Monthly Archives: March 2015

Surfing Spain

When on a proper surf trip there should be little else on the surfer’s mind besides surfing itself and the plotting of future surf sessions. As such I spent my evenings in Portugal making simple dinners at the hostel and trying to figure out where I would surf the next day. After I’d been in Ericeira for 4 days the forecast showed that the high pressure that was bringing offshore winds would breakdown and thus the conditions would begin to be suspect for Portugal’s west facing coastline. However, the Atlantic would continue cranking out plenty of swell… so where would I surf?

 

When one thinks surfing in Europe and especially when one is a goofy-foot who prefers lefthand pointbreaks, there is one place that comes foremost to mind: Mundaka. Without a doubt this is Europe’s best rivermouth pointbreak and when Mundaka is on it produces freight train lefts that can barrel for hundreds of yards over the sand-bottom estuary of the Oka River. Like many good waves, though, Mundaka is known to be fickle. It prefers south winds, low tides, needs big but not XXL swell, and most importantly the sand must be good. Usually these factors align in the fall when the first big Atlantic swells march in from the northwest and the sandbar is built up after the spring and summer months have deposited much sand in the estuary without big waves to wash that sand away.

 

After some consideration of the data I was seeing on WindGuru and Surfline, I made the call that enough of those factors were in place to make the 9 hour drive from Ericeira to Mundaka worth it. Portugal would continue to have plenty of swell but onshore winds, while that same swell would hit Mundaka along with southerly, offshore winds. The “X Factor” would be the sand – whether or not it would be “all time” Mundaka is hard to predict without knowing the present condition of the sand bar, but I was curious and eager to check out a wave I’d dreamed of surfing for many years.

Mundaka forecast looking good: plenty of swell with southerly, offshore winds

 

The following day I got up early and cranked out the 9-hour drive. Having rented the Skoda Octavia diesel Eco-wagon was awesome because I was getting like 50 mpg and cruising at 85 mph in cruise control nearly the entire drive. The border crossing was a non-event and it was neat to see the Mediterranean landscape of Portugal transform into the interior Spanish desert and then transform once again into the temperate forests of Pais Vasco in northeastern Spain. I got into the town of Mundaka around 7pm and checked into Hotel Atalaya, which couldn’t have been closer to the surf break. I had my first Spanish meal at the local pub and was surprised to see that the local language in the region was not Spanish, but Euskara, which is the traditional language of the Basque people. It is not remotely similar to Spanish, but fortunately everyone speaks Spanish as well, so I was able to communicate easily enough.

 

The Skoda Octavia Greenline Edition.  Diesel motor that gets like 50mpg, perfect for long surf trip exploits

The Skoda Octavia Greenline Edition. Diesel motor that gets like 50mpg, perfect for long surf trip exploits.  I’m parked here right in front of the surf break called Roka Puta

The border between Portugal and Spain.  You pretty much just have to slow down for like 100 yards, that's it.

The border between Portugal and Spain. You pretty much just have to slow down for like 100 yards, that’s it.

Snapped this pic while driving as I was descending from the desert highlands of Spain into Basque Country

Snapped this pic while driving as I was descending from the desert highlands of Spain into Basque Country

The drive across Iberia from Ericeira to Mundaka. 9 hours.

The drive across Iberia from Ericeira to Mundaka. 9 hours.

Hotel Atayala, closest spot you can get to the wave at Mundaka

Hotel Atayala, closest spot you can get to the wave at Mundaka

The next morning I got up at dawn and walked across the street to check out the wave at Mundaka. It was clearly working, plenty of size and offshore, and nobody out. Again, this seemed strange to me: from everything I heard about Mundaka, when it is working it is known to be one of the most crowded lineups in Europe, with surfers flooding in from France, Portugal and other parts of Spain. But I saw nobody out and I wasn’t complaining about that! Still I was a little uneasy that there was nobody out there to at least demonstrate the proper way to enter the water, where to sit, and how to deal with the gnarly currents. I hung around the point for about 45 minutes and eventually met two friendly surfers. The first was an older, heavyset gentleman originally from England but a local to Mundaka for the last 30 years who was the owner of the Mundaka Surf Shop just down the street. The second guy was his buddy, originally from Western Australia, who was perhaps a decade and a half younger and lived in the nearby town of Bermeo. These guys explained to me that the sandbar had been funky lately, but that lately the waves had been better on the high tide. Also they said that it looked good and they were about to go surf, so I ran and suited up and followed them out to the lineup.

