The Greater Porto region is not exactly a mecca for surfers, but those who miss out on the waves (He'e Nalu is the Hawaiian name for "sliding on waves") of the beaches that pass through Porto, Matosinhos, Espinho, Vila do Conde and Póvoa de Varzim are making a huge error of judgement. The proof of this is that this year the Meo Surf League has chosen once again Porto's International Beach, a few steps away from the City Park, to hold one of the most important competitions of the sport. This has been the case for 16 consecutive years. This beach, located in Matosinhos Sul, will also serve to prepare the athletes of the National Team, who this May (between the 8th and 16th) will compete for the last places for the Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan, at the ISA World Cup (International Surfing Association) in El Salvador.
The beaches are not all the same, they have different degrees of difficulty, for amateur, intermediate or advanced athletes, and the probability of catching the biggest wave in the world is laughable in the North of Portugal. But there is a map of this coastal area that is worth getting to know, so that you can make the most of it. Above all because, contrary to what happens in other regions chosen by surfers, this one is not monothematic. In addition to surfing and bobyboarding, you can do other water sports such as sailing, jogging, cycling or skateboarding. And you can create alternative or complementary programmes, because from gastronomy to architecture, from lifestyle to heritage, everything deserves to be properly enjoyed. In other words, you can mix friends with varied interests without anyone getting bored.
The main distinctive factor of surfing in this region is comfort and safety. All the beaches are supervised and are served by bathrooms, showers, first aid posts and other auxiliary support. And all the beaches have excellent water quality. It should also be pointed out that Matosinhos is the third municipality in the country with the most Blue Flags. In almost all these beaches it is possible to rent surfing equipment and hire private lessons with experienced teachers from the various schools concentrated there. And in all of them it is mandatory to stay and watch the sunset, because it is a breathtaking scenery. Surely also because of this it is common to see dozens of people there in the so-called "Instagram Hour". And also for all these reasons there are more and more new people buying houses on that waterfront that offers, at the same time, the waves of the Atlantic Ocean and 83 hectares of green area. You only have to walk down the street or look out onto the balconies of the flats to realise that this place has become one of the favourite spots for young people to live.
At Praia Internacional, in front of the sculpture "She Changes" by the North American sculptor Janet Echelman, and right next to Praia de Matosinhos, the waves are guaranteed. Both beaches are ideal for those learning to surf. The Leixões Harbour wall makes the waters calmer, therefore safer. But those with more experience are not excluded: choose the left side, next to the rocks, where the swell is stronger and the waves are higher. Many professional athletes train there. In the intervals, you can always rest on the spreads of the Transparent Building, designed by the Catalan architect Manuel de Solà-Morales. Or take a walk to the Foz do Douro.
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Another advantage of this bathing area is the possibility of experiencing several beaches within a very short distance. Taking the tram in Matosinhos to downtown Porto, a short, economical and extraordinary ride - look at the villas and their beautiful gardens -, you can get on a train inside São Bento station, which will take you south to the busy Praia da Baía, in Espinho, one of the best places in the north for professional surfing (and, by the way, ideal territory for volleyball championships). The trip takes less than 30 minutes. For even more advanced surfers, another possibility is to take the Metro to the North (you can also take it at the Francisco Sá Carneiro International Airport), to Póvoa de Varzim. The trip is direct and takes about 60 minutes. In both cities, both fishing towns, you can and should take the opportunity to try the gastronomy characterised by seafood and fresh fish.
The possibilities for surfing on the north coast don't end there. Discover three more beaches where you can practise the sport that legend has it was invented by Pele, the Hawaiian goddess of fire.
Aterro Beach, in Leça da Palmeira
Long sandy beach, lots of young people and excellent conditions for surfing and bodyboarding. This is Praia do Aterro, in Leça da Palmeira, situated opposite the Galp refinery. The beach also benefits from the presence of one of the most cosmopolitan restaurant-bars in the region, L'Kodac.
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Leça Beach, in Leça da Palmeira
More north-facing, with a stronger wind and bigger waves, Praia de Leça is sought after by more experienced surfers and also by kitesurfers. Those who like bodyboarding will find here more often the so desired triangle peaks.
Mermaids Beach, in Espinho
Espinho has 8 Km of beaches. This is just one of the best beaches for surfing in the area of Greater Porto, due to the various cliffs along the coast, which provide, in surfer's language, good point-break rights. It is also worth trying Praia do Bairro Piscatório and Praia de Silvalde, situated in front of the Oporto Golf Club, the oldest golf club in the Iberian Peninsula. From the station to Praia das Sereias is only two minutes.
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