A Day in the Life: Surfers in Portugal

If you remember from my first post on Lisboa, I made friends with a few Venezuelan guys while I was there. Two of them were pretty clean cut, but the third was the definition of a beach bum (and he hated me for telling him so). M had grown up in the Caribbean, living on a boat with his dog and island-hopping for most of his life. His skin was permanently tanned, his hair permanently tangled in that perfect almost-sexy beach hair look, and he never wore shoes. He always sounded relaxed (or perhaps permanently stoned) and his favorite words were gnarly and dope.

The boys had started surfing together at the age of 11, but they couldn’t have grown up to be more different. B was always getting upset with M because of his lax attitude on life, it was like watching a parent and child bicker about priorities and responsibilities. I don’t need to tell you M lived by the waves, but I was surprised when I heard B’s take on it too. He was a hard worker, starting his own real estate business and setting up a good life for himself. He must be working non-stop and stressing over the success of his business, right? Right and wrong. True, he worked his ass off, but surfing was also a priority for him.

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Life advice from B: Happiness is my first priority, then healthy, and after that I can worry about money, job, and success.

He told me that surfing makes him happy, so how could he ever do a job that wanted him to move somewhere he couldn’t surf? It wouldn’t make sense, he said. It wouldn’t be worth it. Why do that just because of money?

I’ll pause here and let that sink in for my parent’s generation 😉

Despite their differences, surfing was #1 for all of these guys. So when they heard there was a big swell coming in, they took the day off and invited me to join them for a day at the beach. We were headed to Supertubos, considered one of the best breaks in Portugal, the “Pipeline of Europe,” and also the location of the Rip Curl Pro.

What they didn’t tell me is that we were leaving at 6:30 in the morning. Thanks, guys. I dragged my lazy bum out of bed, ate some Greek yogurt, threw on my bathing suit and shorts, and grabbed a sweatshirt since it was freezing that early in the day. We crammed into M’s car, all four of us + three boards and a dog (don’t ask me how we all fit) and we hit the road.

After about an hour of cruising through the countryside listening to Sublime, reggae, rap, and Spanish music, we pulled into the parking lot at Supertubos. It was cold, grey and overcast and there were only a few other cars around. We walked along the damp sand, examining the surf with the other early risers. It wasn’t much of anything yet, but the boys said it would be beautiful later in the day.

We went for a pastry and a coffee while we waited for better conditions and we spent the entire meal talking about the waves. Finally, we turned back and set up shop at the beach for the day. The parking lot transformed into a little surfer’s colony. The only people at that beach in the morning were surfers and photographers, and surfers who were also photographers. And me, I guess.

Everybody was chilling, surveying the surf while they ate breakfast outside of their campers and little VW vans. Some had already been out, others were suiting up, and my new friends were wiggling into their wetsuits tripping over themselves to get in the water. They were like children at Disneyland, waiting for the gates to open. I would make the joke that it is better than sex to them, but one of them openly admitted that it was so… yeah, surfers and the ocean. What can I say? It’s like a drug. There is truly nothing better in the world, M said to me smiling, than a perfect wave.

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It was still pretty cold until late morning so I wrapped myself up in a million layers, braving the wind to hangout by the water. I stood there for hours watching the waves roll up, form into perfect barrels, and then break along the beach. I have never seen such beautiful waves. No picture could do it justice.

Now and then I would go sit down with our things, play with a dog that came over to say hi, or people-watch. There was a 12-year old girl practicing a dance routine nearby and a little boy falling on his head… I mean working on his handstands. Every so often I would catch a guy stripping down and awkwardly shimmying into his wetsuit, trying (and failing) to hide his junk in the process. Apparently nobody wears anything under their suits here. And they’re not very creative about changing either.

Around lunchtime we had a beer and some junk food at the beach bar while we watched an entertaining argument between an intense surfer dad and his slightly-chubby, less passionate boogie boarding son. His dad, who was pure muscle without a drop of body fat, was literally screaming at him because he was wasting the waves. WHAT ARE YOU DOING? WHY AREN’T YOU IN THE WATER? LOOK AT THOSE WAVES. LET’S GO. Apathetic Son was struggling with his wetsuit which infuriated Scary Dad even more. When Scary Dad had trouble with the zipper too, he threw a fit. BAH. QUICKSILVER, BILLABONG, THEY’RE ALL SHIT. This was all in Portuguese, mind you. I was getting a loose translation from my Venezuelan friends who were practically in tears watching this unfold.

Eventually Scary Dad sat down for a smoke while Apathetic Son waddled his way down to the water. We tried to hide our giggles from Scary Dad as we finished up with lunch and headed back out for round two. By “we” I mean the boys went for round two of surfing and I went for round two of playing on the beach. It’s a hard knock life.

I spent all day, literally 8+ hours, sitting at the beach, watching the guys surf, writing in my journal, chilling out doing nothing at all, and not for one second did I want to be anywhere else in the world. It was such a perfect day. I may not be a diehard surfer, but my love for the ocean is just as strong, and nothing makes me happier than to just sit at the beach watching people do what they love, listening to the waves crash, and letting myself get covered in sand.

I was too busy doing nothing to take too many photos, but here’s a few clips from the day… Enjoy!

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