WSR - Cabo Mondego


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Quality and Consistency: 

Cabo Mondego Surf Zone includes three main areas: Noth, Bay and South.

On the north side of Cabo Mondego, at the base of Boa Viagem sierra,  Murtinheira is a beachbreak that picks up any existing swell and has unique wind conditions.
Fast and hollow waves, both right and left handers, break over the sandbanks, offering from small performance waves to overhead powerfull barrels.
Best season would be fall, although perfect sessions happen throughout the year.

On the bay, south of Cabo Mondego, the right hand pointbreak forms along a 2Km long bay.  The break is regarded as the longest point break in Europe. The wave shape and its sections depend deeply on the sand movements and how it forms the bottom of the irregular bay rocky structure.
From north to south, Buarcos consists on the following main sections: Mina, Teimoso, Pedra Grande, Bali, Costa, Playground, Tamargueira and Medroa. Each of these sections can easily stretch for 200m and offer multiple barrels as well as long workable walls on each ride. On rare occasions the wave can link all these sections offering up to one kilometer rides.

The point works with swells that range from under head high up to the larger winter Atlantic swells.
Best season goes between September and May, combining larger swells with offshore winds.   

To the south of Mondego river, alongside the jetty, the wave of Cabedelo is a right hand point break known for its consistency.
Over a sand bottom, this performance wave starts with a tube section on the take off and walls up several sections all the way to shore. This wave works from knee high to massive big surf at the end of the jetty.
Best season goes between September and May, combining larger swells with offshore winds. 

Along with this main waves there are several secret spots as well as occasional spots offered by transient sandbanks combining in this surf zone a rich variety of conditions for consistent high quality surf.

Unique Environmental Characteristics: 

Cabo Mondego is an important cape located on the Portuguese coast, at the westerner atlantic front of continental europe. The cape got its name from the largest national river at the south side of the bay were the rock bottom ends. The Cape is formed by the western edge of Serra da Boa Viagem’s mountain, with 40m high cliffs hanging over the sea, at 40º 11´ 3´´ N latitude and 08º 54´34´´W longitude, three kilometers north of Figueira da Foz, a city known as a touristic summer destination for the quality of its beaches.

 “...In an extension of about 200 km of coastline, Serra da Boa Viagem (or Cabo Mondego) is for anyone who navigates in the open sea, the only major relief to stand out on the coast, across that extension of low and shifting sands. " (Celestino Maia). It is a small massif of 6 to 7 Km in length with general East-West orientation, perpendicular to the coast, on which advances in promontory ...From the north side, the transition to land low and sandy shore is sudden. View from that point it rises abruptly and almost majestic, constituting a major barrier to the winds that go down, without embarrassment, along the coastline. The beach owes its amenity to this powerful rampart…” in Guia De Portugal, Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian

The uniqueness of this natural element is augmented by its importance as a geological monument, since along the cape cliffs we can find the biggest Jurassic outcrop of Europe. Fossils of ammonites, belemnites, lamp shells and bivalves and dinosaur footprints are frequent throughout Cabo Mondego. Because of its geological characteristics, Cabo Mondego profile is recognized as the most representative example of the Aalenian-bojacian passage (176 to 179 million years). It is on the beach of Murtinheira, at the north area of Cabo Mondego, that is located at the stratotype of Bajocian, regarded internationally as the best outcrop to the establishment of GSPS (Global Boundary Stratotype Section and Point).

The mineral richness of the cape is also recognized from long ago. Coal fossil exploitation had its heyday by 1920, but references can be found that date back to the 18th century. Inside the old mine, at a depth 297m, a sulfuric thermal water fountain was discovered, with high therapeutic potential but that never has been explored for clinical use. Unfortunately, however, limestone exploitation for the production of hydraulic lime remains active until now. The Mine is also the name of the best right-hander of the entire surf area.