Among my first photos of Mundaka on the first morning I witnessed the wave. Looks good!

Among my photos of Mundaka on the first morning I first witnessed the wave. Looks good!

Photo taken on day 1 from the exit spot from the water, a little ways down from the entrance. Better view of the whole wave.

Photo taken on day 1 from the exit spot from the water, a little ways down from the entrance. Better view of the whole wave.

 

That first session at Mundaka and all the ones to follow over the next 4 days were awesome. The wave size ranged from about 8 foot to DOH+, with the biggest sets coming in wide and kind of mushing out. Then best waves were the midsized ones that would barrel from the beginning and peel hundreds of yards down the line, offering speed lines and additional barrel sections.   I was 100% stoked on my 7’4” Ed Barbera; many of the locals including the two I met were on bigger boards and the guys riding smaller boards looked undergunned. The offshore winds would smooth out the faces and open up barrels although some days were so offshore as to make it difficult to get into the waves with the wind pushing me back and the spray blinding me. I spent much time in the green room and even found my way out of a few. By far the best part was that there were no crowds. I even surfed alone at various points and the most number of guys out at any one time was only like 10 dudes the entire time I was in Mundaka. And with the swell being so consistent and the rides so long, there was no competition for waves; instead we were all hooting each other into them! The best explanations I could come up with for the lack of crowds was that European surfers think of Mundaka as a fall season wave (I was there in mid-January), or there was a better wave somewhere else, or people were too surfed out from the previous run of surf, or that the surfers didn’t bother to drive to Mundaka because of the deep morning high tides. (But like the local said, the sandbar when I was there was such that the wave was actually better on the high tide.) Whatever the case, I was stoked and in the perfect spot to surf uncrowded Mundaka every morning for the 4 days I stayed at Hotel Atalaya.

 

Morning of Day 2. I was the first one out this morning.

Morning of Day 2. I was the first one out this morning.

Post session photo on day 2.  Still good and uncrowded!

Post session photo on day 2. Still good and uncrowded!  If I wasn’t dog tired after surfing for 3 hours, I would’ve done another lap!

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Looking up the Oka River from the check spot.

 

When you see the Basque flag in Mundaka blowing this way, it means southerly, offshore winds.

When you see the Basque flag in Mundaka blowing this way, it means southerly, offshore winds.

One morning Will snapped photos of me solo surfing for a few minutes.  Finally some scale for the size of the waves out there...

One morning Will snapped photos of me solo surfing for a few minutes. Finally some scale for the size of the waves out there…

Me making a drop

Me making a drop

Here's me making a drop

Here’s some random guy surfing with me way out on the shoulder

Speed run by an unidentified surfer on the morning of Day 4

Speed run by an unidentified surfer on the morning of Day 4

I took this photo as I was leaving from a vantage point above the point.  You can see clearly the Isla de Izaro, which has a big wave spot on the southwest side.

I took this photo as I was leaving from a vantage point above the point. There is a surfer on the wave for scale.  You can see clearly the Isla de Izaro, which has a big wave spot on the southwest side.

Basque Country Spain is perhaps one of the most wave rich sections of coast in the world and Mundaka was not the only wave I surfed.   In the mornings I would surf Mundaka but in the afternoon, when the tide was lower, I would head to a spot called Ogella that was about a 45-minute drive to the east from Mundaka. The setup for this spot was one of the most beautiful surf locations I’ve ever been to: pine forests steeply descent to meet the coast in a crescent bay and right smack in the middle is a rock reef that produces an A-frame wave comparable to Trestles. There are waves way up to the bay to the left and right that I heard are also surfed, but for the days I was there it was all about the A-frame in the middle. The wave needs slightly smaller swell than I would prefer for Mundaka; on the bigger days the currents would make staying in position a pain and cause the wave to close out a little, but with 1-2 meters of swell it was perfect.

Sunset at Ogella

Sunset at Ogella

 

Panorama from the parking lot of Ogella. One of the most pristine locations for a surf spot I've been to.

Panorama from the parking lot of Ogella. One of the most pristine locations for a surf spot I’ve been to.

Ogella is a very nice A-frame wave, reminiscent of Trestles although perhaps with more of an edge to it

Ogella is a very nice A-frame wave, reminiscent of Trestles although perhaps with more of an edge to it

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Splitting the peak.

