OCEAN CULTURE IN MADEIRA ISLAND
SUN, SEA & SURF IN THE HAWAII OF EUROPE
The waves in Madeira Island are powerful and spectacular, just as the beauty of the island itself, famous for its sheer breath-taking cliffs and spectacular waves, from point breaks to reef breaks. These waves are generated by the rugged and steep coast and the rocks on the seabed, causing great water outflows. Therefore making surf here a huge scene in the ocean culture in Madeira Island, often referred to as the Hawaii of Europe.
Surf in Madeira first started in the 1970s off the villages of Paul do Mar, Jardim do Mar and Ponta Pequena. Almost every surf spot has a rocky bottom with powerful waves in Madeira Island, the winter months are particularly consistent. Madeira did not really come to the attention of foreign surfers until articles in surfing magazines in the mid-1990s. Since 1996, top Portuguese surfers from the mainland compete in the Madeira regional edition of the “Billabong Challenge”. The secret was out, Madeira Island became hailed as the Hawaii of Europe. Thus creating a big ocean culture in Madeira Island amongst visitors and locals alike.
WHY THE HAWAII OF EUROPE
Paul do Mar, this surf spot according to surf experts has the best barrelling waves (also known as tubular or tunnel waves) on the island. Both stand-up surfing and bodyboarding are practised at this spot. The ISA World Surf championships have been hosted on the islands which are better known to be held in areas such as Hawaii. Which is why Madeira is named the Hawaii of Europe. Paul do Mar region of the island is respected throughout the surf community as it offers eight-metre-high (26 ft) waves and fantastic tubular tunnels. The World Big Wave Championships 2001 was held at Paul do Mar.
Jardim do Mar, the right-hander. Surfing at Jardim is only for the experienced as the waves break large. They start at around two metres and reeling right-handers can reach five metres sweeping along the rocky point. Jardim do Mar was documented in Jacob Holcomb’s film Lost Jewel of the Atlantic. The film featured a song entitled Who’s The Enemy?, by surfer-rappers Ithaka and Gabriel o Pensador.
Ponta Pequena, another perfect right-hander. Ponta Pequena is situated between Jardim do Mar and Paul do Mar.
One memorable session in the history of Madeira surfing occurred on 25th of January 1995 at Jardim Do Mar. Portuguese big wave legend José Seabra and the Californian artist/rapper/surfer Ithaka rode absolutely flawless waves up to eight meters on the face by themselves, with no other surfers in the water.
In 2001, the World Big Wave Championships were held in Madeira.
SURF THE WAVES IN MADEIRA ISLAND
The surf season runs from October through March with November to February considered as the prime months.
Praia de Machico, Praia da Lagoa, Praia da Maiata – Madeira Island
Praia do Cabeço e Cais – Island of Porto Santo
Fajã da Areia, Achadas da Cruz, Praia do Seixal, Lugar de Baixo, Cabo Girão – Madeira Island
Praia do Matador, Praia da Serra de Dentro – Island of Porto Santo
Jardim do Mar, Paul do Mar, Ponta Pequena, Ribeira da Janela, Contreiras – Madeira Island
LEARN TO SURF IN MADEIRA ISLAND
SURF IN PORTO DA CRUZ, MACHICO
NORTH-EAST OF MADEIRA
SALTY, offer an authentic and personalized experience with a certified instructor, who has been a free-surfer for most of his life. Surf, Bodyboard and SUP.
CALHAU SURF SCHOOL, the first and also the oldest school in Madeira, led by experienced/qualified local and international surfing enthusiasts, who embrace the surfer lifestyle.
MADEIRA NEW WAVE, offer an unique and refreshing experience to everyone interested in Surf, Bodyboard and Yoga, with a regional bodyboard champion.
SURF IN SÃO VICENTE
NORTH OF MADEIRA
MADEIRA SURF CENTER, professional Surf & Stand up paddle with an experienced local surfer.
SURF IN JARDIM DO MAR, CALHETA
SOUTH-WEST OF MADEIRA
MADEIRA SURFING, with a certified local surfer and regional surf champion, who also competed in the World Big Waves Championship.
SURF SPOTS IN MADEIRA ISLAND – SURF GUIDE
ACHADAS DA CRUZ
Two righthand points, side by side, but the one to the south is more frequently surfed. Nice spot to go when the wind is E and the swell is not too big. With big swell the north point can be excellent, while the south point closes out, but getting in and out of the water safely is nearly impossible. Sharks are more likely around here. A cable car goes down the cliff, and also a long, windy trail. There is a cable car that goes down the cliff, and also a long, windy trail.
