of surfers. Uncrowded.
9. Praia do Peixe
Only breaks in big swell into a fishing port. It is not a very good spot to surf.
10. Ribeira D’lhas
A long right hand point which breaks over rock. Can be one of the longest waves in the area. Can have up to a 12 ft swell. Ribeira gets all of the swell in the summer season. It works best when winds are from the west/northwest. Usually crowded.
Very hollow and very shallow therefore this spot is for pros only. Doesn’t work under 6 feet. It’s home to some of Portugal’s best barrels. Crowded with bodyboarders on the weekends.
12. São Julião
Usually has the best surf and banks for summer. It is a long beach break and if you’re up for a 10-minute walk down the beach you can have a peak to yourself. It is a beautiful spot.