Jardim do Mar: a perfect right-hander | Photo: Stefanie Kurtz/Creative Commons

The archipelago of Madeira is comprised of four groups of islands: the main island of Madeira, Porto Santo, the Desert Islands, and the Savage Islands. It is located 400 kilometers north of Tenerife, and 1200 kilometers southwest of mainland Portugal.

Madeira enjoys a Mediterranean climate, and it is the outermost region of the European Union. The region was "found" in 1419 by Henry the Navigator, a famous Portuguese ocean explorer.

The island of Madeira is the result of volcanic eruptions that took place over five million years ago. The average yearly temperature in the territory is of 19.5°C (67.3°F).

The Portuguese archipelago lives and breathes tourism, as it represents roughly 20 percent of the island's gross domestic product (GDP). Surf tourism, however, is a relatively recent Cinderella story.

Madeira: a big wave surf destination | Photo: ASM

The first surfers touched Madeira in the 1970s, and unveiled the archipelago's potential to the world. Multiple circumstances kept surfing in Madeira hidden and unexplored. But everything's changing, and the "pearl of the Atlantic" is rising from the ashes of its volcanic origins.

The best surf spots in Madeira are located in the western coast of the main island. The Madeira Surfing Association released a pocket guide with the island's top 11 wave peaks.

On the southwestern side, you'll find five spectacular breaks that love NE winds. Jardim do Mar is one them. It is probably the most famous spot in Madeira, but only intermediate and advanced surfers will tame it.

A few kilometers north, there are three world-class waves: Ponta Pequena, Paul do Mar, and Fajã da Ovelha. When the N/NW/W ground swells arrive, there will be surf in the 6-to-15-foot range. Ponta do Pargo, though, can pump bigger waves, sometimes in the 50-foot mark.

Ponta do Pargo: a breathtaking view over the surf | Photo: Allie Caulfield/Creative Commons

The northwestern side of Madeira offers two fabulous breaks on your way to the small town of Porto Moniz: Achadas da Cruz and Porta do Tristão. Both spots work well in low tide.

If you're on the north side of the island, and if you're still catching your first waves, head to Fajã da Areia, a surf spot that is often working and delivering waves in the one-to-six-foot range. For point break enthusiasts, there's Ribeira da Janela, Contreiras, and Esquerda de S. Vicente.

Madeira is still an uncrowded surf destination. Respect the locals, and you'll enjoy the rides of a lifetime.

A Quick Guide to Surfing in Madeira | The 11 Surf Spots

Jardim do Mar: Swell N/NW/W | Wind NE | Low Tide | Level Intermediate/Advanced
Ponta Pequena: Swell N/NW/W | Wind NE | Low Tide | Level Intermediate/Advanced
Paul do Mar: Swell N/NW/W | Wind NE | High Tide | Level Intermediate/Advanced
Fajã da Ovelha: Swell N/NW | Wind NE | Low Tide | Level Advanced
Ponta do Pargo: Swell N/NW | Wind NE | Low Tide | Level Intermediate/Advanced
Achadas da Cruz: Swell N/NW/W | Wind ENE/NO | Low/Medium Tide | Level Intermediate
Porta do Tristão: Swell N/NW | Wind SW/W/NO | Low Tide | Level Advanced
Ribeira da Janela: Swell N/NW | Wind SW/W | Low Tide | Level Intermediate/Advanced
Contreiras: Swell N/NW/W | Wind SW/W | Low Tide | Level Intermediate/Advanced
Esquerda de S. Vicente: Swell N/NW/W | Wind SW/W | Low Tide | Level Intermediate/Advanced
Fajã da Areia: Swell N/NW/W/NE | Wind SW/W/N | Low/Medium/High Tide | Level Beginner/Intermediate/Advanced

Madeira: the best surfs in the island | Illustration: ASM