SURF OBSERVATIONS
A Second Chance at Arriís (Portugal) -- 2/15-16/97

I continued to work in Spain and expected to leave before the weekís end, several days ahead of schedule. However, complications arose, making me work 12-16 hour days through the week. This, coupled with the impending American Airlines strike forced me stay through the weekend.

After a week of full-on stress, I finally felt I had things under control. I decided to head out to Portugal again, this time to stay overnight. I got my second chance to try and surf Arriís (fake name)!

It was 1100 (Saturday) before I even hit the road for the marathon drive. The Autopista roadways make getting out there quicker. Some cars absolutely blazed on the freeways: mostly Mercedes, Beamers and Audis (The Germans sure know how to build cars).

I got to Arriís at around 1600 and found it firing again! It was a pinch smaller than the previous week, but still was looking primo.

However, something was alarmingly different in the way the water was moving. There was a constant swirl of foam as the unstable surface water snaked in odd ways. No way, Jose! Was this the infamous ebb tides? I donít know, but I wasnít about to find out.

I drove back to Sagres, again looking for tamer conditions. Once again, I ended up at Icheís (fake name).

The surf was about the same size as last weekend, but something was quite different. Maybe it was the swell angle or the tide, but the waves were closing out 90% of the time.

I went for it anyway, catching some good closeout barrels. Didnít stay long, but (almost) pulled a high air-rollo on my last wave in. After hitting the lip, I remember looking over my shoulder as I was flying upside down over the breaking wave. I landed on the whitewater, but didnít have enough forward momentum to continue on the wave.

With over an hour of sunlight left, I headed smack into the middle of town looking for surf. I found it at a place known as Izoís. This place was sheltered from the west by not one, but two peninsulas, so the swell had to be really big to wrap in (or it had to come out of the south). The water was very calm, and there were maybe eight surfers spread across the lineup. I was on it!

I paddled outside of the pack, near the high cliffside on the left and immediately caught a really clean shoulder-high wave. After completing a spin, I was surprised to see the wave pitching out in front of me. I pulled in, but couldnít make the tube. Whoah, it was a lot better than it looked.

The wave was a perfect contest wave: easy takeoff with a slopey face to do tricks on, with the occasional barrel. I was having a field day, maneuvering all the way to the inside over submerged rocks.

A couple of guys who were surfing near me spoke English, so I struck up a conversation. Come to find out they were working at the same place I was and were taking the weekend off with their wives in Portugal. Both guys, Shaun and Bill, were from San Diego.

We had a good time trading waves and talking story about spots in San Diego. They also clued me in on a spot nearby that they were going to check out the next day. Bill said it sounded like Carpenteria. Shaun also recommended a good "restaurante" for me to try the local cuisine at. We decided to try and hook up the next day.

As the sun sank over the old fortress on the peninsula, the cliff we were surfing next to radiated in a hypnotic yellow glow. It looked just like the sculptured mountains in Sedona, Utah. What a site!

I had earlier secured a lodging at this "quarto" (room for rent), of which Sagres has a whole bunch of. The lady didnít speak English, and I didnít know a lick of Portuguese, but somehow we managed to work it out. She offered the room to me for 2000 escudos (about USD $13), which I happily agreed upon. I probably couldíve haggled and gotten a better deal, but I wasnít about to complain.

One great thing about the quarto was that I could hear the ocean from my room. I hadnít been lulled to sleep since staying at my grandparents house in Waimea, Kauai. It was so soothing.

I did go to the restaurante, and actually met up with the two couples. I didnít care too much for my "Piri Piri" chicken and goat cheese, but it was ok.

The next morning, I got up bright and early (an hour before dawn) and headed out to the spot they told me about. I arrived at "Carriís" (fake name) just as dawn neared. This was a huge bay, a mile or two across, and had some really shifty breaks that eventually closed out across the bay. The surf wasnít terribly big, but it didnít look all that grea--lots of work for mediocre waves.

Not seeing my California buddies there, I decided to head for my spot, Arriís, for one last check.

The swell seemed to have dropped a bit, and looked manageable. I had to go for it! Another thing was that another guy was surfing the place, a portly guy named Matt riding a longboard. He was an American from San Diego (again!) who was spending a year touring Europe alone. And he was charging.

I paddled into my first wave on a smaller set, and right after dropping into it, had to deal with the exposed rock right in the lineup. I decided that the most prudent route was to hang low, banking around the rock. Wrong move! As the wave went through the rock, it collapsed a whole section in front of me, leaving me a few yards short of the open face. I ducked under the wave and came up, unscathed, but right between a couple of other exposed rocks. Close call!

After that, I decided to only catch the bigger sets that allowed me the angle to ride high, passing over the rock. Sets were good sized, a tad below double-overhead, and reminded me of Pinballs with a bit of Waikikiís Publics reef action.

I caught one screamer that kept wedging up as it passed over these underwater boulders. You know how the wave seems to slow down and draw water out and up. It went on like that for a good 50 yards, before shutting down near the boat launch area.

After about an hour of really good surf, the ocean just went flat. I decided to quit while I was ahead and look for Bill and Shaun. I left a bottle of water, some candy and an H3O mag on Mattís car just to spread the aloha.

I went all the way back to Sagres and found it to be tiny. On a whim, I decided to try Carriís once again.

It was 1030, and those guys had just gotten there. Conditions hadnít improved, so they decided to shine it and do the wife thing. I donít blame themógotta take care of the woman in your life.

Anyway, I decided to make one last spot check of Arriís before I headed back to Spain.

The surf was a bit smaller, with the point not working at all. However, the sandbar in the middle had a few workable rights and lefts. Also, there was a slim guy heading into the water with a bodyboard. I decided to join him.

Never got his name, but found out he was originally from England, working as a golf pro in a nearby country club. The funniest thing was that he just came back from a trip to Hawaii, where he got to surf at some of my home breaks on Kauai! ("Itís a Small World After All")

We spent a couple hours in the shoulder high surf. It was a far cry from my earlier session at the point, but was still a lot of fun. Did some really fun carves, spins and rolls before the wave closed out.

Later on, a half dozen locals came by and went out to the sandbar on the far lefthandside of the cove. It didnít look all that great when I first went out, but by the time I came in, it was looking pretty fun.

I had had my fair share, though, and it was time for me to head back home. After relishing the warm sunlight for awhile, I pointed my Citroen car east, satisfied in having surfed my own secret little cove in Portugal.

Two weeks was too long to be away from my wife and daughter. Anyway, there ainít no place like home.

Aloha (means goodbye) from Arriís,
stickman


back