Aware of the importance of Cabo Mondego’s natural history, the Portuguese authorities have ranked it in the “Natura 2000”, followed by a classification as a “Local Relevant Place of Interest”, an initiative of local authorities in 2003. In 2007 Portuguese Government declares Cabo Mondego as a Natural Monument.
The cape has the same geological structure of Serra da Boa Viagem, extending south upon the bay, until the mouth of the river. At the entrance of the river, in a place where an old protection fortress is located (Forte de Sta Catarina), there are still some visible rocky surfaces that accompany the river along its southern bank toward East. If nowadays, these rocky bottoms are less obvious, that is also due to the strong recoil of the sea, consequence of the silting resulting from the construction of the protection jetties built in the 60’s to enable the commercial harbor at the river mouth.

In addition to the environmental and geological characteristics of the place, these natural structures had always an important role in protecting the coast from the North Atlantic swell, which allowed the creation of exceptional conditions at the south side of the bay to enhance man's relationship with the sea. Rocky bottoms that extend to the mouth of the river are today, as they were in the past, a natural sea breaker, a crucial feature for the development of activities linked with the sea, inviting people in ancient times to establish in this place, and settling the bases for today’s local surf community.

Surf Culture, Ocean Culture and Additional History of the Area: 

Found in a famous bay protected by Cabo Mondego and Serra da Boa Viagem, Buarcos is an ancient land of fishermen, merchants and sailors, situated in the heart of the "Mar Portuguez", with a very significant role in the history of Portugal and always present with great emphasis in Portuguese cartography and iconography.

There is not a single “carta purtulano” map, where Buarcos and the Mondego mouth aren't shown as one of the most prominent elements of Portugal seashores and the west peninsula. Some of the most symbolic mentions can be found in the three oldest known “cartas portuguesas” maps: Pedro Reinel, 1492-1504, Jorge de Aguiar, 1492, and anonymous "Modena" by c. 1471. But Buarcos was already present in nautical maps from the 14th century Mediterranean.

It is very curious and should be noted the similarity between the practices of surf with the type of fishing practiced in Buarcos, with half-moon shaped "Sea Boats". In fact, fishermen and portuguese boats devoted to this type of fishing have been practicing, since always, here in Portugal, a kind of SURF “…because its enormous flat bottom boats, crewed by about forty two men, were specially designed and constructed for crossing the curl line when entering the sea (…) and to roll on the wave when returning to the coast…”

Its curious to notice, that to came back to shore, the boats have always used the paths defined by the rocks that had been placed there by nature (called "Buarcos doors").

Afredo Pinheiro Marques, Centro de Estudos do Mar, 2010.


In the first half of the 70’s, at some phases of the year, Figueira was invaded by foreign surfers and their vans lined up at Cabo Mondego Spots. The place was trendy for traveling surfers.” 

In 1973 José Biscaia and João Pitorra were the first locals to experience surfing at Cabedelo. The surfboards were borrowed from the English traveler André Shortland. Back then leg roaps were made out clyster tubes from the nearest drugsote, wax was handmade melting ordinary wax with vaseline,...surfboards were a hard find but once they come in they would be passed hand in hand.
Local surfer community grew along the years based exclusively on amateur surfing and on the respect for the ocean. Some other local surfers built a reputation in this Surf Zone:
-     António Bertier –  founder of Figueira da Foz surf school, made is own school in the water for is amazing wave reading and surf line.
-     António Tomás –  big wave charger and tube rider, hystoric performance at the first national Big wave contest, at Coxos Ericeira.
-     Tonecas – local shaper and waterman since late 70’s.
-     Eurico Gonçalves: founder of Figueira da Foz surf school; 2008 Long board national champion; “SOS save cabedelo” movement founder; Main responsible for the seminar Surf&cidade; ASFF vice president of ASFF.
-     Luis Pereira: Big Wave Charger
-     Ivo Cação: 2007 Junior national champion; Frequently on the pages of European magazines;
-     Ana Adão: 2010 European Bodyboard Champion
-     Miguel Adão: 2009, 2010  Nacional Bodyboard Junior Champion
-     Filipe Brás: 2010 Nacional KayakSurf Champion

