And here's one reason why.
Portugal, I Can't Quit You
Why South African Brendon Gibbens is heavy into a fiery affair with Portugal's remarkable, if imperfect, offerings.
As is customary, the European Atlantic coast was absolutely spanked by swell at the start of the year. South African-born Brendon Gibbens, photographer Quinn Matthews, and filmmaker Andrew Schoener, were confident California wouldn't be producing any notable surf in their absence and kept a close eye on the charts. With a large swell approaching Portugal, they packed their bags for another flight to the remarkable coastline near Lisbon, a place Gibbens has been frequenting quite often since 2011.
Beeg and his Portugese mistress.
Prior to Quinn's arrival, Brendon and Andrew bombarded his inbox with clips from their previous trips. Quinn found himself booking a morning flight to meet the well warmed pair, who'd been in Portugal for the three weeks prior.
"Portugal was incredible, that was my fifth time over in the last few years," Quinn said. "Everytime we get waves. Even when we get skunked, it's super productive. Points, slabs, beach-breaks and novelty waves. Everything can be found in Portugal. That’s why we keep going back."
Aside from the waves, restaurants are a highlight. We had these three spots. One day, we got good waves and were exhausted. After a full day of action, we walk across the street to this corner café and grab the last six 40 oz. Sagres beers. Two each. We thought it was perfect. After paying, I turned around to leave and my hands just stopped working. My beers hit the tiled floor and exploded. It sent glass and beer flying all over this old Portuguese man trying to enjoy an evening espresso. Next time we go, I am only showing my face in two of our favorite restaurants."
In the last year, Gibbens has played his part in a new Epokhe film, released a section with Joe G and Globe, all while working on unannounced projects in the background.
But he can't help heading back to Portugal, any chance he gets. We caught up with the South African as he was just returning, again, to hear what it is about Europe's southern fringe that the keeps him coming back for more.
"Surfing in Portugal is similar to surfing in California, It’s a grind.”
“The waves in California were dismal the beginning of this year," Brendon told Stab. "Andrew, Quinn and I wanted to kick off 2017 right. We kept an eye on out. Europe was getting absolutely hammered, so we set our sights on Portugal. Quinn quickly flew to meet us. Surfing in Portugal is similar to surfing in California, It’s a grind.”
Brendon, do you think there's a distinct trip that got you addicted on travelling to Portugal?
The first time I visited was in 2011, back in my QS days. I really enjoyed the country back then and still do to this day. It’s a very convenient escape, especially now that I’m juggling life between South Africa and the United States. It helps that it’s very consistent wave-wise, too.
"It helps that it’s very consistent wave-wise, too."
What's a normal day like when it's firing in Ericeira?
I wouldn't say I’ve ever had a perfect day, it's very similar to West Oz. To be perfectly honest, it’s grindy. We get in the car super early and sometimes end up chasing our tail all day. If you plan it right, you can fit at least two decent sessions in—with loads of reefs and options on the high or low tide. We ultimately end up doing a lot of driving around.
With the amount of waves stacked into the one area, rampy wedges, points, beachies and slabs, that variety must be a huge benefit when filming?
Yeah, and the light in Portugal is beautiful. It can get pretty windy—which helps keeps the crowds at bay, especially when it’s howling onshore in the afternoons. Though, that wind helps when I’m trying airs as well [laughs].
Portugese ramps and a vertical Beeg.
How much of the coastline have you explored?
Umm, I kinda just battle between Ericeira, Peniche and Nazaré. I’m always driving, some days I have gone all the way to Peniche, then back to Nazaré only to return back to Ericeira and surf, and that get's tiring.
Other highlights for those looking to travel to Portugal?
The food is a major bonus, though I’m a bit of a gourmand. Every single bakery sells custard tarts or pastel de natas. They're delicious and highly addictive. But if you can’t control your pastry intake, it's really problematic.
Is that something that entices you to keep heading back?
Now that I have been going a fair bit I have my favourite spots, there’s two restaurants in Ericeira in particular that are really reasonably priced and I frequent, when I'm not cooking for myself. In terms of visiting Europe, it seems that every other country on the continent, that I can remember, has always been really taxing on the wallet, but Portugal is still somewhat inexpensive. The town acts like the surf centre for Portugal, it’s 30 minutes from Lisbon and there is this one roundabout in Ericeira with a surfer in a big barrel.
You’re working a solo project, how has the constant travel helped the advancement of that?
I love working on projects of my own, and that’s such a big part of all that I do, so maybe I’ll work on something next year but nothing public yet.
Have you been feeling overwhelmed at all?
Nah, I’ve been trying to keep busy. We did a full European tour which was super fun, we started off in France, went to Barcelona, then Bristol in England and all the towns had such a great turn out and response to Kai's film.
Portugal has everything you need – points, beachies, slabs and reefs.
Brendon taking advantage of Portugal's crushing on shores.
Was any of this for the Globe film?
Well, Cult Of Freedom was initially pitched as a way to get content out in real time, (the Globe team) didn't want to spend two years on the road. It’s a long time to just go silent, and only produce one film. It was suggested that we just break it up and keep it trip-based, almost like a webisode. (Joe and I both don’t like the sound of Webisodes, so it’s really not that.) When we released the first part, it largely focuses on Taj and his relationship with Australia; Joe will focus on individuals on each trip. Personally, I just want to try keep myself busy and release footage as much as possible.
"I just want to try keep myself busy and release footage as much as possible"