Surf in Sagres from beginners to advanced riders

Tips from an experienced surf instructor

Which are the best surf spots for beginners around Sagres? And where should intermediate surfers go? And then again what if I am already an advanced rider, where should I surf?

These are questions that we hear on a daily basis around here and honestly, there is not an easy answer.

I feel like speaking about this topic because I am a seasoned surf instructor who has dedicated his life to chasing waves around the Algarve and maybe sharing my opinion might actually help someone out there.

If I may, I think I’m the right person to recommend one surfspot over another to a beginner or an advanced surfer, because, being a surf teacher, you spend literally the whole day by the beach. If you add up the hours, 5 hours a day for 10 years, being conservative…it is a lot.

Before diving into the details, let me say that Sagres is a gem of surfing. Surf in Sagres is the paradise for riders of all levels.

In this guide I will share my insights on the local surf, offering suggestions for beginners, intermediate and advanced surfers.

Surf in Sagres, step one: Understanding your own Surfing Level

For this guide to be useful, we need to agree on what your surfing skills are. If you are not conscious of your true ability, this article could be misleading, and that’s the last thing I want.

Now, believe me, there is no shame in calling yourself Beginner or Intermediate surfer, even the GOAT Kelly Slater once used to be one.

Surf in Sagres for Begginers

You are not a confident swimmer and you are not at ease in the ocean and waves. You turn up at the beach and you do not really know where the water is moving and you cannot recognise the current, hazards and risks.

You had already had a few surf lessons but you are still surfing the white wash. You can stand up on the board but you struggle to control it.

Surf in Sagres for Intermediate riders

You can swim freestyle without getting tired and you do not get stressed when in waves ranging between 0.5 and 1.5 meters. When you come to the beach to have a basic understanding of what the waves are doing, where the current is going and possible hazards and risks.

You can sit in the lineup and catch green waves. You know the surfing rules and do not get nervous with a few people around you. You can duck-dive or list turtle-role.

On the board you can effectively pop-up and ride the wave sideways. You are now learning to maneuver the board with speed generation, bottom and top turn.

Surf in Sagres for advanced riders

You are an advanced surfer when You are a good swimmer and you feel completely at your ease in the water and waves. At the beach you have a clear understanding of what the situation is, wave size and direction, currents, hazards and dangers.

You are happy to challenge the lineup and you can ride waves up to 2 meters. You have good board control and you are already able to generate speed. You can perform basic maneuvers such as: cut-back, bottom and top turn.

Surf in Sagres, step two: Understanding Sagres surfing Panorama

Sagres sits on a small tip of land caught in between the south and west coast of Portugal, just where the land, from facing the Atlantic Ocean, turns south towards Spain and the Mediterranean.

The town of Sagres itself, is split into two neighborhoods, where the Fortress of Sagres is the division line. Standing right in front of the Fortaleza de Sagres, everything on your Right side will be “West Coast”, while everything on your Left, will be “South Coast”

The spots facing the open waters of the Atlantic on the West Coast are: Tonel, Castelejo, Cordoama, Amado and Bordeira.

While in the south you’ll have: Mareta, Martinhal, Zavial, Salema and Burgau.

As you have already understood the two coasts have completely different expositions and for this reason you will need to choose one or the other according to the surf forecast.

Sagres Waves and Surfing Seasons

Generally speaking the West Coast, being exposed to the storms coming from the Atlantic, always has bigger waves while the South Coast, being sheltered, normally has smaller waves or sometimes even flat conditions.

In summer the West Coast will offer ideal conditions for beginners and intermediates, as the waves are small and gentle. On the other hand, during winter, not so experienced surfers will definitely need to head back to the South, as the waves on the other side are unmanageable. Differently, advanced surfers might find Summer “not so exciting”, and prefer winter conditions, when the swell is pumping.

In any case scenario, the ocean is unpredictable and checking the surf forecast frequently is key, before making a choice and heading toward the surf. If you need a reliable website to do so here it is.


Surf in Sagres, step three: Choosing the right Surf Spot


Beginner Spots: getting confident in the waves

If you are a beginner, you are most likely to visit Sagres in Summer. With classic summer small conditions, (waves ranging in between 0.5 and 1.5 meters) your choice will be between the super central Praia do Tonel and Praia da Cordoama, just 15 minutes away from Sagres.

Both spots are beach breaks, making your surfing immediately safer (be careful sporadic rocks here and there). They are extremely wide beaches, however if you want to make sure to surf “on your own” and stay away from the crowd, Cordoama is a better choice.

Since you want to find the best conditions for White-wash, you will need to keep an eye on the watch and make sure to go between low and mid tide, when the waves break far away from the beach. If you get the correct tide, your rides will immediately be much longer and you will not need to fight the deep water.

Another variable to take in account is the wind, if the wind is forecasted to be higher than 25 kilometers per hour, your choice must fall on Tonel, as the beach is slightly more sheltered from the wind.