The first international surfing contest took place in the same spot were local surf had started. In 1995 the “Figueira Pro 3 star WQS”  was held in Cabedelo being winned Pat O’Conell). One year after, in 1996, Matt Hoy come to Cabedelo to win the first WCT held in Protugal. Untill 2002 three other WCT took place in the very same spot. Following Matt Hoy, Shane Powell (1997), Lisa Anderson (1997), Rob Machado (2000) and Megan Abubo (2002) won in Figueira da Foz. In 2001 Figueira da foz’s WCT was canceled due to the September 11th. Only eight years after was the local community to come up with the Figueira Pro, 6 star WQS. This event, won by Heitor Alves in 2010, was made possible due to the commitment of a local movement brought up against the the construction of the 400 m extension to Mondego’s North Jetty, that was understood as a threat to cabedelo’s pointbreak.  Eurico Gonçalves started this civic movement in order to alert the society for the value of this endangered wave. The movement had its highlight when it gathered over 200 surfers on a human SOS logo in the lineup. But the main achievement of this movement was the union of the local surf community over a project as well as the awareness and support it got from main local authorities.   

In The Winter of 2010  the movement organized the first seminar concerning the impact of surf on the society, discussing society, economics, and breaking through new prospects for the city. For the first time in Portugal, surfers and institutional representatives of harbours, municipalities and tourism had a global overview of the current situation and pointed out guidelines and projects for surf and community development.

The seminar had an outstanding visibility on both regional and national media, and was labeled  has a turning point for Portuguese surfing.

Community Support

Several wave sports are practiced in Cabo Mondego, from surf to kayaksurf passing through skimming, windsurfing, kite surfing and bodyboarding, the community of "users" of these waves is extensive and grows day by day.
Surf industry is growing in Portugal and no other sector present growth rates identical to the ones of Surf. Interestingly, ina country that is peripheral in almost everything, we are extremely central in the surf phenomenon. The direct and indirect effects are shown at the level of employment, sales, taxes collected, local tourism impact and multiplier

effects associated with advertising, marketing, clothes, accessories, boards, championships, Surf schools, surfcamps, industry's profitability, etc.

In the financial and commercial dynamics of the surf industry, the sport practice and competition play a very important role. Only the most competitive agents and territories can attract the best Championships and high competition athletes, with all the associated benefits.

Statistics put surf at the top of the list of online surveys. Hotels, restaurants and all other activities that make their living from tourism, point out its targets for surfing and surfers. The city of Figueira da Foz is no exception and is increasingly betting in surf as an alternative to a seasonal tourism that made this city the "Queen of beaches". The city of Figueira da Foz is well known for its beaches and its hot animated summer nights.
Every summer thousands of people go to Figueira da Foz and during these 3 months (June, July and August) the population nearly triples, reaching roughly 120,000 persons, full booking the hotel capacity which exceeds 10,000 bed units. However, from September on life returns to its normality and local trade suffer the consequences of this "demographic break". Interesting enough, the best time for surfing starts at that precise moment and extends until May/June. Authorities are begining to realize that surf can serve as a vehicle to fight this seasonality. The activities dependent from tourism and the population of Figueira da Foz acknowledge the presence of surfers during autumn and winter, and therefore we can consider that the list of entities who support this project is extensive and intends to increase.

Surf Clubs: Associação de Surf da Figueira da Foz, Associação de Bodyboard da Foz do Mondego, Clube de Surf e Salvamento e Figueira Kayak Clube.

