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+ Very consistent swells
+ Uncrowded quality waves
+ Good pointbreaks
+ Nearby islands for futher exploration
- Constantly changing conditions
- Scary reefbreaks
- Cool, wet climate
- Hard access to many spots

Sao Miguel, Azores, EUROPE

Rabo de Peixe, Dan Haylock

Surf Spots

Baixa de Viola
Santa Iria
Monte Verte
Santa Barbara
Rabo de Peixe
Mosteiros Right
Mosteiros Left
Praia dos Mosteiros
Santa Clara
Santa Cruz/Lagoa
Agua de Alto
Vila Franca
Ponta Garca
Ribeira Quente Left
Ribeira Quente Right
Faja do Araujo

The Surf

When compared to the Indian and Pacific Oceans, the Atlantic contains very few islands. The Mid-Atlantic ridge, an underwater volcanic mountain chain, runs the entire length of the Atlantic Ocean, but only breaks the surface in a few places. The nine islands of the Azores sit 1300k’s (800mi) west of Lisbon, and actually include Portugal’s highest peak on the island of Pico. Although they should be easy to spot, sailors referred to The Azores as ‘the Disappearing Isles’ because of the huge swells that would obscure them from view. It is this kind of reputation that is attracting the seasoned surf traveller to these virgin, wave-drenched shores. These islands are split into 3 groups: occidental (Corvo, Flores), central (Faial, Pico, Terceira, São Jorge, Graciosa) and oriental (Sta Maria, São Miguel). São Miguel is the most populated and most visited island with the only N-facing beach breaks in the chain. Surfing was introduced to the islands by Marines from the US army base in Faial in the 60’s, however the local waveriding population is still small. As Sao Miguel is open to most swells and wind patterns, there is almost always a spot that will be working. Being volcanic, the island has steep cliffs which plunge straight into the sea and stretches of coast have the wrong topography for surfing.

S‹o Miguel is the biggest island and home to the most surfers. It is the only island in the chain with north-facing beachbreaks at Ribeira Grande and probably has the greatest variety of surf spots. Both the western and eastern ends of SaoS‹o Miguel are very cliffy as the land drops away sharply from the volcanic peaks that used to be two separate islands. This means the centre of the island is lower and allows for the beaches to form on the north and south coasts. Big waves in heavy water situations characterise the north coasts of the Azores and SaoS‹o Miguel has its share, but few are surfed and many are at the base of cliffs and only accessible by boat Ð Baixa de Viola being the exception. Rabo de Peixe now breaks inside the harbour wall that destroyed a better reef outside but it is still a focal point for winter swells thanks to ease of access and ride compared to the many unridden breaks visible from the cliffs. Mosteiros has the only regularly surfed breaks out west and nothing much happens on the SW coast until Ponta Delgada. Populo is just that, perfectly named as the city beach where everyone learns to surf. With a wide swell window and adaptable sandbanks, it gets especially good on summer S swells. The south coast has way more accessible breaks and fewer surfers riding them, all the way out to the heavy seawall breaks at Ribeira Quente. The east coast is a let down except for the rare challenging lefts of Faja do Araujo. This island is pretty flexible and should be considered a year-round destination with its mix of big swell reefs and exposed summer beachbreaks.

When to Go

Being located right in the middle of the Atlantic, the Azores are pounded by heaps of lows, bringing with them regular swell. Being so close to the weather systems can mean short duration, disorganised swells, plus the rain that accompanies the fronts. In the wintertime, fishermen turn to farming because the sea becomes too unpredictable. During the summer, lows take a higher track across the Atlantic, meaning better weather and more organised but weaker swells. Winter gets many 4-15ft (1.5-5m) swells from the nearby lows which deepen as they travel towards Europe. The best situation is when the lows sit off Nova Scotia to the northwest. Spring and autumn are the best bet to get medium-sized clean swells. Conditions change very quickly - stay alert and be prepared to switch to different sides of the island. Wind direction varies greatly, but strong SW is the dominant direction. Winds blow more from the S-SW in winter and N-NW in summer. Tides don’t change much, 5ft (1.5m) max.

dominant swell NW -N NW -N NW -N NW -N NW -N NW -N
swell size (ft) 6 5-6 4-5 3 5 6
consistency (%) 70 60 60 50 70 60
dominant wind S -NW S -NW SW -N W -NE SW -N S -NW
average force F5 F5 F4 F3 F4 F4
consistency (%) 65 63 61 59 56 53
water temp (C) 16 17 18 22 22 19
wetsuit 3/2 3/2 3/2 springsuit springsuit 3/2
San miguel - 130,000

165km (100mi)


Travel Information


The Azores high is a bit of a misnomer, as the weather here is anything but settled and stable. It is more accurate to refer to a warm season and a cool season because lows sweep over the Azores constantly - almost every day sees some rain. Summer is mainly sunny and warm, winter is usually cool, windy and wet. Autumn, is the best time with ample swell and reasonable weather. Watertemps don’t drop below 16°C (60°F). You’ll need a light fullsuit for most of the year and a springsuit for July-Aug.


Most tourists come to trek around the Sete Cidades Caldeira, (volcanic lake), and bathe in the Furnas hot springs, watch whales and enjoy the architecture of the old towns. Ponta Delgada is a laid back city with a nice atmosphere and a slow pace of life. Don’t expect great nightlife.


Most reefs are sharp with uneven lava bottoms. Your main concern is going to be timing your trip to correspond with good weather and clean swell. Most of the local surfers are bodyboarders and don’t bother getting up for the early.


Bring at least two boards, including a semi-gun. Local surf shops sell little but wax and leashes. Terceira and São Jorge have good exposed NE shores, which hide some decent waves on bigger swells. Be cool to the locals and they might share their secrets with you.