 

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More waves in the northwest corner of the bay, nobody out. Also, what a spot for a house up on the bluff!

 

I mentioned in my previous post that I had run into Aritz Aranburu a few different times while I was Portugal, including at Cave, Coxos and Supertubos, and I knew I was in the right spot in Iberia once again when him and his same crew showed up at Ogella one afternoon while I was surfing. I left the water a little after the first of them paddled out; I’d already been in the water for a couple of hours and competing for waves with locals let alone pro locals is not my cup of tea. Instead I hung out on the cliffs above and took photos of them ripping.

 

Aritz Aranburu is already out there and here is the last of his crew making their way out to Ogella, with the photographer set in his perch.

Aritz Aranburu is already out there and here is the last of his crew making their way out to Ogella, with the photographer set in his perch.

Pro sufers demonstrate how it's done.

Pro sufers demonstrate how it’s done.

 

One afternoon I called it an early session at Ogella as it was one of the bigger days where the current left me way too tired within short order. I drove east along the coast to check the beautiful scenery and scope a few other surf spots. Along the way I would weave up high cliffs and then down into rustic, centuries-old towns that were distinctively Basque. I made it as far to the east as Roka Puta, a big wave spot that can produce very gnarly waves as evidenced by this video, and I watched a gorgeous sunset. The wave wasn’t really working while I was there, but I could see the potential. During my time spent in Pais Vasco the beauty of the land and the good vibe of the people continually impressed me; this is someplace I would definitely like to return someday.

I snapped this while driving through a hamlet near Ogella.

I snapped this while driving through a hamlet near Ogella.

 

The picturesque town of Leiketio

The picturesque town of Leiketio

Not sure what this spot is called, but I saw it from the highway on my drive east.

Not sure what this spot is called, but I saw it from the highway on my drive east.

Awesome clouds near Roka Puta

Awesome clouds near Roka Puta

Roka Puta, not working

Roka Puta, not working

Besides the limited span of coast and waves that I checked out while I was in Pais Vasco, Spain as a whole has a gorgeous northern coastline that is littered with good waves. More big waves exist a short drive to the west of Mundaka, including the BWWT spot Punta Galea, and then as you go farther and farther west into Cantabria, Asturias, and Galicia there are more and more spots, many of them big waves, some of them rivermouths comparable to Mundaka, that are more and more secluded. There is tons of exploring to do. One video that recently captured my imagination is about a section of the Galician Coast known as “The Coast of Death”. Check out this video trailer. These aren’t waves for the faint of heart!

 

While I was in Spain I made friends with an English guy named Will and we experienced waves and classic Basque bar culture together. Will is in his mid-to-late 30s and works as an English teacher in Peru. He was on summer vacation and visiting his family back home in England when, being a surfer, he decided to do a surf trip to Spain and then Portugal before heading back to Peru. It was nice cruising around with Will because he spoke fluent Spanish and would get good intel from the locals. We cruised to Ogella a few times and surfed together at Mundaka and even teamed up to bunk together in the hotel in order to save 30 Euros each for two nights. One evening we headed into Bermeo together to bar hop and ate tapas along the way as our meal. It was cool to have a proper tapas experience, eating one or two and having a beer at each bar and then moving on to the next spot. On another night we did the same in Mundaka and wound up watching a soccer match between Bilboa and Galicia that had the locals super bummed out after an own goal by Bilboa resulted in a loss for the home team. I covertly snapped a photo of the scene upon them losing the game; in classic Spanish style, people were super bummed to loose.

Incognito photo of bummed locals after their soccer team lost by an own goal.

Incognito photo of bummed locals after their soccer team lost by an own goal.

 

Before I knew it was time to leave Mundaka and drive back to Lisbon where I would return my car and catch a flight back to Paris. I spent about 11 days in Spain and Portugal and had a great time. Surfing is awesome.