Now, in the unlikely scenario that the wave will exceed 1.5/2.0 meters, you will need to turn to the South Coast.

In this scenario, Zavial will be the spot! Zavial has as well as sand bottom, however this time it is absolutely crucial to get the tide correctly. You must go there at Low Tide, otherwise the shorebreak will not have mercy on you.

Simply because these spots offer beginners the best chance to have a good time, it doesn’t mean they are completely safe and accidents cannot happen. If you want to surf these spots for the first time, I still strongly suggest doing it with an instructor or in a surf lesson, so as to minimize the risks.


Intermediate Waves: Progressing and Exploring

I would definitely say that because of the variety of surf spots that Sagres offers and the wave consistency (there will be waves every day!), Intermediate surfers are going to have the time of their life.
Now, if you are an Intermediate surfer, what you are after is a nice and small green wave that allows you to practice basic riding skills.

During Summer the West Coast will be your playground and you will need to choose between Praia do Tonel, Castelejo, Cordoama and Amado.

When the Surf Forecast indicates that the wave’s height is below 1.0 meters, Castelejo and Cordoama beach will be your best option.

In both spots you’ll be able to find waves in all tides, however by going with a surf guide or a coach, the chance to score the best tide are incredibly higher.

The only variant that could make your life a bit harder, is the wind. If this is above 25 kilometers per hour, make sure to go before 9:00 in the morning or after 18:00 in the evening, when the wind has calmed down.

If the waves range between 1.0 and 1.5 meters, Tonel Beach will probably give you the best chance to have a fun surf, because weaves here will be a bit less powerful.

On the other hand, with such conditions, Castelejo and Cordoama might be a bit too challenging.

Tide as usual is a crucial factor, with Mid to High Tide, Tonel produces mellow waves, probably ideal for your skills. Differently, if you show up in Low Tide, you will find lots of Close-outs and extremely fast waves.

When waves are predicted to be bigger than 1.5/2.0 meters, Zavial and Beliche will be the spots to choose from. As an Intermediate surfer, you ideally want to surf both spots with Mid Tide, when the steepness of the wave is the most forgiving.

Again, be extremely careful not to surf these beaches in High Tide, as you might find yourself eating sand.

With extremely small waves, Praia do Zavial and Beliche might also be surfed in Low Tide. In this case, get ready for a fast take-off, haves gets hollow.

Pro tip for all Intermediates heading to surf Zavial and Beliche: you might think from the beach that waves look small, but once in the water you might be surprised by some massive clean-up set. Be careful out there!




Advanced Surfers: Fun and Challenge

If you are already an advanced surfer, your needs are completely different from the two categories mentioned above, therefore your surfing plan should be different too.

As a good surfer, you do not care about the size of the wave as much, but you are probably after quality.

The good news about Sagres is that because of its location it is a real wave magnet. In 10 years of teaching, I do not really remember a flat day.

Even in summer, when going to France or Spain could quickly turn into a snorkeling trip (you might find no swell for over 2 weeks), here is Sagres, you will find a wave doesn’t matter what.

Clearly in summer you will be looking at spots like Catelejo, Cordoama and Amado as you want to make the most out of the small swell.

If Cordoama has a good sand bank, even in July and August, you will find surprising conditions. My personal insider tip for Cordoama and Cateljo is: do not really trust the wind forecasts, even if the wind might be strong in Sagres, down there it could be classing and super fun.

On the other hand if the wind is actually strong, Amado Beach will be your safe choice. Its special exposition and the cliffs protect the bay from the north wind. From the center of the beach, there is normally a really good wave piling to the left. The line up will be competitive, so get ready.

When the swell picks up over 2.0 meters, Zavial will be your primary spot. In low tide the right ender fires up and you might sneak some barrels.

If the waves are big enough, another valid option will be Praia do Beliche. With the low tide Close-outs will be super heavy however with the water rising you might find some epic triangles.

I need to recommend to all advanced surfers to be careful when surfing Beliche and Zavial during summer, the crowd is crazy and the locals do not really enjoy that.



At the end of the day in Sagres

Sagres is a surfing paradise and every surfer will find some fun waves no matter the level.
I personally advise all riders to approach every spot with care and respect.

As a beginner, for your personal safety and other’s, I strongly recommend you to go with a surf instructor, till you have enough knowledge.

Intermediate surfers, should as well explore new spots with extreme caution, the line up can be competitive and when pushing your surfing level, dangers are always out there. A surf coach or guide could be a good option for you to start navigating this new environment.

Being an advanced surfer gives you the freedom to explore Sagres’s surf sport with a bit more confidence, however remember that summer crowds can be hard to deal with.

I really hope this guide will help all surfers coming to Sagres, to find the best conditions possible. In case you wanted more information about the the surf or my personal experience feel free to drop us an email or visit us at the Lemontree Eco Surfhouse

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