North of Portugal: the region delivers perfect waves for all bodyboarding levels | Photo: Shutterstock

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.

The Portuguese coastline, with its almost 1,800 kilometers of sand, offers a wide variety of different beaches and hidden corners where you can put your bodyboarding skills to test.

The northern coast is one of the country's most underrated regions, especially when it comes to riding waves.

The region has plenty of desert beaches punctuated by stunning dune systems. Although the average air and water temperatures are lower than in the south, the northerners have plenty of surf breaks to improve their artistry.

Take a look at the seven best spots for bodyboarding in the North of Portugal. They are all located less than an hour's drive away from the trendy and cosmopolitan city of Porto.

 

Arda Beach | Viana do Castelo

Praia da Arda: a popular venue for international bodyboarding events | Photo: Surf Club de Viana

Let's kick off our surfing adventure up in the north, almost near the Spanish border, where international bodyboarding events have been taking place for decades.

Welcome to Praia da Arda. This beach break has been the center stage of many world and European championships. Wave power, consistency, multiple peaks, and a large lineup field are some of its finest and most interesting qualities.

On spring and summer days, when there's less swell hitting the Portuguese coast, Arda Beach is one of the best choices to catch waves in the far north of Portugal.

Due to its geographic location, the swell here arrives with a little bit more consistency than other beaches. But be cautious: when the swell builds, waves have twice the usual power, and strong currents take over.

 

Ofir Beach | Esposende

Ofir: a jetty break that produces long right-handers | Photo: Restivo/Creative Commons

As you drive south toward Porto, you'll find Praia de Ofir, a great boogie spot for days when North Atlantic swells invade the Portuguese coast at full power.

Praia de Ofir is relatively easy to find. Just look for three huge residential buildings built right in front of the beach.

Here, when the sandbanks are fully aligned, you can enjoy two different peaks. The most consistent one is located on the left side of the local jetty.

It's a consistent point break that will offer you long rights on low tide, allowing for several maneuvers in the same wave.

During mid-tide and high tide, the peak morphs dramatically into a fun shore break that invites you for one or two tricks per ride.

There is also another cool spot right in front of the three concrete towers pumping a few good left-handers that peel smoothly from out-the-back to the shore.

But you can also opt for getting the most out of the multiple peaks that appear along the beach.

Before leaving the Ofir Beach, don't forget to enjoy a cup of coffee along with the typical local delicacy - "Clarinhas de Fão" - in a nearby coffee shop.

 

Mindelo Beach | Vila do Conde

Mindelo: a surfing and bodyboarding spot that changes dramatically fast | Photo: SurferToday.com

Welcome to one of the most popular bodyboarding spots in the north of Portugal.

Located just 25 kilometers north of Porto, Mindelo has been the training ground for some of the best Portuguese bodyboarders.

Although it can be considered a temperamental wave that changes quickly with subtle changes in swell direction, wind, and tide, Mindelo offers spectacular barrels and vertical ramps for air specialists.

This beach break produces a slab-type, envelope wave that breaks near the shore, especially during mid-to-high tide.

Make sure to respect the "Mindelo Boys," a tight group of surfers and bodyboarders formed in the early 1990s that has been ruling the break ever since.

After the session, head over to "Fernando," officially named Café Mar À Vista, for the best pint of beer in the world.

 

Leça da Palmeira Beach | Matosinhos

Leça da Palmeira: a powerful beach break on the outskirts of Porto | Photo: SurferToday.com

The fishing town of Matosinhos has dozens of beaches and surf spots for all levels of experience.

Leça da Palmeira is one of them. And it is also a historical place. The oldest known surf film in Europe was shot here between 1926 and 1927. The footage shows a group of men riding white water waves with bellyboards.

But make no mistake. In perfect days, this is one of the most challenging beach breaks in Portugal. Leça is directly exposed to the Atlantic northwest swells and produces pounding surf.

When it gets huge, the only ones out there are bodyboarders. And if you get lucky, you might even spot a former world champion with his eyes on the horizon, paddling for a beast right next to you.

Can you guess who he is?

 

Azul Beach | Espinho

Praia Azul: the beach is located north of the Espinho main jetty | Photo: WSL

The coastal town of Espinho has several above-average bodyboarding spots, and it is the center stage of many international surfing and longboarding contests.

Get ready for long and hollow right-handers breaking close to the jetties. They're unquestionably the main attraction, but there are also pristine shore breaks for the specialists.

Praia Azul is one of them. Located in the north of Espinho, on the right side of the central city jetty - which sits in front of the Casino and the hotels - this spot can be entertaining but, at the same time, extremely dangerous.

To get things right, paddle out on a medium swell, when waves are not too big and not too small. Here, one of the most important elements to take into consideration is the sand bottom, which must be perfectly aligned and without any deep variations.

If the depth is too accentuated, the waves won't probably break as they should and won't provide the ideal conditions for bodyboarders.

But, when the bottom is steady, the wind is offshore, and the swell is pumping in the right direction, you'll surely enjoy an unforgettable session.

 

Paramos Beach ("A Capela") | Espinho

Praia de Paramos: you'll find waves north and south of the chapel

As we continue our journey south, we reach a small village called Paramos. The local beach is located west of the military base, and northwest of the Espinho Aerodrome.

You'll see a small church - the Chapel of Our Lady of Aparecida - built on the beach and overlooking the ocean.

The peak, also known as "A Capela," stays in the middle of two different bodyboarding spots. It's a beach break that shifts, depending on the alignment of the sandbars.

The north side offers you a long left-hander that starts breaking out-the-back toward the jetty, and a good right-hand wave that kicks off near the jetty at Paramos Beach.

On the opposite side - south of the chapel - and near the south jetty, you might be lucky with a powerful left that occasionally appears in the shore break.

Because sand is always moving and changing position throughout the year, conditions will vary from week to week.

If you continue traveling south, you'll certainly find heaven in a few perfect and alternative bodyboarding spots. Esmoriz, Cortegaça, and Maceda are some of them.

These beaches are also known for their quality sandbanks and consistency - especially during small-to-medium swells - and they are popular second choices when the northern coast is flat.

 

Costa Nova Beach | Ílhavo

Praia da Costa Nova: there's plenty of swell here

The city of Aveiro is known for its delicious pastry and bakery products. The world famous sweet eggs - in Portuguese, "ovos moles"- are a local delicacy made of egg yolks and sugar.

But Aveiro also has a long coastline called "Costa de Prata" (Silver Coast) with several surf breaks that deserve a close inspection.

Each spot has its unique bodyboarding specifications, but they all break over a consistent sand bottom.

With its gorgeous beaches and waterfront houses with original striped facades, Costa Nova is a popular surfing, bodyboarding, windsurfing, and kiteboarding destination.

At the end of the A25 highway, you'll find Praia da Barra. Turn left and, less than a kilometer away, you'll see a few small jetties.

The wave riding opportunities are right there, in front of the vibrantly colored houses. The place has everything a bodyboarder needs to be happy - powerful waves, shallow tubes, and punchy ramps - particularly on offshore/glassy days.

You'll need to paddle out for a while, but it's definitely worth it. You'll catch the finest waves during low tide; when the sea level rises, fat and mushy waves become more difficult to ride.

 

The best time to explore northern Portugal's bodyboarding spots is between the end of summer and the end of spring. Get on the surf trip of a lifetime.

If you need a private bodyboarding coach, Nuno Beleza will guide you through the best surf breaks for bodyboarders in the North of Portugal.


Words by Nuno Beleza | Author and Private Bodyboarding Coach | aprenderbodyboard @ gmail.com