 

The drive back was in bad weather, with pouring rain once I was in Portugal

The drive back was in bad weather, with pouring rain once I was in Portugal

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Categories: Pais Vasco, Spain | 1 Comment

Surfing Portugal

I had been in Fontainebleau, France for a only 3 days when it was time for me to go chase some waves. Donna and had flown to Paris on January 1st, still recovering slightly from the previous night’s New Year’s festivities. We arrived at our new house in Fontainebleau on the morning of January 2nd, which was a Saturday. On Sunday we met the landlord and the other roommates and unpacked. Monday was Donna’ first day at INSEAD where she went through the usual college orientation sessions. That day I spent hanging around the house and noticed the surf forecast looked very good for the Iberian Peninsula and Morocco. The Atlantic would be on fire with swell for the next 2 weeks and I found that airfare was cheap to both Lisbon and Agadir. After getting Donna’s sign off, it was surf trip time! I deliberated for about half a day and decided to buy the ticket to Lisbon because a strong high-pressure system would result in good conditions and sunny weather for Portugal. Combined with the large, long period groundswell I knew it could be epic. I pulled the trigger on the airline tickets also rented a very fuel-efficient diesel station wagon, the perfect vehicle for chasing waves.

Now that is a surf forecast to get excited about!

Now that is a surf forecast to get excited about!

 

The Skoda Octavia GreenLine edition... my station wagon for the trip that gets 50 mpg!

The Skoda Octavia GreenLine edition… my station wagon for the trip that gets 50 mpg!

The trip came together fast. My surf bag was already packed from the journey to France and I lugged it from my house to the Fontainebleau train station, then through the Parisian metro and to the airport. I arrived in Lisbon around midnight, got the car, and checked into a cheap downtown hotel and hit the sack. I woke up early the next day and drove straight for Ericeira, the most wave rich stretch of coast in Portugal and home to the first World Surfing Reserve.

The Fontainebleau train station.  I'd be leaving grey skies and cold weather for a sunny and  warm Portugal.

The Fontainebleau train station. I’d be leaving grey skies and cold weather for a sunny and warm Portugal.

Driving through downtown Lisbon early on a Wednesday morning.

Driving through downtown Lisbon early on a Wednesday morning.

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Ericeira is home to the world’s first World Surfing Reserve. We need more of these!

 

My first good glimpse of the ocean revealed solid surf lines stretching across the long point called Ribeira d’Ilhas. The wind was light and offshore, pretty much perfect conditions. The strange thing was that I couldn’t really see anyone surfing! I drove farther north and checked a few more spots, all of which were very conveniently labeled with roadside posts due to the World Surfing Reserve. But nobody was surfing anywhere! Eventually I met a local who was walking his dogs while hiking the cliffs in front of a righthand slab called Cave. He basically told me that with this much swell most all the spots were maxed out, but that I should check a right point in town called Furnas. It took awhile to navigate my way through the maze of small streets in the center of Ericeira but eventually I found the wave and a place to park. The session was good and I was already glad to have brought my bigger 7’4” board al the way from SF because it was very clear there would be plenty of juice on this trip.

 

My first glimpse of the surf in Portugal got me very excited.  Big waves and perfect conditions at Ribeira d’Ilhas

My first glimpse of the surf in Portugal got me very excited. Big waves and perfect conditions at Ribeira d’Ilhas.  Nobody out seemed strange, perhaps because that wave is bigger than it looks.

I ended up surfing Furnas, which is basically in the town of Ericeira.  It was fun and I was the only one out for awhile.

I ended up surfing Furnas, which is right in the town of Ericeira. It was fun and I was the only one out for awhile.

Another look at Furnas.

Another look at Furnas.

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A photo overlooking Furnas point with the town of Ericeira in the background

 

After the session I found a spot to have lunch and then began searching for a place to stay.   The first few hostels I drove to had nobody inside to respond to my inquiry. Eventually I found the aptly named Lone Surfer Hostel and I was able to secure a spot in the communal dormitory room for a mere €13 per night, which was an amazing deal considering there was nobody else staying in the dormitory so I essentially had an entire apartment to myself! This was all good, but I found it strange that Ericeira seemed to be so devoid of travelling surfers at the height of the surf season and with good waves and beautiful weather in the forecast.

 

The aptly named Lone Surfer hostel where I stayed while in Portugal

The aptly named Lone Surfer hostel where I stayed while in Portugal.  I resided in the 3rd story dormitory, which was basically a private apartment for me since nobody else was there!

My morning view from the 3rd story of the Lone Surfer Hostel. Look at those lines!

My morning view from the 3rd story of the Lone Surfer Hostel. Look at those lines!

