Waves of pleasure: Portugal’s spectacular Costa da Prata is heaven for surfers


Portugal’s ‘Silver Coast’ had certainly looked like a laid back kind of place. But coming up for a gulp of air after yet another short, sharp encounter with the wrong end of one of its famous waves, I was beginning to have some doubts.
A two-hour battle with six feet of Europe’s punchiest surf had filed my ears, nose and throat with seawater, and left my arms as limp as cold spaghetti.
Staggering onto Guincho Beach, I clocked my wife, in her wetsuit. She looked like I felt: cold, wet and exhausted.

Guincho beach
Choppy: Guincho beach is famous for its sizeable waves, including some that get up to as much as 90ft high

Ouch! Guy was left with arms as limp as cold spaghetti after an encounter with one of Guinho’s 6ft waves

Perhaps this was just-deserts. We were, after all, on the very sneakiest of breaks. The fun had begun a few days earlier when, through an act of brave and possibly foolish generosity, my parents (assisted by my brother and his girlfriend) had agreed to spend the weekend looking after our two small children.

It was to be our first proper break from full-time parenting since the birth of our eldest child, William, three years ago. Our priorities? Fine food and wine, fresh air and exercise, and three straight nights of uninterrupted sleep.
With this in mind, the ‘Silver Coast’ seemed an obvious destination. Just 45 minutes by hire car from Lisbon airport, it claims to have some of the world’s finest fishing, golf courses, kite-surfing spots and other ‘action holiday’ escapades – all within a few scenic miles.
Our priority was the surfing. Both keen enthusiasts (we previously lived for five years in California), our opportunities to get our wetsuits damp had dwindled significantly since children came along and in particular since we’d moved home back the UK.
Portugal is currently in the middle of a surf boom (the sport is now second only to football, in terms of popularity) and in winter, when waves are at their biggest, The Silver Coast attracts the sport’s greats, including the 11-times world champion, American Kelly Slater.

Spectacular: The unspoilt Guincho beach is a paradise for surfers and nature lovers alike

Ouch! Guy was left with arms as limp as cold spaghetti after an encounter with one of Guinho’s 6ft waves

Adding to the region’s appeal is Nazare Canyon, roughly an hour north-west of Lisbon. The spot is now etched in surfing folklore thanks to another American pro, Garrett McNamara.
Last November, he broke the Guinness World Record for the largest wave ever surfed, catching a 90-foot monster here. You can witness his extraordinary feat on YouTube.
Ninety footers are way beyond our pay-grade, of course. But from spring to early autumn, the region’s waves become suitable for mere mortals, who travel here from across the world.
Like many such pilgrims, we booked into the Oitavos, a smart, but affordable new hotel in the heart of Portugal’s Sintra-Cascais Natural Park.
This is a family-owned establishment a short drive from the pretty but hard-to-pronounce town of Cascais (locals call it ‘cash cash’), run by Miguel Champalimaud, a former pro surfer and golf fanatic who has created a hotel catering to fans of both sports.
It looks like a Bond villain’s lair, all blue glass and modern sculptures, and is surrounded by a famous links golf course (one of the world’s ‘top 100′, according to Golf magazine), along with an equestrian centre and smart tennis club.

Picturesque: Guy and his wife stayed in the pretty little town of Cascais – pronounced ‘cash cash’ by locals

The Oitavos
Like a Bond villain’s lair: The Oitavos, a smart new hotel in the heart of Portugal’s Sintra-Cascais Natural Park

Inside, for winding down, are a couple of high-end restaurants, along with a health spa, two salt-water pools, sundecks and 142 rooms, each with a sea view, private balcony and ultra-minimalist design scheme.
There were certainly creature comforts. The sheets in our room were crispest linen, and lying on the bed was like being wrapped in cotton wool. On a more – shall we say? – original note, the bathroom had glass walls, and a mildly terrifying electronic loo.
But its chief selling point was a chance to spend time with Miguel’s friend Ruben Gonzalez, a four-time national surfing champion who in the summer and Autumn takes hotel guests out on the famous waves of nearby Guincho Beach.
Surfing with a real pro can be quite an eye opener. Not only did Ruben gave endless pointers on technique, he also expertly helped us select the most finely-shaped waves. And when things clicked, our smiles were as wide as the Atlantic.
Days soon settled into a pattern. Breakfast at the Oitavos, where you help yourself from baskets of ‘pasteis de nata’, (irresistible custard tarts served everywhere in Portugal) was followed by a couple of exciting hours in the sea, then a long, tired soak in the Jacuzzi.
In the afternoons and evenings, we visited local towns. Cascais and next door Estoril are former fishing towns popular with well-heeled foreigners (Ian Fleming once stated there, and it inspired the Bond novel Casino Royale).
Sintra, in the hills further north, is a UNESCO heritage site, full of hilltop castles and historic palaces. We spent hours touring the Quinta de Regaleira, an extraordinary house surrounded by acres of follies and man-made caves that you could explore for days.
Then, in the blink of an eye, it was time to say farewell. This short, sharp action holiday had turned out to be strangely relaxing, we decided: surfing might tire you out and fill your head with seawater, but it’s nowhere near as exhausting as parenthood.
The Oitavos (+351 21 486 0020, theoitavos.com) has rooms from £142 B&B. British Airways (0844 4930 787, ba.com/Lisbon) flies to Lisbon from £151.80.

Source: www.dailymail.co.uk