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+ Very consistent swells
+ Uncrowded quality waves
+ Good pointbreaks
+ Nearby islands for futher exploration
- Changeable 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

Despite holding Portugal’s highest peak, sailors referred to The Azores as ‘The Disappearing Isles’ because huge swells would obscure them from view. This kind of reputation is attracting the seasoned surf traveller to these wave-drenched shores. São Miguel is open to most swells and wind patterns, with the only N-facing beachbreaks in the chain, which have become a regular contest site for the world’s pros.

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

The Azores High is the major meteorological factor and if strongly established will hold off any storms from swinging straight over the top of the islands. This means 4-15ft winter swells usually arrive from the W-NW and slowly shift to N and then NE, before the next system moves through. Summer can see freak long-distance S swells all the way from the southern hemisphere or lined-up hurricane swell from the SW, along with localised windswells from just about any direction. Being so close to the systems means winds can be strong and variable, veering SW-W in winter and W-NW in summer. Swells are a bit raw and disorganised, jumping in size with little warning. Tides shift between 1.4m to 1.9m, but will affect many of the shallow reefs, while the beaches and points are generally unfazed.

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 when 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. Water temps stay above 14°C and below 25ºC (58-77°F). Light fullsuit or a springsuit for June-Oct.


Most tourists come to trek around the Sete Cidades Caldeira, (volcanic lake), bathe in the Furnas hot springs or watch whales. Ponta Delgada is a laid-back city - don’t expect great nightlife.


Most reefs are sharp with uneven lava bottoms. Jellyfish can be a problem in summer on the south coast. 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. Be cool to the locals and they might share their secrets with you.