Outside my hostel this truck would serve delicious churros.  #lucky

Outside my hostel this truck would serve delicious churros. #lucky

Eventually I learned that Ericeira is primarily a surf destination in the summer, when droves of tourists from the UK and around Europe flock to the warm beaches for sun and surf lessons. But the irony is that in the summer the surf on the east coast of Portugal is at its worse: onshore winds and a lack of swell dominate. But the surf shops and learn to surf schools thrive on the influx of vacationers! Meanwhile, in the heart of the winter surf season I encountered only a handful of traveling surfers like myself. My guess for a reason behind this is that Portugal is still somewhat off the map as a surf destination for serious surfers, who would usually prefer exotic warm water surf destinations for their vacations. Another factor is that good waves at many spots are dependent on good wind conditions and, much like in Northern California, onshore winds are much more common.

 

One local I talked to mentioned that their favorite time for surf in Portugal is in the autumn, when the swells are somewhat smaller and the conditions more likely to be good. Again, this is often the case in Northern California as well, and the similarity is not surprising considering both sit at 38 degrees latitude and are west facing. I timed my trip to Portugal to coincide with a late season high pressure system that created gorgeous, warm weather and light offshore winds, but really the big problem I faced was finding surf spots that could handle the 3+ meter, long-period groundswells that were coming. Hence I understood why this particular local said he prefers smaller swells, more in the 1-2 meter range, which hit the Ericeira spots well and create more manageable waves.

I have only ever seen surf spots marked by markers like this on the road here in Ericeira.

I have only ever seen surf spots marked by markers like this on the road here in Ericeira.

My favorite post surf session lunch spot was at this restaurant right on the beach of Ribeira d'Ilhas

My favorite post surf session lunch spot was at this restaurant right on the beach of Ribeira d’Ilhas

 

Over the next 3 days I surfed a number of different waves between Lisbon and Peniche.

The best and most consistently good wave in Ericeira is Coxos point. During my first session a number of locals were out and getting the best set waves that would barrel over the shallow, urchin infested rock reef and then peel far into the cove. Two days later the swell was a few notches larger and Coxos looked more like an intense slab than a point, with a very heavy 50-yard barrel section that would then wash out through the cove. Simply put, that day was too gnarly for me, so I watched and took photos of the guys out there, all of who were professionals, including “Portuguese Prince” Nick Von Rupp and former WCT surfer Aritz Aranburu.

Coxos on the day I surfed it, with a local speed lining the beginning barrel section

Coxos on the day I surfed it, with a local speed lining the beginning barrel section

Another shot from the smaller day at Coxos, this one shows how the wave can peel into the cove or long rides

Another shot from the smaller day at Coxos, this one shows how the wave can peel into the cove or long rides

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Coxos on the big day, surfer pulling in.  On big days it acts more like a slab as after the long barrel section the wave washes through the cove instead of peeling.

 

Coxos on the day I surfed it.  I quickly understood why this point is the jewel of Ericeira surfing

Coxos the big day was pros only.  This demonstrates why this wave is the jewel of Ericeira surf spots

 

And this photo demonstrates why it was basically pros only out there.  15 foot top-to-bottom waves and a shallow and sharp reef below.   This place can produce severe beatings!

And this photo demonstrates why it was basically pros only out there. 15 foot top-to-bottom waves and a shallow and sharp reef below. This place can produce severe beatings!

The morning of that big day at Coxos I surfed alone at a wave called Pedra Branca. Usually this wave is a left, but that morning the swell was too big for the left although a long right was working that would send me a few hundred yards towards Praia do Norte. It was pretty cool being the only one out and able to easily get the few good waves that came through.

 

Pedra Branca the day I surfed it. Nobody else out there!

Pedra Branca the morning I surfed it. Nobody else out there and bigger than it looks!

Besides surfing Furnas, Coxos and Pedra Branca, I spent a lot of time watching and photographing the other waves in Ericeira. The most alluring of them is known as Cave, which is an extremely shallow, dangerous righthand slab. At one point I was watching and taking photos of Cave when Aritz Aranburu and his crew of pros and a photographer showed up and watched it with me for a while. It must not have been properly working or something since they didn’t surf it, but some of the photos I took reveal a wave that is at least perfect for mind surfing. A famous session with Kelly Slater went down at Cave last year (see video here) and even one of the best tuberiders in the world, John John Florence, was injured here a few years back (see this article), which goes to show just how gnarly the wave is.