FAJÃ DA AREIA
A.k.a ‘Chickens’ this spot is perhaps the most frequently surfed on the island, due to its relatively low danger level compared with other breaks. A hollow bowl at the peak leads into whackable performance walls on small to medium N swells. Beginner/improvers favorite so often crowded. Always bigger than it looks from shore.
JARDIM DO MAR
Jardim do Mar, one of the original surf spots that created ocean culture in Madeira Island, once named the best big-wave pointbreak in the world by Surfer Magazine, Ponta Jardim now suffers severe backwash at mid to high tide from a new seawall built in 2003. The break still has its days when the critical drops lead into long, fast, powerful walls, but they are much less frequent and only last for a few hours around dead low tide. Experts with pintails only.
Getting in and out of the water on a big day can be downright frightening and the new seawall has made the waves break even closer to shore, so beware. Best shot is to paddle out from the backside of the point, to the west of the village.
PAUL DO MAR
Paul do Mar in Madeira is an exposed reef break that has quite reliable surf. Autumn and winter are the best times of year for waves. Offshore winds blow from the northeast. Waves just as likely from local windswells as from distant groundswells and the best swell direction is from the west. A right hand reef break. Even when there are waves, it’s not likley to be crowded. Watch out for rocks.
Another one of the original surf spots on that created the title of Hawaii of Europe. A rarely surfed wave due to its high danger factor. The point is visible from the coastal road in Paul do Mar, and looks deceptively rideable when it breaks. Very fast and hollow and breaks almost on the rocks. On a big swell it can produce mind-bending monster barrels. To add to its difficulty level it starts off a freight train and just keeps on going, making it nearly impossible to paddle into. If you don’t make a section or the drop, you’re on the rocks, guaranteed.
A few people have reputedly surfed this wave over the years. There have also been some very close calls with others who have attempted it and failed.
LUGAR DE BAIXO
An excellent spot, but the construction of a seawall has severely compromised its quality. It once was all-time at high tide, a perfect freight-train barrel, but now there is a strong backwash when the tide is up. Still gets good an hour or so before or after high tide. Take-off zone is next to or just inside of a large rock on the outside. Very steep drops and fast, hollow sections. Low tide is dangerously shallow. Experts only. Can get very crowded on the weekends.
MADALENA DO MAR
An outside bommie-style peak that breaks on larger swells from the W. Mushy and slow with big shoulders and plenty of depth making it a fun and playful spot for intermediates.
PONTA DO TRISTÃO
Another rarely surfed spot with difficult access. First ridden by Angus Opie, Magnus Murray and Will Henry. Requires a long paddle from the northern end of Porto Moniz. Usually too fast with unmakeable sections, but can be good with just the right swell direction. Walk north from Porto Moniz and paddle out in the channel, then all the way west to the end of the point.
RIBEIRA DA JANELA
A great left pointbreak towered over by a 300ft seamount just behind the wave. The take-off is also breathtakingly steep and the barrel sections come thick and fast. Protected from storm SW-W winds that blow out the south shore so it’s sometimes crowded. Big boulders litter the line-up and the roadside parking below the cliffs.
Machico in Madeira is a quite exposed beach break that has unreliable waves. Autumn and winter are the best times of year for waves. The best wind direction is from the northwest. Windswells are much more typical than groudswells and the best wave direction is from the southeast. The beach break offers both left and right hand waves. Best around mid tide when the tide is rising. Unlikely to be too crowded, even when the surf is up. Take care to avoid the rocks.
PORTO DA CRUZ
Porto da Cruz in Madeira is a fairly exposed reef break that has quite consistent surf. Autumn and winter are the best times of year for waves. The best wind direction is from the southwest. Groundswells and windswells are equally likely and the ideal swell direction is from the north. A left hand reef. Best around mid tide when the tide is rising. Rarely crowded here. Take care to avoid the rocks.
ISLAND OF PORTO SANTO
The island of Porto Santo, a craggy, unpromising north coast gives way to a very long, south-facing beachbreak that occasionally offers beginner peaks in NE-SW windswells.
(Surf Guide Sources: Magic Seaweed and Surf Forecast)
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