Bem-Vindo a Portugal, divirta-se!
( Welcome to Portugal🇵🇹enjoy! )
Last year September 2019, saw Mika Justino and his family embark on a trip to Portugal to go hunt for waves, check out the APB world tour event in Sintra (The Sintra Pro) as well as do some epic traveling and not to forget to enjoy the Traditional Portuguese food!
The Portuguese coastline is riddled with breaks, and there are waves everywhere and if you prepared to cruise the coastline you will find waves most days. I took along my single stringer, apex core Custom Rossi Bodyboard and found it to be perfectly balanced, stiff with just enough flex. So I would recommend that but if you like more flex then possibly take a PE core. The water is cold so a 3.2mm full suit is recommended.
We embarked on our Emirates connecting flight from Durban to Dubai that left king shaka airport at 19:30 with a short 4-hour layover in Dubai and then pushed through to Portugal and arrived in Lisbon at 12:30 the next day. The Sintra Pro had already started 2 days before so we were rushing to get to Sintra which is a 45 min drive from Lisbon as quick as we could so we could catch a bit of the 3rd days competing, however driving in a European country for the first time on the left-hand side of the road, with a manual shift car and at times through tiny cobblestone lanes with ridiculous 90 degree hairpin bends had my dad highly strung and stressed the first 2 hours of our trip. We eventually made it to Sintra at about 15:30 and this is where the excitement began.
For me it started with entering the town of Sintra itself, seeing the castles and as the roads opened up and there was a traffic circle with a massive billboard of Iain Campbell! I remember looking at that in awe and immediately feeling goosebumps because I could feel the electricity just from the sheer magnitude and size of the billboard that this place is not like home… BODYBOARDING is a recognized way of life here.
We then could see the ocean, and took a bend in the road onto the seaside road that exposed PRAIA GRANDE and the massive APB JUDGING TOWER! A night I will never forget!
We were lucky to secure an apartment literally across the road 40 meters from the judging tower and then offloaded our luggage and boards and gave Marc Roussouw a call, it was surreal we were on our balcony, looking at a world tour Heat that was going down in the water and on the phone with another Saffa waving at us from the judging tower, we instantly felt connected and as if we were at home. Rossi was on a judging Break and came over to greet us!
We were then informed that PLC had lost his heat earlier and had already left the event so that was a bit disappointing but the next day I went surfing early before the contest began, and scored clean hollow 3 to 4 ft waves on the Praia grande sand bar. When I got out and looked on from the beach to the contest arena area, that’s when the magic and awe for the world tour hit me. I rushed to the apartment got changed and that’s when I received a text from Iain Campbell inviting me to come to join them in the riders area.
I ran down the stairs and met up with Iain and all of a sudden literally 2 min later Iain introduced me to Dave and I found myself staring at Dave Hubbard face to face with my jaw on the floor. He was so super chilled and Friendly, and then the magic just didn’t stop, Iain introduced me to Tristan, and next thing I’m sitting hanging with Iain Campbell, Tristan Roberts, Alex Nutt and James Clayden and we all just chilling, 4 Saffas watching the APB event kick-off for the day and having a good chat with Dave Hubbard. It was too epic! Later in the day Lewy Finnigan and Josh Kirkman arrived and I got to meet them and the rest of the epic riders on the tour, Sammi Morrentino, Uri Valadao, alexander Rinder, Isabela Sousa, Ayaka Suzuki, mack Crilley, Sari Ohana, Brahim, and contest winner Annas Addah to name a few. That day alone was worth every km traveled and every cent spent. I got to see the gears turning on a world tour even and fell in love with it. These riders are exactly what they are professional athletes, focused, disciplined, and just all-round epic people to be around.
The next day Alex Nutt gave me a ring and invited me to go surf with him and James Clayden at a left-hand shore break type wave at the base of a mountain to the left of Praia grade. This was such a fun session with these 2 epic South African Bodyboarders and an afternoon I will never forget.
The water was cold and the water ice blue but we just had an all-round good time, smacking lips and getting barreled!
