Europe’s surfing capital
Home of the ASP World Tour Surf Championship, which takes place at the world-famous Ribeira d’Ilhas beach,
is a spectacular destination for surfers and non-surfers alike. In 2011 Ericeira was made a World Surfing Reserve by the Save the Waves Coalition. It is the first and only WSR in Europe and one of only a select few (4 to date) world wide.
Though it is home to no less than 9 top surfing beaches and is close to over 30 other surf spots in the region, Ericeira’s storied past stretches far back into the sands of time.
Located in the municipality of Mafra, Ericeira is only 35 km (22 miles) northwest of Portugal’s capital, Lisbon. Its comfortable climate and beautiful seaside made it a perfect place for the Portuguese royal family to cool their boots during the 19th century. Around 400 years ago, Ericeira even almost had its own “king”, a monk-turned-hermit who physically resembled a former king of Portugal, though the guillotine cut short his reign before it had even started.
Ericeira’s proximity to Lisbon, along with its charms – not least among them its natural beauty – made it an ideal retreat for the capital’s aristocracy, many of whom built homes in the area. But it was Ericeira’s transformation into a commercial port which really put the then tiny village on the map. By the 19th century, Ericeira was the 4th most important seaport in Portugal, though its importance declined with the advent of the railroad. Subsequent developments in the fishing industry made seafood the town’s primary fortune.
Another historical claim to fame is that Ericeira was where the last King of Portugal, Manuel II, left to live a life of exile in London. He narrowly escaped a carload of armed revolutionaries, who arrived on the beach just after the deposed king had disembarked.
During the Second World War Ericeira acquired an international character, with refugees from Poland, Belgium, Germany, France, the Netherlands and Belgium settling there after fleeing Nazi persecution.
Now of course, surfing rules Ericeira and once again foreign tongues mingle with the local Portuguese language. Surfers, bodyboarders, beachgoers and other water sports enthusiasts contribute to a vibrant nightlife during the summer months as does the annual Sumol Summer Fest, a popular reggae music festival. The recent addition of the massive Quiksilver Boardriders store, featuring its own skateboard park, further solidifies Ericeira as a Mecca of surfing and other board sports.
For more information on all things Ericeira, check out the Ericeira Blog (in English, French and Portuguese) and this short film on Ericeira travel by filmmaker Mark Waters, which highlights surfing and the village’s traditional fishing industry. It’s a great introduction to this beautiful place.