Surfing in Ericeira – Intermediate

With its rugged coast and rocky sea bed, Ericeira is not the easiest place to figure out where to surf. Previously I wrote about where to learn to surf in Ericeira and which spots are the best for beginners. After a lot of work, it is now time to share some of the best intermediate spots.

Intermediate surfing in Ericeira is a dream. The waves are consistent and long, providing endless opportunities to work them and train. Here are some of the spots I surfed this winter/ spring and what you need to know if you want to surf them. It is worth mentioning that when I say intermediate I mean anyone who is able to catch a waist to shoulder height green wave with or without assistance. I have broken the levels down below, I will not touch on advanced or expert levels because, lets face it, I haven’t a clue.

  • intermediate level 1 : can catch these waves but still new to the process and not completely comfortable yet
  • intermediate level 2: can catch the waves unassisted with next to no wipe outs, learning to perform basic maneuvers
  • intermediate level 3 : very comfortable catching these waves and performing basic maneuvers
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Ribeira – The Main Peak

Lets start with what you may already know. Riberia d’Ilhas is definitely the most famous spot in Ericeira. This wave is consistent and very very long, peeling steadily to the right. There are two peaks in Ribeira, the Main Peak and the Black Rock peak. Both peaks offer long rides you will likely never forget.

Ribeira D’Ilhas Main Peak

The Main Peak’s take off zone is right in front of you when you are standing in the middle of the beach. The wave breaks towards the cliff and the rocks underneath, take care to finish your wave before it is too late! There is also an extremely powerful current that runs north to south which makes the paddle out much longer than it looks and can be, frankly, a little off-putting. If you want to paddle to the Main Peak, you should get into the water at the middle of the beach. This is because the current will almost undoubtedly sweep you south anyway. There is a small inaccessible sandy beach cove around the corner from Ribeira that can be used as an emergency exit. I would stress the word emergency here, as if you do exit the water and want to get back to the main beach, you are going to need to climb a steep cliff; not obvious with a board, especially as you will most likely have left the water because you have been spooked.

This wave is a fast long one, which with certain swells can get big. The take off needs to be quick and the drop can be quite steep, but if you make it than the waves peel into an endless window of opportunity. There can be several sections to the wave, that if you make them will probably lead to the longest wave of your life. The channel runs left around the wave.

The Main Peak has, for obvious reasons, rather a lot of localism. This is the spot where serious surfers come to surf, and competitions are frequently held here. It would not be accurate to say that people are aggressive, but nonetheless you need to be extremely aware of the locals and make sure you give them the proper respect or they will tear you apart. If you are surfing this spot, make sure you are either an extremely competent surfer or going with a local (ideally both). Otherwise the hustle for the waves and the pressure to make the drops may be a bit overwhelming. That being said, this wave is still manageable for brave intermediates level 1, especially when on a more mellow day with few people in the water (an unlikely occurrence even if you are part of the dawn patrol unfortunately) it will leave you with rides like no other.

Surf LevelSuitability
Intermediate Level 1 ★★★☆☆
Intermediate Level 2★★★☆☆
Intermediate Level 3★★★★★
Ribeira – Black Rock

Despite not being the ‘main peak’ at Ribeira, this is the spot most people will surf at this beach. Accessed from the ‘Black Rock’ that is found on the far right hand side of the beach, this is where the great, the good and the not-so-good congregate to worship at the ocean’s church. Another extremely long righthander that is optimal with offshore winds (westerly) and a northern swell, this wave provides serious opportunity. With takeoffs that are more manageable than the Main Peak and plenty of chances to take off on the shoulder if you feel less confident, these waves are the intermediate surfer’s dream.

The Black Rock in the distance

The same current that sweeps you south at the main peak runs here as well, so pay attention where you enter the water. The ideal option is to walk all the way over to the Black Rock and wade over the rocky seabed into the water. Wait for the set to pass and then paddle out as hard as you can, taking obvious care not to interrupt anyone’s ride. Try and paddle straight out, as the current is carrying you across the beach. The paddle to this spot can be extremely tough (not always but keep it in mind), especially if you find yourself caught in the current trying to push through a large set. You also need to be careful not to find yourself at the Main Peak by accident. Keep a close eye on where you are but once you get to the outside the current eases off and you will be able to sit and choose your waves serenely.