 

Cave was mind-surfing only on this day

Cave was mind-surfing only on this day

By in large I have been conditioned to think the more swell the better, so it was strange for me on this trip that my wave searching effort was spent looking to find waves that were smaller and manageable rather than big and exciting. On the biggest swell day I had to drive south to Lisbon where the coastline faces south and was thus somewhat sheltered from the large NW swell, which was maxing out all the Ericeira spots. As I drove east from Cascais along the Lisbon coastline I saw swell lines stretching for miles and I took a few nice photos. Eventually I came to the beach of Carcavelos where the waves were still well overhead and nicely groomed by northerly winds. I had a fun session, but the waves were mostly closeouts.

 

Looking west along the south facing Lisbon coastline towards Cascais. Waves for days.

Looking west along the south facing Lisbon coastline towards Cascais. Waves for days.

Carcavelos beachbreak

Carcavelos beachbreak

While in the water at Carcavelos I talked with a surfer who mentioned that Supertubos would also be good. So after my session I got out, ate a quick lunch in my car, and drove an hour north to Peniche to the most famous beachbreak in Portugal and site of an annual WCT contest. Supertubos has an offshore canyon that makes the location a swell magnet, and with northeasterly winds it was offshore. The wave works best on W or SW swells, but with the big NW swell it beheld solid double overhead tubes, despite being sheltered by the bulbous Peniche peninsula.   Most of the surfers in the water that day were professionals, including none other than Artiz Aranburu, who I kept seeing on my trip. I saw a bunch of amazing tube rides. Personally I was mostly worked by the powerful tubing waves; I’ll claim that my heaving beachbreak tuberiding skills are still a bit rusty, but at least I did see a number of beautiful green rooms before being swallowed.

 

Supertubos on the big day.  I wish I woulda taken my good camera and just photographed the pros for awhile, it was a barrel-fest.  But instead I just go this photo with my phone.

Supertubos on the big day. I wish I woulda taken my good camera and just photographed the pros for awhile, it was a barrel-fest. But instead I just go this photo with my phone.

Supertubos on the smaller day I surfed it with my Italian friend

Supertubos on the smaller day I surfed it with my Italian friend

Supertubos has its own flag.  The Portuguese take a lot of pride in their waves!

Supertubos has its own flag. The Portuguese take a lot of pride in their waves!

On my trip I was mostly solitaire but did make a few friends. In my hostel there was staying a German surfer (of Indian descent) who lived in Holland (whoa, pretty random, huh?) He introduced me to two other people also staying on a lower level in the hostel, a German woman who was taking surf lessons everyday, and a mid 40s Santa Barbara guy. That evening we all had a tasty seafood pasta dinner prepared by the German lady, whose culinary skills were amazing. I also spent a day cruising with a young Italian guy who I met while we were both watching the pros surf Coxos. We ended up driving north to Supertubos and had a great session in waves that were much easier to surf than when I was there the day before and the waves were much larger and more challenging. It was interesting listening to the Italian talk about what its like to be a surfer in Italy, which apparently involves skirting all responsibility to drive for hours to surf decent waves the few times a year the Mediterranean decides to flare up. His stories made me appreciate being Californian!

 

An awesome seafood pasta prepared by a German woman staying in the Lone Surfer

An awesome seafood pasta prepared by a German woman staying in the Lone Surfer

On this trip to Portugal I did not make it to Nazare, the famous wave known for producing the world’s largest waves. I’d heard that Nazare is also a great wave on smaller swells too, but it is about a 2 hours north of Peniche and I never bothered to check it because there was plenty of juice where I was. If an absolutely humungous swell would’ve come so that I could witness a Nazare tow session happen, I would’ve made the trek, but that didn’t happen until my last day and I needed to be driving to the airport, not Nazare. Check out this video if you want to see the incredible monsters the bathymetry at Nazare can produce!

 

Finally it is worth writing a little about my thoughts on Portugal in general. The people were very nice and the little town of Ericeira felt very quaint and traditional, with narrow cobblestone streets winding every which way and old ladies walking around carrying bags of vegetables. The food wasn’t particularly good as far as I experienced, but I didn’t really seek anything traditional out. The country was a great value, food was inexpensive, lodging was cheap and overall I spent a surprisingly little amount of money; this likely has something to do with the recession that hit the southern European economies lately.   I would definitely recommend to my friends that they go and check out Portugal, good waves and good prices make it a worthwhile trip destination!

 

Fisherman casting from atop the cliffs above Ribeira d'Ilhas .  He would send his bait flying about 100 yards into the ocean below!

Fisherman casting from atop the cliffs above Ribeira d’Ilhas . He would send his bait flying about 100 yards into the ocean below!