Surfcamps: Careca Surf camp, Figueira Surf camp, Paintshop hostel, Buarcos hostel
 e Foz hollidays

Shapers: Antonio henriques, Gustavo S. Costa (Guru Surfboards), RPF,  Goltziana

Brands: Janga, Driftwood Collective,  No Sugar, iSurf

Surf stores: Zé Surf, Olimpicos, Figueira Radical, Surfing Figueira, Goltziana, Sportzone, Decathlon, Ericeira Surfshop, Quiksilver Technical,  Quiksilver Surfshop                         

Scools: Surfing Figueira, escola de Surf, Kite e Bodyboard, Treino de Surf, Escola de Surf e Bodyboard, Clube de Surf e Salvamento e Figueira Surf Center, escola de kayaksurf

Photo, Video and design: Vitor Rodrigues , Pedro Cruz , João Lobo, João Bracourt, João Serpa, Marcos Charana, João Batata, Ana Batata, Bruno Lucas, Luis Pereira, João Traveira, Rodrigo Bixo, Filipe Brás.

Others: iSurf, EG events, No frangos, Fábrica Mondego

Level of Threat of Surf Zone

Despite ratings and social acknowledgement of the importance of this collective heritage, Cabo Mondego and its geological heritage remain threatened. Within the Jurassic landscape there are formations known as Carbon Complex and Calcareous Hydraulic, which constituted a motive of economic interest that enabled the begining of extractive activities. Mining activity in Cabo Mondego started in 1773 with the extraction of coal at the coal mine of Pedra de Buarcos is recognized as one of the
oldest coal holdings in Portugal (MENDES, 1998).

In the early 19th century the first lime kiln is built, initiating the conversion of Couto Mineiro (industrial complex which explored the coal deposit) to the Industrial Complex of Cabo Mondego, with the installation of industries of lime, ceramics, glass, electricity and cement (MENDES, 1998; SOLLA, 1970; SANTOS, 1982). All extractive activities held at Cabo Mondego resulted in environmental impacts that are clearly visible in the landscape (quarry holes), with risk of landslides throughout its extension, despite that nowadays only one of the three quarries (the North one) is still in operation. In addition to the limitations on the access to this part of the coast (since in addition to manual workers only surfers and fishermen can access to this place) there is no impact to the bottom sea level or to the quality of the spot (SS) next to one of the most impressive rocky outcrops known as pedra-da-nau.

Concerning air pollution and sea contamination the greatest concern is the paper industry located 20 km south of the cape. Despite the high level of control and effort for minimizing the impact on the environment, it is always a potential threat to the ecological balance in this area. The river is also a threat concerning industrial and domestic sewage from east.

Since the quality of the waves depends on the sand bottoms, with or without rocks, the greatest danger is related to the sand movement, in particular by means of changes of the coastline drift.

It is well known, from the ancient use of the river end as a harbor, the navigation problems caused by silting, that soon in the 18th century justified large hydraulic works at the course of the river. But only in the 19th century the river end was the target of a strong intervention that would stabilize the area of Cabedelo and enabled the circulation channel for navigation. However, the problem of silting persisted and get worse, so that in the beginning of the 20th century the harbour even loses its importance.
The successive repairs in the harbor that followed until the 1960s were responsible for the stabilization of the sand banks and enhancing the quality of the wave of cabedelo. The history of local surf with regular practice follows this intervention and begins in this spot. At the end of the 1970s, the position of the coastline had already stabilized after two decades of strong silting in the North side of the jettys, with sediments coming mainly from the coastal north area of the cape. The concentration of surf spots is
located in the northern part of the Bay along the Cape where coastline changes won't have suffered such a powerful impact. Yet there is no memory of quality waves prior to this period, althougt the quality and consistency of the last thirty years already signed up this area in the history of surfing.

In 2010 both jettys were again rearranged, suffering an extension of about 400 m and a rotation of the entrance of the river to the South. Since this is a very recent intervention it is too early to assess the impact of this transformation. We know that the wave of cabedelo will change, but we do not know if it is going to change for worse. Still, we believe that the greatest negative impact will occur on the beaches south of cabedelo, which certainly will be more vulnerable to coastal erosion. Significant negative impacts are not expected in the Bay and at the north side of the cape.