Updated: May 18
by George Butt.
I’ve surfed on and off for years now, but in order to really enjoy your surfing and progress I’ve learned that what you need is TIME IN THE WATER, consistency is key and this is never easy when you’re battling with the inconsistent swell cycles of much of the UK.
There comes a point when these short and far too infrequent trips no longer satisfy your thirst for waves and nor are you progressing at the rate you’d like.
This might all sound rather bleak and depressing – but FEAR NOT , I have the perfect solution to all your woes and troubles.
What if I told you there was a place where the swell never stops, the sky is blue and you can bask in balmy temperatures all year round, and there’s enough beer to supply a small country?
You’d probably think I was mad, delusional, crazy right?
Well, that’s what I thought when I heard about Lagos and The Surf Experience – surely this sounds too good to be true, no way can this mythical place really exist?... Well, there was only one way to find out. I packed up my boards, my bags and got on the first plane out of Covid crippled England and touched down in Portugal and I’ll tell you now, it was probably the best decision I’ve made in years!
I turned up expecting your classic European flat days, European rain storms and a host of weird surfers who didn’t know how to have fun. Luckily I experienced none of these things and that’s exactly why I’ll be heading straight back out for another trip at the next possible opportunity.
“So George” I hear you ask, “what’s so special about The Surf Experience, Lagos and Portugal, why should I choose there over hundreds of other options around the world to quench my surf thirst?”.
Well let’s talk about an average day staying with The Surf Experience because that’s a pretty good advert in itself…
Every morning I’d wake up to a crisp blue sky, roll out of bed and meander over to the surf house ( I stayed in the Pensao – their private, ensuite room option ). Everyone was up, breakfast was there, all ready and prepared by the awesome team ready to fuel a day’s surfing. Every day you’d get a different, energy packed healthy breakfast which I always liked to eat up on the roof terrace whilst taking in those first golden rays of the day and catching up with a few other guests – discussing yesterdays waves and the hazy, crazy evening before, where one too many ice cool Superbocks or tequilla shots with the crew and fellow guests became a welcome routine.
Next it was time to assess the surf and split up into groups based on ability level – It was great to be at a camp where if the conditions were e.g.a bit small for intermediates they’d split you off and take you somewhere that was firing a bit more – this is where the geography of Lagos comes in – being located on the South West tip of Portugal, they have the benefit of being able to surf the dreamy South Coast or stunning West Coast.
The seemingly eternal wait for swell, crappy conditions/weather and infrequent weekend trips. These are a few factors that hold back the glassy South Coast swells when conditions align and the West if the South coast is feeling a little bit sleepy, or you just want to get stuck into some meatier waves.
I had my own board out there, but their in-house selection is so extensive I’d often take another depending on the conditions. Not everyone wants to lug a 9ft log through the airport, but not many of us would turn down the opportunity to borrow one of the fleet on one of those mellow, cruisy South Coast mornings!
Once you’d sorted your boards and grabbed your suit from the board room, we’d load up and set off on the search. Having local instructors like Rui, Jorge and adopted locals such as Mark and Kim meant that you’d always be in the right place at the right time – the best beach and the best waves. In a typical Algarvian manner, it was very rare that conditions weren’t spot on for everyone – most of the beaches have several peaks that cater for different levels or styles of surfing which is why it’s such a good place to work on your craft – but on days when this wasn’t the case, or when you were feeling like more of an adventure we’d load up the Landrover and set out on a surf safari – exploring some of the The Algarve’s lesser known breaks.
Personally I did a lot of free surfing , but the instructors were always nearby and happy to offer advice to work on my technique. And for those that want them, lessons are always there. One particular highlight was when the guys arranged for myself and 2 other intermediates to have an afternoon’s lesson with Aussie, ex QS World Tour competitor Chris Michalak – awesome tips, even better surfer and all round good bloke. My surfing came on more in an afternoon than it had in months at home!
After a day’s surfing, sunbathing and tucking into some more first-class food that we’d bring down from The Surf House every morning, it’s time to load up, head back to the surf house and get some much needed down time in order to prepare for beer o’clock and another classic rooftop session.
I never expected that the social side of things could match the surfing, but the rooftop sessions are up there with the best evenings I’ve had, or strolling down into town to sample some of the amazing array of restaurants and bars with the other guests before pitching up to hear The Surf Experience’s very own DJ extraordinaire TobyOne spinning some old school classics at one of Lagos’ many funky little live music venues. These nights tend to get tasty but by the next morning when you’re sitting out back with the morning sun beating down on you with some of that vitamin D goodness, your hangover ain’t gonna stick around for long – the ultimate cure!
So, I’ll finish off with an ORDER:
If you’re sitting around, waiting for a swell that seems never to arrive, or when it does its -5°Coutside and dark, or your staring at your office dreaming of blue sky, endless waves and free flowing beers surrounded with first class company, then STOP DREAMING, START DOING– get yourself out to The Surf Experience , become a better surfer, make some memories and I guarantee you, you’ll be back again!
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