Old Portuguese surf film rewrites the history of surfing

October 2, 2012 | Surfing
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.

Twenty-eight seconds have changed the history of surfing in Portugal and the world.

A black and white movie has been brought to public attention, showing a group of men riding white water waves, with bellyboards, on 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 the surf on a massive 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.

Shot Between 1920 and 1931

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 businessmen, teachers, and artists.

In fact, the group of bellyboarders may be 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, especially during wintertime.

You can watch the full-length movie named "Details of Leça da Palmeira, Matosinhos and Leixões" in cinemateca.pt.

The journalistic research of Europe's oldest surf movie was carried by João MacDonald and is available in Portuguese.

Did you know that Agatha Christie learned to surf in 1922? Learn how the UK surfing history started, circa 1929.