Learning to surf in The Algarve

Praia do Amado (The Algarve)

The idea of surfing has fascinated me for a while and I don’t know why it took so long to give it a try. I want experiences to keep me busy and excited when I escape the dull drudgery of office life; so after research, I decided to go to The Algarve in Portugal as it’s supposed to be one of the best places to surf in Europe. There are tons of cheap flights and I’ve never been before so these were good selling points too. I decided upon Algarve Surf School for lessons as they had a nice looking website, good reviews and you can book online.

Where I stayed

The surf school have accommodation, but I didn’t fancy staying in a shared room. Instead, I flew into Faro (FAO) and booked a villa in Sagres on AirBnB and shared with a couple of friends. The surf lessons include transport (a van) from Sagres to Praia do Amado (the beach for surfing). The van arrives at 10 am and collects you from a lovely cafe/bar called The Hangout. The staff here are super friendly and it’s a great place to get an espresso in the morning while waiting for a lift to the beach.

The Hangout, in The Algarve, Portugal
Picked up in the morning from The Hangout

The surf lessons

After arriving at the beach you head to The Algarve Surf School’s beach hut to change, meet your instructor and get your wetsuit and surfboard. The surf trips are broken into 2 * 90-minute lessons with a lunch break in between (leaving Sagres at 10 am and getting back for around 4:30 pm). Once you’re on the beach with your surfboard then you start with a few minutes stretching and warming up, followed by bodysurfing to get used to the sea temperature.

Body surfing in the Algarve, Portugal
Bodysurfing is part of the learning to surf experience

I went in June and the water is cold when first getting in! However, it soon warms up (remember, you’ll be wearing a wetsuit). After 5 minutes body surfing then you’re back on the beach to go over the basics which focus around how to get from lying on your surfboard to standing (called a “pop up”). If you’ve never surfed before and want to get ahead of the game then watching this video might help:

Assuming you’re a beginner then you’ll be catching white water waves which are relatively easy to catch vs unbroken green water waves. I had 2 different instructors over 3 days (Antoine and Andreas), both had different styles and both were excellent. I managed to stand/pop up a couple of times by the end of day 1. By day 2 I was getting to my feet almost every time and day 3 was spent mostly improving technique.

Things to bring

Here are the things I’d recommend bringing to the beach:

  • Food and water – you can buy at the beach but it’s expensive.
  • Sunblock, otherwise you will get burnt. They sell a zinc roll-on paste for € 15 (which seemed reasonable). I’ve never come across this before, but apparently used by surfers.
  • A towel to dry yourself afterwards.
  • Swimming shorts/bikini.

Would I come back?

Definitely! I plan to come back for another 3 days in September or early October. The weather and water temperature is supposed to be amazing still. This is a great sport and a brilliant excuse to visit some amazing places. I loved the story I heard from one of the staff while driving to the beach in the morning, she gave up her job in Austria and moved to Portugal to work at the surf school’s hostel. She didn’t know how to surf but took part in the lessons every day with the students. In less than 2 years she not only learnt how to surf but became an instructor. What an inspiration! I couldn’t imagine a better way to go travelling around the world!

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