Viana do Castelo: one of the bodyboarding capitals of the world | Photo: To Mané/SCV

Viana do Castelo plays a historical role in the development and history of professional bodyboarding.

Located in the northwest of Portugal, Viana do Castelo is a laid-back coastal city surrounded by plenty of beach breaks and few point breaks.

The region is also home to one of the best and most popular windsurfing and kitesurfing spots in the Iberian Peninsula - Praia do Cabedelo.

Here, water sports participants can also improve their fitness and technical skills at the Surf High-Performance Center, an environmentally friendly, high-tech training camp equipped with bedrooms, medical office, massage, recovery rooms, lounge areas, etc.

From a wave riding perspective, the northern beaches of Portugal have always been underrated and mostly unexplored.

Surf Clube de Viana: The Driving Force

Nevertheless, the connection of Viana with bodyboarding is an old one and dates back to the mid-1990s.

In 1994, and four years after opening the first surfing and bodyboarding schools in Portugal, Surf Clube de Viana (SCV) was able to organize the first world tour event outside Hawaii.

In fact, the event took place during the International Morey Boogie Bodyboard Pro Championships era (1982-1994), before the GOB, IBA and APB World Tours.

Praia da Arda: a beach break heaven offering multiple peaks | Photo: To Mané/SCV

"In the previous year, Surf Club de Viana had successfully organized an ASP World Tour stage. Bodyboard was growing, so we decided to invest in a world cup event," Guilherme Bastos, former president of the Portuguese Surfing Federation, once told Diario de Notícias.

"It cost us the equivalent to €50,000. Back then, it was a fortune, and was fully paid by the municipality of Viana do Castelo."

The "Demonstration" Event

Guilherme Tâmega ended up winning the first ever international bodyboarding contest and, at the end of the year, he clinched the world title.

So, in 1994, Tâmega became the first Brazilian bodyboarder to win a world bodyboarding trophy. The year also marked a turning point in the Mike Stewart domination era.

However, the wonder kid from Copacabana had not exactly won an "official" competition.

"To our surprise, we were informed that the Viana event did not count toward the world tour rankings. It was only a 'demonstration,' contest" Bastos revealed.

Viana do Castelo, 1995: Guilherme Tâmega greets his opponent | Photo: SCV

But history was in the making and, in 1995, the GOB World Tour kicked off a new period in professional bodyboarding that would include Viana do Castelo in the official calendar as one of the most prestigious European contests.

Three years later, in 1998, the Portuguese city would also be included in the European Tour of Bodyboard (ETB) schedule, cementing Viana as one of the bodyboarding capitals of the world.

"The connection between Viana do Castelo and bodyboarding is historical because it hosted the first ever world tour event outside of Hawaii," notes Terry McKenna, APB World Tour manager.

"But the beauty of this place and the quality of the local waves are also really beneficial to a contest like this. The team behind SCV is one of the most professional we have work with on the APB World Tour."

Today, the Viana World Bodyboard Championship is held at Praia da Arda, near Afife, and just four miles away from the Viana do Castelo city center.

Portugal is known worldwide for its beautiful beaches, food, historical monuments, nice weather, and friendly people. But the westernmost European country is also a popular wave riding destination.

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