Why is Portugal’s Silver Coast the best place to learn to Surf?
Surfing on the Silver Coast has enjoyed a huge surge in popularity in recent years. To find out why we asked Foz Surf Camp’s owners Martim and Catarina.
Martim has 14 years experience of teaching and has run the popular Surf Camp with his partner Catarina since 2008. He speaks French, Spanish and excellent English and the following Q+A was done in English.
Portugal Holiday Destinations – Why did you start the company?
Martim – I had already been giving surf lessons for over 6 years and was developing a great reputation so I decided to start a new company along with Catarina. We had the ideal place in Foz do Arelho which just needed some remedial work so we just went for it and never looked back.
PHD – How would you describe the company philosophy and how do you differ from other Surf Schools?
Catarina - We see ourselves as a family company and we enjoy entertaining our students and guests. “Come as a guest and leave as a friend” is our moto and many return over and over again.
Martim -What makes us different? I think our approach to the lessons themselves. I’m constantly in the water pushing the students, helping them catch the waves. We keep it quite intense, no one learns to surf in 2 or 3 days so we are always on hand to help and advise. We always keep groups small so we can give everyone the attention and support they need. I never have more than 5 students per teacher at any time. I sometimes feel other schools are happy to take the money for the equipment rental and send students into the water unprepared and unsupervised, which is dangerous for them and others around them. And it can’t be much fun for the student and can put many off surfing for life!
I’m also experienced in giving lessons to small kids, usually 8-9 year olds but also as young as 4 year old. I taught my own kids and you have to realise they are all different and with different fears. You have to be very careful that everything goes smoothly in in the early lessons as they conquer whatever fears they may have but also make sure that it’s fun and rewarding. Its that sort of attention we give our students that other school’s seem unable or unwilling to offer.
It’s hard work, its very intense but very rewarding – I’d say over 95% of students we teach get to ride a wave on their very first lesson with this approach.
PHD – So why is the Silver Coast the best place for learning to Surf?
Martim – There are just so many opportunities, so many different kinds of waves along the coast with different kinds of swells and different winds, there is such brilliant variety within easy driving distance. It means that pretty much on any given day there are optimal conditions for surfing for any given level. If the wind is from a certain direction we know that Super Tubos (where the World Surf Championships are held) will be perfect for beginners that day, or it’s from another then we can head to Peniche. Baleal is fantastic and is virtually guaranteed to have perfect conditions. Keeping the groups small also means we have the flexibility to pick and chose where we go.
PHD- Have you seen a big increase in interest since Garret Mcmanara made international headlines by surfing the huge waves at Nazaré?
Martim – Yes it definitely made a big difference. People ask us to go and see and we often take people there just to see the waves. The best time is between Mid October to Mid March. Its very impressive.
PHD – Are the majority of your students Portuguese or Foreign?
Martim – Mainly foreign, perhaps even 90% foreign. Mainly from Europe but we’ve also had people from Australia, Paraquay, Kazakstan, Brazil... Many come back year after year.
We don’t just attract people looking to learn but also experienced surfers who are looking for a local guide who can show them the lie of the land so to speak – we tell them where the best place for them to surf is depending on their level of experience, we can explain to them the temperament of the sea and the waves... In fact beaches are a lot like women (Catarina laughs) no, they are, you get to know them and their personalities, their different moods depending on the conditions that day. Sometimes they can be docile and sweet but then they can turn temperamental and dangerous! So having local knowledge is invaluable, even for experienced surfers from abroad.
PHD So what do you forsee in the future for Surfing in Silver Coast.
Catarina – there’s going to be a huge boom. Its already started. A lot of surfers are buying property in the area and the reputation as a surfing paradise is growing at an insane level.
Martim – Definitely, Surfing is certainly growing in popularity worldwide but no-where is that more noticeable than here. There’s also a great feeling of community here which keeps things relaxed and friendly, with everyone looking out for each other. And with the fantastic natural resources such as the Lagoon there are loads of other activities such as Paddle and Kite Surf which appeal to the same crowd, not to mention the fantastic cycling in the area. We’re hugely optimistic about the future.
PHD – Thanks for your time!
Martim is clearly passionate about his work and gets great pleasure seeing others enjoy it too. We can highly recommend his company to anyone looking to either learn whilst on their Portugal Holiday or, if they are already experienced, to hire him as a guide to the best places around.
Lessons cost 35 Euros and last roughly 90 mins
a package of 10 lessons cost 250€
All equipment and insurance is includedin the price