Surf LevelSuitability
Intermediate Level 1 ★★★★☆
Intermediate Level 2★★★★★
Intermediate Level 3★★★★★
Sunset Surfs at Black Rock peak
Matadouro – The Main Peak

The main peak at Matadouro is found on the right side of the rock when looking out, almost in front of the cliff that sticks into the ocean. This wave has a steep take off and then peels to the right. Under perfect conditions this can be a long wave, going right and then opening up a small left section at the end. Often however, it will peter off after the steep drop, not giving much to work with.

There is a long paddle to this spot but unless you get really unlucky with white water, it is easy. Directly in front of the take off zone there is shallow reef so you need to be careful not to wipe out into it. This also means that you need to angle your take offs quite sharply and cannot really take any lefts or you may find yourself in very shallow water. This spot is not hugely crowded, although there are some regulars so be mindful of them.

Surf LevelSuitability
Intermediate Level 1★★★☆☆
Intermediate Level 2★★★★★
Intermediate Level 3★★★★☆
Matadouro – Left of the Rock
Matadouro at Sunset

Left of the ‘Crocodile’ rock that sticks out of Matadouro is another very rideable peak that breaks in left and right A-frames. This wave can be extremely big with a lovely glassy face under the right conditions, but often it is a bit choppy and unpredictable. The channel runs along the crocodile rock and the safest place to wait is by the rock if you need a rest. This wave can be great or highly mediocre and you need to be careful at low tide when the reef pokes out nastily and wipe outs can be dangerous.

Surf LevelSuitability
Intermediate Level 1 ★★★☆☆
Intermediate Level 2★★★☆☆
Intermediate Level 3★★★★☆
Praia do Sul

Praia do Sul is most often the beach you surf when you cannot surf any of the other beaches. There are two possible take off zones at this beach, one that is smack in the middle of the beach, that breaks left and right (at low tide you can see the rock that sticks up causing these waves) and another further out, directly in front of the hotel. The first wave is short as you need to hop off before hitting the beach, but can offer fun potential. The further out wave is a righthander that breaks fast and steep and then trails off into quite a weak wave that often disappears under your feet. The spot is not usually busy. There is a current that carries you south across the beach so be mindful of this when you enter the sea, and also the shore break here can be extremely powerful so pay close attention when you are entering and exiting the water. If possible, try to do both as close to the hotel as you can, where the rocks protect the beach slightly.

Praia do Sul
Surf LevelSuitability
Intermediate Level 1★★★★☆
Intermediate Level 2★★☆☆☆
Intermediate Level 3★☆☆☆☆
Pescadores
Fisherman’s Bay

This is a spot for when everywhere else is really big; it is in fact only surfable when everywhere else is huge. Situated right in the heart of the town, the fisherman’s bay produces beautiful long peeling lefts when the right conditions hit. This is the harbour area of Ericeira, where the fishing boats get launched from; it is by nature sheltered and is the calmest beach around town. Conditions are therefore essential for this spot to work, and because it only works when everywhere else is not working, it can get crowded. The waves only appear on mid to low tide, an hours tide change can make the difference between flat as a lake and actual breaking waves. The best take off zone is on the far left of the beach when looking out to sea, but you need to keep the jutting rock in your sights so avoid hurtling into it while on a wave. When this spot works it is the best place for intermediates to surf – the waves are a perfect height with clean faces that allows all sorts of potential. It is also one of the few left handers in Ericeira so good for goofy-footers and training backhand rides for the rest of us.

Surf LevelSuitability
Intermediate Level 1★★★★★
Intermediate Level 2★★★★★
Intermediate Level 3★☆☆☆☆
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These are the spots that I surfed over the winter and spring. As the summer swell enters, a lot of them will no longer be possible to surf, and will instead become glassy flats that mirror the dreamy sky above (Pescadores and Sul in particular).

I cannot say it enough, surfing low season in Ericeira is a dream. As the rest of Europe is being battered by storms, Portugal is quietly picking up the swells these storms generate without any of the inconveniences of rain and hurricane force winds. With its ease of access from Lisbon, Ericeira makes a perfect weekend trip. However as all the beaches face west, if you get unlucky with wind or swell direction, you can find that all the spots are unsurfable at the same time.

Surfing Ericeira offers enough variety that no matter your level you will be able to find spots that land you safely within your limits and places that will push you to the outer bounds of your comfort zone and beyond. It is up to you to decide where you want to be…

2 Comments Add yours

  1. ourcrossings says:

    Great post and fantastic photos, they bring back a lot of happy memories as Ericeira is our favourite surf town in Portugal

    Liked by 1 person

  2. beach house says:

    so peaceful place 😻🏄‍♀️

    Liked by 1 person

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