I’ve always loved the idea of surfing, in reality however my fear of open water and petite body build make actually doing the surfing much harder. Still while in Portugal recently I found myself following JP off to Guincho beach just north west of Lisbon, to go surfing. We were staying in Cascais outside of Lisbon for our week in Portugal and despite being on the coast there was no surf to be seen anywhere. A little sceptical any would appear as we headed north, I thought I would probably only have to face baby waves. Instead as I stepped off the bus as Guincho the wind hit my skin and I soon realised the beach was rolling with waves.
Moana surf school is located north of the beach, so we trekked across the not so short beach in search of their place. It is easy to find positioned next to the main Bar de Guincho – which does a really good burger for a post surfing treat. We found the girl in charge, planning to enquire when the next surfing lesson was and make a decision if I really wanted to do this. However, the lesson was just about to start and before I knew what I had signed up for I was hauling myself into a wetsuit.
There were seven of us in the lesson that morning with two instructors to help us along our way. After receiving our boards we headed on down to the beach and began warming up with a run in the sand. Any chill the wind had caused earlier was now far from my mind as I felt more than cosy in my wetsuit. Our instructor Eric went over the basics which were a reminder of my lesson nearly three years ago on the east coast of Australia. We covered the technique for paddling, catching a wave and eventually standing up. We practised in the sand over and over until the instructors were confident we had the right technique mastered.
Before getting in the water we headed south on the beach to where the surf was best, finally after a few key instructions and safety notes, we were in the water. Up until this point I’d felt pretty confident with my ability to do this. Then I realised the power behind these waves and my lack of control over the board. I couldn’t get out much further than my knees before being forced backwards by a wave. Luckily the instructors soon realised this and we began to fall into a routine. They’d help me get out past the break and send me off on a wave, I’d then attempt getting out again and they’d come and help me. This continued for much of the lesson or at least until I hurt myself. First taking someone else’s board to the ribs and becoming winded. Then after I got back in the water, I did exactly what I was told not to do and faced the board was I walked out. Needless to say it smashed me in the face and warranted another sit down. Luckily these were only foam boards and I wasn’t even left with a bruise on my face. My feet were a different story, battered with red sores on top and no real understanding of how this happened.
Despite being a weak swimmer, scared of the big looking waves and generally not confident in the water these guys did a brilliant job of making sure I enjoyed myself and caught a few waves throughout the session. The small group and luxury of two instructors certainly made me feel more confident heading out into the waves. The conditions were a little rough and the under current stronger than would be good for a beginner but I still managed to stand on more than one occasion.
Surfing may not be my number one choice of water-sport activity but the Moana Surf School did a brilliant job of making sure I enjoyed myself.
Guincho is around a 20 minute bus ride from Cascais (number 405 or 415) from the bus station. To get to Cascais from Lisbon you can take a train from the Cais do Sodré station straight here in around 40 minutes.
Our surf lesson cost €25 each with around an hour on the beach and then changing time before and after – I’d say give yourself at least 90 minutes for the whole thing. As I mentioned earlier Bar de Guincho do a great burger and fresh lemonade for an after surf treat, do expect it to cost a little more than average but the ocean views will certainly make up for this.