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The Ultimate Guide to Surfing in the Azores

Portugal as a country is renowned for its amazing surfing, home to some of the best swells in the world, including the infamous monster wave that is Nazaré.

What flies more under the radar though is the nation’s collection of islands around 850 miles west of Lisbon – an archipelago known as the Azores.

Made up of nine breathtaking, volcanic islands, the Azores are a hidden gem off the mainland, offering lush, green landscapes, fishing villages, the same blue hydrangeas you’d find on Cape Cod or Nantucket, and incredible surfing.

Eight of the nine islands have a wide range of break choices for visitors and the small population of locals, made up of less than 250,000 people in total. 

Azores Surf Guide

History of Surfing in the Azores

Set in the middle of the Macaronesia region of the North Atlantic, the Azores were first discovered in the late 1300s when Portuguese sailors began exploring uncharted waters off the coast of northwestern Africa.

Their ruler at the time, Prince Henry the Navigator, was looking to expand the country’s territory and financed a ‘rediscovery’ in the early 1400s when the Portuguese actually started settling on the islands.

The Spanish invaded and conquered the archipelago in 1583 and reigned for almost 60 years until the Portuguese monarchy was restored in 1640.

The Azores have belonged to Portugal ever since, but it wasn’t until the late 1800s that surfing first emerged on the islands. And who better to learn from than the Hawaiians?

In the 19th Century, people of the Azores, as well as other Portuguese citizens, began immigrating to the Hawaiian Islands, looking to work on their sugarcane plantations.

While many immigrants remained in Hawaii, by the time some started returning to Portugal, the nations had done much impactful cultural exchange.

In fact, guess who introduced Hawaiians to the ukulele?

That’s right, the Portuguese!

And of course, they didn’t leave empty-handed, as the Hawaiians sent them home with boards and an understanding of how to catch waves of their own back in the Azores. 

Gear Needed to Surf in Azores

Temperatures in the Azores aren’t known to change drastically. Over the summer, the air temp normally stays somewhere in the 70s and in the winter, it only drops down to the mid-50s.

This allows for the ocean to stay consistently warm year-round, so it’s likely that the heaviest gear you’ll need is a spring suit.

As far as boards go, if you plan on packing your own, size recommendations will depend on what island you go to, the time of year, and the break you’ll surf.

However, many of the waves in the Azores are short and rolling, so if you’re risking not checking the forecast, your best bet is a longboard.

Tough booties are also a good idea since entries to some of the waves can be sharp paths. 

The Best Places to Surf in Azores 

All of the islands in the Azores have surf breaks aside Corvo, a 6.5 square mile volcanic crater inhabited by less than 400 people.

Other than this tiny islet, you can find waves on every side of every island – but let’s go through some of the best ones.  

São Miguel Island: Mosteiros

Mosteiros Beach has two right take-offs with a steep drop and quick section.

The spot is one of the most popular in the archipelago because of the exciting waves and easy entrance through the beach.

To get to most surf in the Azores, you’ll need to do a lengthy flat walk or a short rocky one.

Flores Island: Fajã Grande

Waves in the Fajã Grande Bay can get pretty big in the autumn and springtime, but regardless of the time of year, this surf breaks cleanly to the right.

Like Mosteiros, a big part of Fajã Grande’s popularity comes from the simple paddle out of the local fishing harbor.

Terceira Island: Quatro Ribeiras

Quatro Ribeiras is one of those breaks on the island that has a more complicated accessway, as surfers must scale large rocks on the shore to get in and out of the water.

However, the waves have proven themselves more than worthy, with strong, rolling lefts that can reach up to 10 feet tall.

Graciosa Island: Calhau Miúdo

Calhau Miúdo is one of the most reliable spots on any of the nine islands. There are small, fast-paced rights and lefts in the area year-round, perfect for working on airs.

Those booties we mentioned earlier will come in handy at Calhau Miúdo, as the entrance and exit require a rocky walk that won’t feel great on bare feet. 

Santa Maria Island: Formosa

Formosa is another reliable wave that offers a speedy take-off and lots of room for top-to-bottom surfing.

You can also score a nice close-out if you’re lucky since the face can span up to 6.5 ft.

The view from the water here looks up at enormous green mountains and a castle known as the Fort of São João.

What To Do in the Azores When the Waves Are Flat

If there are no waves while you’re visiting the Azores, the islands have so much else to offer, it’s impossible to find yourself without any idea of what to do next!

Go whale watching in Ponta Delgada, hike around the crater of Lagoa do Fogo, swim in the Poca Da Dona hot springs, or explore the caverns and caves in Algar do Carvao.

You won’t find an inch of the archipelago that isn’t absolutely beautiful, so even just sitting somewhere quietly with a book, camera, or journal will be an experience you’ll never forget. 

The Bottom Line: Surfing Azores

With a ton of variety in waves and stunning lush scenery all around, the Azores are a must-see destination for advanced surfers.

Getting to the waves may not always be an easy task but with such unbelievable landscapes and thrilling breaks, some scraped-up feet will be the last thing on your mind. 


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