Portugal’s been kind of great for surfers the past month. We’ll do a full retro on that soon. For now though, a couple days last week saw all kinds of conditions for the country’s west coast. Nazare was going off, Coxos had some characteristically hairy moments, Supertubos felt as if it had its first proper swell – there were also some glimpses from unexpected gems. Did you know you could log a nearby bay when Nazare goes XXL? It’s true.
That’s the beauty of Portugal, it is a coastline punctuated with sheltered zones, with headlands that hook into rivers and inlets, around every turn, more potential. It’s why Peniche and its omni-directional beachies is one of the greatest surf zones on the planet.
Supertubos? We've got a cam for that!
Thursday, the bulk of this North Atlantic beast had been bearing down on Portugal. Huge wash-throughs and stormy conditions swept across the beach of Praia do Norte, home of Nazare, meaning the session was off for the morning.
Helio Antonio, MSW’s lens in that part of the world, got wind of a bay turning on for a logging session, an area that isn’t really a surf spot. Except on Thursday, it was! Fun, clean little lines to split a smile on the few out there.
“I ended up travelling to a place where people go when it’s big and onshore wind. Small waves, huge fun for different water-crafts, longboard, SUP and even people learning to surf,” he said. “It was just, smiles all over even though the waves didn’t go over half a foot. Guess there’s always a place to enjoy the ocean even during the worst storm.”
The following day was a different story. “It started messy at Nazare but it got better the more the day went on,” said Helio. “Vini dos Santos, towed by Alemão de Mareasis, surfed a bunch of lefts on the first peak on his backside.”
“There were a few big waves, out there,” said Vini. “The conditions were good, especially around 2-3.30pm, was just a great day,.” But Portugal’s favourite big wave venue has yet to see a proper 70 or 80ft day. We’re still early in the season though.
As the swell began to wind down, Helio packed up shop and relocated to Supertubos. “Not a lot of people out as usual when the waves get this heavy,” he said, pointing out that most of the crowd went to the north end of the beach at Molhe Leste, a much friendlier and forgiving wave. “Ended the day feeling grateful to live where we do.”
For surfers like Joao Mendonca, based in Arrifana, it didn’t really matter what was happening at Nazare on Friday, this was the first opportunity to feel the first bite of wintry conditions. “I always come up to Lisbon way this time of year,” he said. “The quality of waves here, I knew this swell was going to be on. Didn’t even look at Nazare, that’s not for me. But Supertubos was super fun. Hard to find a wave. Went to Coxos too, big rights, that’ much more for me.”
“It was our first winter swell of the season, conditions were great for Supertubos, a fun morning,” said Pedro Boonman. “Really calm early on, around 11am, we started to really feel it. Everyone got perfect waves, a good start. I want to improve in these kinds of conditions, heavy barrels, this was perfect for it.”
Crazy to think, but there’s even more coming for Portugal this week. It has been non-stop November! "The swell originated from a low pressure that began to form off Newfoundland around Monday 21st November," said MSW forecaster Tony Butt, breaking this one down. "The fact that the Azores high and the westerly airstream in the upper atmosphere were both displaced quite far south, meant that this system also took a fairly southerly track across the North Atlantic. It passed north of the Azores late Tuesday 22nd, and then merged with a complex area of low pressure west of Ireland on Wednesday and Thursday, before arcing northeast and weakening off Scotland by Friday.
"An area of storm-force westerly winds on its southern flank reached peak intensity northwest of the Azores on Tuesday, and open-ocean wave heights exceeded 30 feet over a large area northeast of the Azores on Wednesday. The swell arrived at westerly exposures around Thursday, accompanied by winds from a west or southwest direction, associated with the storm itself.
"In Portugal, wave heights exceeded 15 feet at exposed spots on Thursday, with periods up to 18 secs, but fresh winds from a westerly quarter. The swell dropped a notch on Friday, and wind conditions improved, as an area of high pressure pushed up from the southwest."