The Estremadura coastline is known for its consistent wind and waves. It has always been a very popular Euro windsurf and surf destination. The beaches are vast and the coastline varied. Guincho has hosted PWA events and regularly hosts IFCA wave championships. You can also get perfect wave riding at less well known Peniche. The wind stats are consistent and the windsurfing challenging. It is an excellent place to go and raise your game.
HOW TO GET THERE
Flights are available from major airports to Lisbon, which is only 25 kilometres away from Guincho. This option would mean that you have to hire a car and pay for baggage. We went in August when the flights were in the £300 region, but if you book well in advance, that price is halved. At other times of the year, flights to Faro in the south can be found for as little as £10. Faro is a long way from Guincho (4 hour drive) and is best suited to windsurfing around the Sagres area.
www.cheapflights.co.uk offer flights for as little as £60 for 7 nights after the 1 st of September.
Car & Ferry
I like a bit of adventure and since Guincho is within main land Europe, we decided to drive. However be warned, it is 1200 miles! But we spent £300 each for the three week trip to get there, stay there, eat and windsurf.
The Dover to Calais Ferry cost £115 with P&O for a LWB Ford Transit. We went on toll roads the whole way down for speed. The diesel is cheaper than the UK, but offset against the toll road prices the running costs are similar to home.
Another option is to get the Ferry to Bilbao in Northern Spain. However, this option is very pricey (£500) and means a lengthy sea trip with a ten hour drive at the end.
www.seafrance.com Tel: 08705 711 711
www.POferries.com: for Dover - Calais and Bilbao - Portsmouth, Tel 08705 20 20 20
To get to Praia do Baleal in Peniche, it’s more driving! Take the N114 off the IC1 from Cascais, and once you get to Peniche, Praia do Baleal is well signposted.
Transfer from airport
Quite surprisingly, the hotels or centres don’t pick up guests from the airport for the hour and a half journey to Sotavento. However there are plenty of airport taxis or you can rent a car which you will need during the week if you are staying anywhere but the Sol Gorriones Hotel.
A two door car for the week works out at £99, a van £324 in August. (Better deals can be arranged in advance).
Remember to take roof straps, and if you are very well organised, then some kind of locking device.
HOW THE WIND WORKS
The Guincho wind is a thermal wind, working on the basis that the sea is so cold and the land becomes very hot combined with two pressure systems that usually meet over Guincho. However, we had all sorts of thermal based winds and according to the locals; the patterns were a bit unusual. Cloud over the land is a bad sign.
At Gunicho, March to August has wind fifty percent of the time, dropping a little in September and October. March and April are consistently the windiest months.
The Peniche wind is gradient, relying on a south westerly low pressure system just like the UK. If the conditions are not right for the Guincho sea breeze then check if there is a southwest gradient system working over Peniche. For good wave riding you only need 10 knots or so to get out the back.
www.windguru.cz is surprisingly accurate for the area.
Both Guincho and Peniche are quite full on wave locations and should not be underestimated.
Praia Do Guincho, Cascais
Beach faces: West
Best wind direction: North west is the thermal direction
Worst wind direction: All other directions stop the thermal effect
Tide: Goes out about 30metres, with strong currents
What’s on the bottom?: Sand
Any hazards: Two submerged rocks at mid and low tide, also the water is very cold compared to the air temperature
Other water users: Surfers, kitesurfers and swimmers
Suitability/levels: Adventurous intermediate to expert
Wipeout factor: High, be prepared for a swim! If you get separated then body surf in, your kit will get washed in before you.
Guincho picks up any swell out there in the Atlantic. If a large swell is running, then the waves are absolutely gargantuan, and it can be a real challenge to get out through the munching shore break at high tide. There are no big gaps between the waves, and with a strong side shore current, the best trick is to take a sail big enough for the inside, bear away and get up to speed as quickly as possible. Guincho does mellow at mid tide; however don’t forget about the submerged rocks. The conditions get tricky again at low tide. The waves become less spaced and a nasty wave over a sand bar starts breaking.
As far as wave riding goes, it is generally onshore, turning more cross shore as the afternoon wears on. A lot of the swells are big, so once you master getting the first frontside bottom turn in, you can carry on down the line within the shelter of the wave and line up for some nice sections. When windy enough, the jumping is very good!
The best way to get to the beach is to follow the coast road north around the bay and take a left, signposted to parking. It costs 4 euros a day to park (5 euros at the weekend), but this is where all the windsurfers congregate. There is a Café overlooking the beach that is really good. You can also camp there as long as you like, which is what we did. Unfortunately, it is a bit of a trek to the beach and you have to carry the kit down in a bundle. Keeps you fit!!
Praia Do Baleal, Peniche
Beach faces: North west
Best wind direction: South west
Worst wind direction: North west as bang onshore
Tide: Goes out about 50metres with strong currents at various places in the bay
What’s on the bottom?: Sand and seaweed
Any hazards?: There can be a lot of seaweed to plough through
Other water users: Surfers, kitesurfers and the odd swimmer
Suitability/levels: Adventurous intermediate to expert
Wipeout factor: High. If there is swell about then it is a peeling beach break that can be quite hollow and tricky to get over! The wave is a definite mast snapper. If the swell is small, it is fine.
Water state at Baleal
If there is a hint of the cross offshore, south west wind, then it is worth a wobble out making a floaty wave/freestyle wave board very useful. The swells are easy to spot and catch and once you get on a wave it is really smooth and peels nicely for several bottom turns before steepening and breaking. It’s a great place to get aerials. Getting out is tricky so read the sets and time your run out. The wave is better to the right of the bay, but in front of the café and car park can also be very good. Mid tide seemed to provide the best conditions.
Get there early to get a prime spot overlooking the beach. The northern end of the beach picks up the most swell, the southern being the most sheltered.