Surf trippin’ around Europe

This spring I got to make two surf trips (kind of). The first was to San Sebastián in combination with a project meeting (the perks of being a researcher), the second with a bunch of awesome ladies that I got to travel to England with last year.

San Sebastián was, as always, a great little escape for a few days. I got quite lucky that it was warm and sunny, because the weeks before the weather had been dreadful. When I was there though (early April) it was even nice to surf without gloves (I so hate gloves). It was quite windy though so I did wear my cap every now and then. I rented a board at the Pukas surf shop, which is just really nice. They’re right on the boulevard by Zurriola beach and you can swap the board whenever you need something bigger or smaller. I started out with a 6’4″ shortboard, but that was just really too small for me, so I went back and got a 7’0″ banana (it was yellow). As they closed early on Sunday, I got to keep the board at my hotel overnight. On Monday morning the waves were pretty OK. In the afternoon I traipsed around town for a bit, read a magazine and did a bit of prep for the meeting, and checked into my apartment where I would be staying for the meeting (I was staying at a hotel closer to Zurriola the first few days). The apartment was pretty awesome too, had a great view of La Concha, and I managed to check in using my rather basic (but improving) Spanish skills. In the evening the waves were super small. But I did get to trade in my board again for just the awesomest pink flowery Walden Magic Model. It was super sweet. And I got to catch a lot of waves. I did have to book it back to the central square to meet my colleagues for an informal tapas dinner, which meant being guided through the nicest places to eat the awesomest stuff that tourists normally don’t know to ask for.

Sunrise over La Concha
Sunrise over La Concha

The next night, we had a big dinner and cider tasting at one of the cider houses in the hills just outside Donostia. Another proper treat. Life is good in Spain.

Actually it’s pretty good on the whole Iberian peninsula, as early May I got to spend a week in sunny Portugal. With the 5 surf buddies, we rented a lovely apartment in Sagres for a week, two cars and a bunch of longboards. Pretty sweet! I was happy I could go though because the week before the trip I had some weird swollen head. I woke up on Sunday morning May 1 with a head like a balloon, and a super sore skin on my neck. I first got some antibiotics but that didn’t work (so no bacterial infection), so a couple of days later I went to the GP again and got some antihistamines and some cream. She said it was supposed to start working in a couple of hours, but it didn’t quite, go down. With daily naps and an icepack on my cheek it did start going down on Friday. My skin was still a bit flaky when I got to Schiphol, but I didn’t scare anyone too badly 🙂

At Faro we got our rental cars, and I got to drive a really nice van which we rented from Zitcars, a local place and they’re awesome! We didn’t have to pay or register additional drivers and they were pretty cool about us sand into it (although we did try to clean it).  On the way to Sagres, we took the motor way, which was quite nice, although I didn’t realise the van had 6 gears. But we used those the other days ;). On Saturday it was first quite the undertaking to find some suitable longboards as most surf shops mostly rent out soft tops. Luckily we secured four boards for Saturday from two different shops and found some lovely waves at Cordoama. The next day, we traded in one of the boards we didn’t like and I picked up a nicer board from Jah-Shaka (the 9’2″ NSP I also surfed in November). We traipsed around several beaches on the south shore and set out to find the ‘secret’ point break (Ponta Ruiva) to no avail so we ended up at Cordoama again. The next day we first went to the market and bought some fish and then met up with a local for a little surf lesson, who also helped us find the point break and helped us position ourselves for the take-off (above a big flat rock that is only 2ft under water, only mildly nerve racking but a wonderful experience). The location was amazing. On the way back, Suzanne, Marieke and I went for a few sunset waves at teeny but beautiful Beliche where we got to put the afternoon’s tips into practice in slightly less challenging conditions. The rest of the week we also surfed at Mareta, Beliche again, and I even managed to get my bum out of bed for a dawn session at Zavial one day. The sunrise was beautiful, although I’m so not a morning person! Zavial changed a lot since last year btw, the storm washed all the sand away so there is not much beach left, it’s also not quite my favourite spot, but everyone has their own preferences. We had some really fabulous food at a lovely little place called Mum’s in Sagres, as well as some great home cooked meals at our apartment (I lit the BBQ!).

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The last two days, there was a lot of wind on the west coast, but it wasn’t really coming around the bend to the south coast, so we had to find a slightly sheltered spot. We found this at Arrifana, which I hadn’t been to yet. It’s a really gorgeous beach too. Again much less sand than last year apparently. We ended our holiday on the beach officially with a lovely lunch overlooking the beach after a great last surf session together. On the drive back to the airport we took the slower local route because we wouldn’t be able to pay the tolls (which are to be paid 48 hours  after using the motor way at the post office, which obviously wasn’t going to happen.). Anyway, we had time for a little ice-cream break on the way, and still made it on time, returned the car without a dent, and happily got back to Amsterdam with a tan and lots of new happy memories.

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