Surfing on the Volcanic Island of Sao Miguel in the Azores
The nine islands located in the Mid-Atlantic ocean about 850 miles west of Portugal (Europe’s westernmost region) is the autonomous region known as the Azores. The Azores are one of Europe’s unspoiled and low-key surfing hot spots recently rediscovered as an ideal surfing spot due to the perfect current and beaches. It was here on the islands of Sao Miguel and Terceira that surfing was introduced by the American serviceman in the mid-1950’s while stationed here during and after the war at the leased airbase; Lajes on the island of Terceira. Compared to the Indian and Pacific oceans, the Atlantic contains very few islands, which is one reason why the Azores is becoming increasingly popular with wave enthusiasts. The Mid-Atlantic Ridge, an underwater volcanic mountain chain, runs the entire length of the Atlantic Ocean and only breaks the surface in a few places, making these islands a unique island chain filled with natural beauty both on land and at sea. With nine unique islands to explore and surf, Sao Miguel, the largest and most populated island in the chain that has the best surfing spots with beaches facing in all directions. Here you are sure to catch a swell on the island almost any time of the year. It is the only island in the Azores with north-facing beach-breaks, located in the city of Ribeira Grande. The surf generally ranges from 3-5 feet during the summer and reaches up to 15 feet in the winter months. Under the gulf stream’s influence, which passes through the island chain, the climate and weather pattern can sometimes be erratic, causing very rough waves. The Azores atmosphere is temperate, with high rainfall in the winter months and a narrow temperature range with an average median annual temperature of around 14ºC and an average summer temperature of 24ºC. The ocean can get very cold in the winter months while the sea temperature is on average 22ºC in July and August, which is the most popular surfing time for locals. The island of Sao Miguel is filled with both beaches and cliffs that plunge into the sea, so as a rule of thumb, it is always wise to be mindful and cautious when surfing in the Azores. The right choice would be to ask the locals at the beach or use the live webcams that offer views of the various beaches and tides on the islands to see which spot is best for you. There are generally signs in Portuguese, English, and German on all the beaches indicating any concerns with such things as rocks, sharks, or undertows, so make sure you follow proper ocean etiquette for your safety. The beaches of Anjos, Areias, Baixa da Viola, Mosteiros, Populo, Praia Formoso, Rabo de Peixe, Ribeira Grande, and Santa Iria are among the most surfed spots on the island of Sao Miguel. Surfing, bodyboarding, and stand-up paddleboarding are all offered on the island of Sao Miguel and can be arranged for groups or individuals looking for more of a personalized experience. The increased awareness of the coastal conditions and picturesque beaches on the island of Sao Miguel has brought more international attention, especially in the surfing community. It is here that Billabong hosts their annual surf competition on Santa Barbara beach in Ribeira Grande every September to early October. This is a fun event to watch in public, with surfers worldwide coming to the Azores to compete in the prized Azorean waters. The Azores Airlines, formerly “Sata Airlines” is the primary sponsor of the event and accommodates the surfer’s equipment and provides an excellent service to the island by funding an event that brings so much international awareness, especially throughout Europe and in the surfing community. The continued support by the Azores Airlines in promoting the region by sponsoring events in niche markets has helped bring awareness to the international community of all the natural beauty and classic, old-world European charm that exists here on these nine volcanic islands.