Surfing Peniche in Summer | What you need to know
Having travelled to Portugal a couple of times in winter and autumn, I was a bit sceptic when we made plans for a summer holiday with friends and surfing Peniche. But after a week of surfing in the fresh (well pretty cold) waters of Portugal I came to love surfing Peniche, even during the height of the season.
Don’t go to Peniche in summer. That’s what friends told me before I went on this trip. I also had my doubts. I’ve been to Peniche a couple of times in the off season. Once before even during the Rip Curl pro in 2015. Peniche is a lovely fishing town on a peninsula with all sorts of surf spots in the area. During the off season it has quite some surfers and there’s a lively atmosphere in the area. A big bay facing north west runs from Peniche all the way to the beach of Baleal. Depending the swell and wind direction the waves get either bigger or smaller if you go up or down the bay.
A popular surf spot is Cantinho da Baia, literally the corner of the bay. Not only does it work on all tides and handles most sizes, but a couple of surf bars are open year round and makes it an awesome spot to chill, or sleep in your (rented) campervan.
If you don’t like the wind or swell direction, you just cross the road to the more north facing beaches of Baleal. Here you’ll find Lagide, a left hand reef break. If you feel adventurous there are plenty of quiet spots travelling north. And of course, just south of Peniche there’s the world famous Supertubos.
The alarm goes off, and I get up trying not to wake the rest of the house. My friends, who I’ve studied with in Australia, are still sound asleep. I like getting up before everybody else to go surfing by myself. It’s not that I like to surf on my own, but I don’t like waiting when I think the waves are pumping. My girlfriend wakes up. She says I should go without her because she’s still too tired. I don’t mind. From the house it’s only a short walk to my surf wagon. Peniche is deserted and the rain makes it a bit eerie. I know the sun is coming though, because the sun always comes. If the predictions say windy and cloudy, you know it’ll be sunny at this part of the coast.
Along the access road to the beach there are quite some campervans. Again, I hope I don’t wake anyone. Sunrise was half an hour ago but in Portugal it still counts as a dawn patrol. Without looking, I put on my wetsuit. The sand feels cold. I can’t believe my luck. The winds from the north turned off shore and the predicted western swell has set in. And the best of all, there’s no one out.
I run to a sandbank that holds the swell and get into the water. F#ck me the water is cold. Somehow, the water is way too cold for this time of year. I mean the water in Portugal is always colder that you’d expect but this year I wish I brought a 4/3 and boots. Perhaps it has something to do with El Nino. What follows is a 3 hours supersession. It takes me a while to get used to the power of the waves. Supertubos is a special spot, I feel it. After an hour a guy from Slovenia joins me and finally I have someone to share the fun with. We don’t quite understand why we’re the only ones, but we don’t care either. We make the most of it.
By the time I get out of the water, I don’t feel my feet and my arms feel like spaghetti. Who cares? This was my best session of the surf trip for several reasons. As I get changed, people are starting to wake up. Somehow, I just don’t understand why everybody sleeps in. When you chase a good swell in France, it’s packed before the sun comes up. Cultural differences, hey?!
Surfing Peniche in summer has proven a lot more fun than I expected. We stayed in a big house within walking distance of the surf. Everybody surfed at different levels. A few beginners, some intermediate, and a demi-god (me). Peniche provides waves for everybody. If you want you can surf advanced spots and if you don’t mind surfing early, you can get your fix before all the surf schools start. And they start at some point. When they do the bay gets super busy. At that moment it’s not the best spot to surf, I agree. But somehow it all goes together. Beginners, longboarders, tourists, and even SUP’s. Yes, you’ve heard me, even SUP’s are alright in Peniche.
Peniche is a fishing town and it has a big fish factory which stinks really bad with a certain wind direction. On the bright side it means there’s loads of fresh fish to be eaten at numerous local restaurants. The good food is the only reason you would go to these restaurants. There’s nothing nice about restaurants in Portugal. Plastic chairs and there’s always at least one loud television set.
Having said that, there’s is one place where you should go. We call it ‘The Chicken Place’. I have no idea what the actual name is, but the idea is that you go in, stand in line, and point at what you want to eat. This can be chicken, ribs, or other meaty things. At the end of the line your food gets weighed. Meat separate from veggies. And then you eat. Perfect after surf or pre party food. Before I forget, you can find the chicken place at Avenue 25 de Abril, close to the city wall.
I Love Surfing Peniche Because
It offers plenty of options for different wind and swell directions. There’s a wave for everybody, and if you’re willing you can find less crowded spots in the area. Supertubos is a world class wave and just around the corner from Peniche. A really good surf scene with bars, shops, and restaurants provide plenty of stuff to do when you’re not surfing. Get a car and visit the world surfing reserve of Ericeira, or even watch some action at Nazaré if you’re lucky.
The downside of surfing peniche in summer is the amount of people. But it’s summer, what can you do?!