Leça da Palmeira, Portugal: the roots of European surfing

The history of surfing in Portugal has just changed radically. The first waves ridden with a board have been filmed between 1926 and 1927, in Leça da Palmeira, in the north of the country.


Twenty eight seconds have changed the history of surfing in Portugal and in the world. A black and white movie has been brought to public attention, showing a group of men riding white water waves, with bellyboards, in the beach of Leça da Palmeira, near Porto.

The documentary film was stored in the National Archive of Moving Images, in Bucelas, and clearly shows 12 intrepid sea challengers enjoying surf in a big large swell day. It appears they are holding alaias in their hands.

Quite possibly, the surf film was shot by the cinematographic services of the Portuguese army, a division created in the early 20th century to capture the country's involvement in World War I.

The oldest known surf film in Europe was supposed to be registered in Cornwall, between 1929 and 1931, but this new revelation promises to put Portugal in the history books of international surfing.

The city of Porto, near Leça da Palmeira Beach, has always welcomed a strong English community of wine business men, teachers and artists. In fact, it is possible that the group of bellyboarders is British.

Leça da Palmeira is a multiple-peak beach break open to regular northwest Atlantic Ocean swell. The spot is home to the heaviest waves in Portugal, as it is strongly exposed to

Watch the full-length movie named "Details of Leça da Palmeira, Matosinhos and Leixões".
The journalistic research of Europe's oldest surf movie was carried by João Macdonald and is available in Portuguese, here.

Did you know that Agatha Christie surfed waves in 1924? Discover the whole surf story.
Learn how the UK surfing history started, circa 1929.