About Time: You Tried Surfing in PortugalBy Sarah Finley
If the best thing about surfing is catching a wave, the worst is surely putting on a wetsuit. The rubber feeling against your skin, getting it stuck in unflattering places and the suffocating feeling when you’re all zipped up sort of makes up for the warmth you feel when you hit the water. But then come the waves – crashing against you like you’re in the way, as you try your hardest to get out far enough to catch a good one.
I’m was just outside of Lagos in Portugal at the Jah Shaka Surf school attempting to learn how to surf. With no experience before, and probably even less patience, I was fearing the worst as I attempted to get in my wet suit for the second day.
We did our first class at Castelejo beach, just off the west coast of Portugal. I don’t think I’ve ever drunk so much sea water. I got bashed, belted by waves and my body was in shock. I was surprised I went back for seconds. Maybe I’m built of stronger stuff than I’d thought.
We’d been taught the basics by our instructors Henry and Gillian – firstly how to jump on to our boards when a wave came, then how to paddle furiously with the wave, and then finally how to pop up (stand up on the board). But of course this is all on dry land. It’s a completely different story when you’re in the water. I don’t think I can count the amount of times I nose-dived or fell bum first off my board.
Luckily my second day went okay, the beach was beautiful; Bodeira beach is filled with Instagram worthy sand dunes and thankfully that day the best waves a surfer can ask for. Once I stood up on my first wave I was addicted and spent the rest of the week dragging my board back in hoping I could recreate that moment.
What You Need to Know
The packages at the Tiny Whale Lodge cater for the complete beginner to those with more experience. I was part of the Roxy Girls week, which they put on two weeks a year, one in May and another in October, where women are encouraged to come on their own and mingle with 30 or so other women from all over Europe.
Arriving on the Saturday night I went straight into my tipi, which I was sharing, and got acquainted with my new roomie for the next week. Luckily she was lovely and we shared stories of our fear at being complete beginners.
The atmosphere at the lodge was welcoming too, everyone was encouraged to mingle, eat breakfast and dinner together and hang out at the bar or pool on days off. And if you don’t fancy sleeping in a tipi all week then they also have shared rooms.
As part of the experience you also get to do yoga every morning or evening. Waking up to yoga every day was a rare treat – in London I normally have to do it before or after work and if I account for the tube stress I’m not very zen by the end. The lovely Miri takes you through a nice balance of gentle stretches and deeper poses to wake you up, and help the surfing muscle ache subside. Which I assure you, you will struggle with.
Then there was SUP. Waking up at 6am on holiday is never fun, but it was worth it for stand up paddle boarding (SUP) at sunrise. The three-hour trip took us from the beautiful Donna Ana beach and along the hidden coves as the sun rose up behind us. Going so early also meant that we got to visit caves and coves that a couple of hours later, once the tide came in, would be full of water.
Why Go Surfing
If you’re looking for an alternative way to get fit then surfing is just that. I burnt around 500 calories a day lugging my board down to the beach, running into the waves and ‘trying’ to surf. I also used muscles which I’m sure I’ll never use again. Popping up on to a board and attempting to stand is way harder than you ever think it’s going to be.
I not only came home from a holiday having learnt something new, but I also loved that I came home with 30 new friends. The woman I shared the experience with were from all over Europe and had stories to tell about their lives, loves and surfing experiences.
By the end of the week some of us were standing confidently in the water and others had been put off by what had been some crazy waves on day three and four of surfing. Me? I think I’ve become a little bit addicted – practising my pop ups on my bed, dreaming of waves and wondering where my next surfing adventure will take me. I’m thinking either Hawaii or Bali, but wherever it is I’ve definitely got the surfing bug!
The next Roxy surfing week runs from 8th-13th October and they’ve also added a BIG SUP week from the 15th -22nd October. Price start at £315 for a shared room. See the Jah Shaka Surf website for more details.