From Where You'd Rather Be: The World's Best Beachbreaks – Peniche, Portugal
Words by Tom Freed
Whenever someone utters the phrase “from where you’d rather be,” Stab’s collective mind’s eye immediately focuses on a sand-bottomed setup beneath a smiling sun. We’re talking beachbreaks. Trunks. Bath water. All the finer things! And, since we so adore such things, we’ve decided to team up with our like-minded pals at Coronaextra.com.au to deliver you a new series: The World’s Best Beachbreaks.
We’ll be detailing, visually but also through written text, all our favourite sand setups from around the world. The requirements? Nothing but golden grains beneath, nothing but a warm orb above, trunk temperatures only, and a perfect setup to end the day with a Corona and lime.
No. 6: Peniche, Portugal
Magellan. Da Gama. Dias. If ya slept through World History class back in grade school, then those surnames probably don’t ding in any bells. But if you weren’t dreaming of being elsewhere, then you’d know those gents were some cold-ass ‘splorers. And the best explorers came from Portugal. They knew the sea, grew up in the Atlantic’s manic waters, fed on the fish that still swarm their coasts. And guys like Magellan didn’t just strike-mish Hispañola — they circumnavigated that bitch. Precisely so they could come right back to the Motherland. And you should too. Peniche, specifically. For a heavy, hollow A-frame called Supertubes even more specifically. Cuz the Atlantic is still wild and emerald in Portugal many centuries later, the shores warm and beckoning, the fish still so damn delicious. With one of the best waves in all of Europe draining over sand that begs a modern-day exploration of your own.
Lemme break it down for ya:
Land in: Lisbon Portela Airport, Portugal.
Then: Rent a car and drive 45-minutes west.
Stay: In the town of Peniche, or beach area called Baleal. Peniche has lodges and surf-camps for every budget. Surfer’s Lodge for the ballers or Peniche Lodge for the semi-ballers. Surfer’s Castle or Baleal Surf Camp are more reasonable options.
Bring a: Few shortboards that like steep and hollow wedges. Maybe even go up an inch or two from your standard. You could even bring a solid step-up if the swell looks big for those second Reef roll-ins, too.
What’s she like? European. Quiet, sophisticated and cultured but with a curious wild side. An ocean that’s 50 Shades of Green guarded by white cliffs that have stared into history long before it’s children dared to launch from its shores. Vast, powdery beaches where the most down to earth of all European women (Portuguese) frolic and roam. Ancient Iberian forts and castles perched cinematically on the edge of the Old World. Oh wait…you mean the surf? Gangbusters. Supertubes, aka the European Pipeline is just that. A perfect, spitting A-frame at it’s finest, or fun, rippable ramps on barely any swell. Extremely consistent. Uniform’s mostly fullsuit, but you tell that to this past year’s autumn (obrigado Global Warming!).
What really makes her tick? A lil bit ‘o time. Just like her sistah from another mistah named Banzai Pipeline, there’s some sand build-up by the end of the (North Hemi) winter creating a shorebreaky kind of wave. But let those first few huge west swells roll through to push the banks around it’s she’s back to looking, well…super. Crunching the numbers you’d prefer a West/ Northwest swell at 2.8 meters (10 ft.) 13-15 seconds with north, mayyybe northwest winds. After those first few swells and the bar is golden, the peak is usually always in the same spot with more rights on a north swell, and more lefts on a west. Just like her big Hawaiian sis.
Other options in the area… To the right of Supertubes when the swell’s too big, is a wedge that has shades of D’Bah when it’s on. North of that are some reef breaks in Lagide and few other fun beachies. The rad thing about Peniche though is that it’s a peninsula, so the wind is always offshore somewhere. If the wind turns south, head on over to those beach breaks north of Supertubes. Further afield, the town of Ericeira (45 min south of Peniche) has a ton of good breaks from points to sand bars to slabs.
For a good time… while the quaint town of Peniche is more Old-World-fishing-village-by-the-sea than Spring-Break-2015, the vacation enclave of Baleal right next door has its share of mischief. Especially in the warmer summer months when throngs of Portuguese and Euro touros fill in to Baleal to take their clothes off and bronze. There’s a few bars in Baleal that pump until 8 AM, one being the infamous Bar do Bruno. An amazing restaurant? Try Tasca do Joel in Peniche. And then of course there’s Lisbon 45 minutes away with tons of bars, discos and all you can eat sushi joints.
At all costs, don’t mess with the boogers. Don’t disrespect them, don’t underestimate them. They pretty much run Supertubes (and quite a few other Portuguese slabs) and if ya cut them off, you will get a confrontation. Other than that, if ya venture to some reef breaks and you’re jumping off the rocks, watch out for them black sea urchins.
OK, I hear ya, but what’s a local say? Nic Von Rupp says, “I don’t live super close to Peniche, but I go to Supertubes when it’s on. Not for airs; just when it’s on. When there’s a big swell and there’s some north wind, that’s when I know I’m going to get big barrels and that’s where I go for them. The setup, with that defined A-frame and all, resembles Pipe a lot. It even feathers outside on big swells and you can catch second Reef style waves on a bigger board. Also, the cool thing about Supertubes is that while for the most part it breaks in a similar spot and is really lined up, occasionally the banks change and it has that Hossegor-effect where there’s peaks up the beach, and that splits up the crowd a lot.”