Jason from www.supxscape.com got in touch with us at SUPGlobal and agreed to put together an article about the opportunities for SUPing in and around Central Portugal. Well known for its amazing waves Portugal also offers SUPers a chance to paddle through beautiful gorges and past medieval castles.
Getting to Central Portugal
Easy access from all of Europe and flying in to Lisbon you can be at your destination within an hour of collecting your hire car. Most airlines (except British Airways) are SUP friendly but always check with your carrier prior to flying and get written confirmation that they will accept your stand up paddle board. Car hire companies generally don't have roof racks but there are many soft racks on the market, we use the Lock Down soft roof rack system from Curve Surf supplied by www.thainleisure.com
The stand up paddle boarding
Most travellers coming from outside Europe will arrive in to Lisbon's Portela airport and will be completely unaware that they've arrived in what is probably one of the best SUP destination on the continent, for its sheer variety of waters in which to paddle and all within easy striking distance of the country's capital, I don't think there is anywhere else like it! On arrival the choices are either South to Arrabida and its serene and calm Atlantic waters, North to the beach, reef and point breaks of Peniche and the beautiful Lagoa de Óbidos or head inland to the majestic Rio Tejo that winds its way from the Spanish border across Portugal until it empties in to the Atlantic at Lisbon. Of course there is always the option of experiencing all as they are each within 1 ½ hour's drive of Lisbon, so easily achievable in a week or so!
Peniche, Capital da Onda (Wave City)
The area of Peniche although renowned throughout the world as a surf spot and highlighted each year with the ASP Rip Curl Pro Peniche event. Peniche really does have it all for the visiting stand up paddle boarder. World class surf beaches of Supertubos, Lagide and Belgas, or for the less experienced and beginner stand up paddle boarders, when the waves are just too big there's the calm and tranquil waters of the Obidos Lagoon, where you can enjoy some relaxed cruising in beautiful surrounds! After a day out on the waves or lagoon visit the traditional fishing town of Peniche where the harbour is lined with excellent fish restaurants all offering a vast selection of freshly caught fish including the local favourite 'Sardinhas grelhadas'. While you are in the Obidos area a visit to the medieval walled town of Obidos is another 'must do' and during July you can experience the annual Medieval Fiesta and really take a step back in time.
The Rio Tejo
The upper reaches of the Tejo are a mix of head and tail waters so depending on the time of year and water levels there are many opportunities for both cruising as well as tackling the white- water sections below the dams. Once you reach the middle and lower reaches the river widens considerably and you're now in perfect touring water where you can cruise downstream past medieval villages while eagles soar overhead. There are not that many places on this planet where you can paddle around an 800 year old Knights Templar castle in fact I only know of one and that's the Castelo de Almourol situated on the Rio Tejo near to the town of Barquinha. Stopping at and discovering Castelo de Almourol is an absolute must as the views from the main keep are nothing short of spectacular, no entrance fee, no tour guide, just go explore!
Arrabida Natural Park and Luiz Saldanha Marine Park
The Luiz Saldanha Marine Park sits directly under the Arrabida hills and is therefore sheltered from the prevailing North Easterly winds. The area really is like paddling in an aquarium with a permanent resident pod of Bottlenose Dolphins and water visibility up to seventy feet on a calm mornings paddle, it all adds to the extremely unique natural experience you can find within the waters of the park. With the vast limestone cliffs on one side, crystal clear turquoise ocean on the other and secluded sandy coves to stop at this is our favourite place to head for when we're looking to relax and unwind!
Currently there are only a handful of dedicated SUP operations on mainland Portugal so booking a tour or rental in advance is highly recommended especially if your visit falls within the main vacation period of July and August. Personally I would suggest visiting Portugal in April, May, June, or September and October when the weather conditions are more favourable and there are fewer tourists both on and off the beaches.
A handful of key Portuguese facts:
There is approximately 1114 miles of coastline, most unexplored by SUP. Portugal sits on the same latitude as central California and shares similar ocean influenced weather patterns You can drive easily from one end of Portugal to the other in a day, legally. There have been no documented shark attacks on humans in Portuguese waters. Quality wines start at €1 bottle and a set lunch with wine is around €7
By Jason Pereira