The day after the Sintra Pro had concluded, Iain Rang me up and invited me to go Cruise up a mountain at the base of Praia Grande so we met up at the PIPELINE coffee shop/bakery next door to our apartment, had some epic Pasteis de Nata (1 Euro For 3 Pasteis de Nata!!!! Little custard tarts that will change your life) I jumped in the car with Iain, Tristan, and Rosie Lombard and off we went.
We walked along the beach and then began the ascent and it was here that I got to know Tristan, Rosie, and Iain really well, they are amazing people and so much fun to be with. I hope when I’m older ill is able to tour countries and find waves and see the amazing sites as they do. I’m super thankful to them for their kindness and was super proud to be a South African sharing these moments with these legends in Portugal🇵🇹.
Iain and Tristan are so down to Earth, that will stay with me for a long time, spending the day with a humble world champion and his girlfriend, and with a humble Tristan Roberts who at that point didn’t even know that a month later he would be a World Champion as well. The next day we said our goodbyes to Sintra and Praia Grande and made our way north. To go check out Peniche- Supertubos, when we got there and it was clean but really small, so we opted to not surf. We contacted Gato from Refresh Bodyboards and he invited us to go check out the Refresh bodyboard Factory while we were in Peniche, it was an amazing experience and Gato managed to get on the webcam at Nazare and see some waves so we departed Peniche and traveled another 30 odd Minutes and arrived at the picturesque fishing town of Nazare.
When you see the first road sign saying Nazare, your heart immediately starts to race with excitement! What an amazing traditional, historic, beautiful place. Amazing views, architecture, food, and of course NAZARE itself!
There were some fun waves, so we shot down to Praia Do Norte and were greeted with the most epic fun, 3 ft A-frames with ramps on both ends that I have ever come across. My dad and I had the time of our lives while my mom was shooting us from the beach.
While sitting in the line up I found myself catching waves with Sari Ohana who landed up becoming the 2019 women’s world champion and also with Antonio Cardoso a Portuguese charger, and top Waterman. He’s an amazing bodyboarder but was having fun on a surfboard during this session. The vibe in the line up was so good, there were people from all over the world, France, Spain, Germany, Japan, etc, such friendly amazing people just sharing good vibes and good waves. As we got out and were drying ourselves we came across Iain, Tristan, and Rosie again they were there to spend some time in that area.
We said our goodbyes to them as we left Praia da Norte but heard they scored properly for the next 3 weeks after that, it’s well documented that they had an absolute blast for the next few weeks that followed. James and Alex were headed North to Via Ano do Castello for the junior leg of the world tour the Viano Pro. We then drove up the hill to the Nazare lighthouse and visited the museum and home of big wave surfing, and got to see MIKE Stewarts’ gear he used when he paddled out with no jet ski at maxing NAZARE. It’s a truly amazing place that will leave you in absolute awe of mother nature’s power.
We then had lunch at a little restaurant in the amazing town admiring the cobblestone streets, amazing church architecture, and not to forget mouth-watering food.
From this point on we traveled further North to Meet with the owner of Janga wetsuits in Figueira da Foz where we had a meeting and got to check out their amazing warehouse and got to go through their amazing range of wetsuits and choose a few for the 2020 season.
We stayed in an amazing hotel in Figueira da Foz which was incredible but from then on it was time to hit the Algarve in the South, and check into the unforgettable Alfagar Aparthotel on the Mediterranean for a week, just chilling and experiencing the magic of the Mediterranean.
Portugal is an amazing place with rich culture, history, friendly people, clean cities and beaches, amazing food, and most of all REALLY good waves! It is a place that I would recommend to any family and bodyboarder looking to get everything out of an overseas trip🇵🇹.
We loved it so much we have begun preparations to visit again if not at the end of the year due to COVID-19, then certainly next year. Portugal is certainly a place you want to visit and thanks to people like Mark McCarthy, Iain, Tristan, and Alex who have been there a few times,
South Africans have a good reputation with the Portuguese Bodyboarding Community, if you mention you South African, one of their names will pop up with nothing but good comments from the Portuguese. The language also is not an issue with 90 percent of the population able to speak English, but James and Tristan would give them a go and have a laugh from time to time in Afrikaans which was hilarious to watch!
Save some money and go get your own taste of what Portugal has to offer!!
All pics by Marco Justino