OK, up next will be my post about Pais Vasco in Spain, home to Mundaka, Europe’s best pointbreak, and many other great waves….

Categories: Portugal | 4 Comments

Family Christmas Time in Florida

 

I want to start off this blog with an apology to our loyal readers. As I write this it is currently late-February and I am completing a blog post about stuff that happened at the end of December. I know most of you would prefer get more frequent updates and for those updates to be about what we did in the very recent past. Well, timeliness just isn’t going to happen because our blog is for fun and we don’t seem to be able to operate by some fixed schedule (at first we tried, and it didn’t work almost immediately). Further, right now I could write about the awesome ski trip that Donna and I went on to Courchevel just this last weekend, but then I’d skip over a bunch of other stuff and leave a gaping hole in the chronology of The Radical Sabbatical, which is, in my mind, much worse than just releasing posts with a longer delay to when they occurred. And thusly we have chosen not to skip anything and to post chronologically late. But at least now that I am in Chamonix staying at nice chalet with good Internet for the next week and a half I will try to push out the backlog of goings on.  Please accept my apology and enjoy nonetheless 😉

 

Christmas 2015 went down for Donna and I in Florida. It was pretty much a no-brainer for us: we were both overdue to visit our respective Sunshine State family members and we had the time to do it before moving to France for Donna to start school at INSEAD.

 

The first half of the trip was to visit Donna’s family in West Palm Beach. There was a kind of mini-family reunion happening as Donna’s aunt Rorrie and her husband Robert had just finished custom decorating their beautiful new home and this was the first time many in the family would see it. Donna’s father Harold came from New Jersey and his parents, the matriarch and patriarch of the Egan clan, also live very nearby to Rorrie. Then many other Egan clan members flew in from various East Coast locations, including Arlana (Donna’s sister), Margaux and Tyler (Donna’s cousins, Rorrie’s son and daughter), Jamie (Donna’s uncle, Harold’s brother), Christine (Jamie’s wife), and Conner (Donna’s cousin and son of Jamie and Christine).

 

Donna and I stayed at Rorrie’s beautiful house and hung out for a few days of relaxing with the family. There was great food, especially the Christmas Eve dinner of Sicilian style pizza prepared by Donna’s grandma and the Christmas Day brunch at the country club. Plenty of quality wine and Scotch was consumed. We also played some tennis and chillaxed by the pool. We downloaded and watched The Interview because of all the hype and we thought it was hilarious. It was a “family time” couple of days and I was happy to meet and get to know everyone.

 

The Egan Clan !  ... and me

The Egan Clan !

Donna and her cousin's Tyler and Conner

Donna and her cousin’s Tyler and Conner

 

The day after Christmas Donna and I rented a car and drove to the Jacksonville area part 2 of the Christmas vacation. Wouter, my father, picked us up and brought us to his new house on Amelia Island. His wife, Malgosia, and him had custom built a new house over the past half a year and so this was the second house debut of the trip for us. At the house Donna and I were greeted by Malgosia (my father’s wife), my sister Jannika, Jannika’s boyfriend Jason and Malgosia’s daughter Agata. Plus Agata’s awesome dog Blake! The first evening we arrived we ate a nice meal and got down to the usual family discussions as we exchanged gifts.

 

The next 3 days with my family were a similar blend to the previous 3 days with Donna’s family: catching up and relaxing with a few activities mixed in.

 

The highlight by far of the activities was the fact that my dad bought himself a DJI Phantom 2 drone for Christmas. He hadn’t flown it yet, actually wanting me to be the test pilot before himself. I quickly stepped up to the task and was actually surprised how easy it was to fly the drone, especially compared to the unsophisticated quadcopter drones that Colin and I had had so much fun flying in China a few months back. Within no time I was hovering all around outside the new house and taking photos and videos. Since there is a golf course right in the backyard, there was plenty of space to practice and the golfers were always very interested in the drone. I also flew the drone at the beach a few times and even brought it to a height of over 1,000 feet; the images I got from the camera were super cool!

 

The gang (but after Jannika and Jason left)

The gang (but after Jannika and Jason left), photo taken from the drone

Good light good lookin, ha!

Good light good lookin, ha!

Agata, Jannika & Jason hanging out

Agata, Jannika & Jason hanging out

Video Trailer featuring Drone Footage!!

 

The below is an album, so click the first photo and you can scroll through!

Categories: Amelia Island, Florida, West Palm Beach | Leave a comment

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