Nomalite presents

The Best of Two Extremes

Suggested gear for a 3-week surf trip in a Europe’s best reef breaks.

Ferrol, Galicia 5:47 am.

I unzip the front door of my tent and a drop of water drips on my forehead – good morning. It must have been another cool, wet Galician night outside my quarters.

With eyes still half-shut, I rub my eyelids – moving away pieces of dream.

The still dim light outside tells me in a natural manner what the clock would otherwise do with needless precision – the sun is yet to rise. I disregard the molecules of laziness telling me to slip back into the sleeping bag and walk towards the fire, which has held its heat throughout the night.

I reach for the pile of sticks laying next to the pit, grab the less humid pieces available, and use my Neandertal skills to produce flames.

While the coffee is brewing, I tip-toe back to the tent to avoid getting my socks wet – and I reach for my backpack in one of the corners, grabbing my travel notebook. Just like photographers have golden hours, I like to write before the sun comes out.

There is something about the moment before daybreak that captivates me, even if it isn’t golden.

So I write:

May 2nd. Ferrol, Galicia, Spain.
Still no sign of waves. Nature is abundant, air is fresh, beaches and hills are both picturesque and verdant. But still, no waves.”

We have been camping on a hilltop overlooking the sea somewhere outside the ghostly town of Ferrol for days.

This was meant to be a three-week road trip along Galicia’s wild, rugged coastlines, searching for waves, beautiful spots to camp, as well as to understand a bit more about this secluded and unheard of culture in northwestern Spain.

So far, we had found all of the above… but no waves – which has made us reconsider our plan.

The others rise from their portable homes.

Witnessing that nothing happened with the swell, sit by the fire to sip on coffee and discuss an alternative.

At some point in the conversation, with all gazes pinned to the map that balanced atop someone’s travel pillow, a voice mutters “let’s go to Portugal”. It was strange that we hadn’t yet thought of this.

Perhaps we wanted to dig into Galicia’s peculiarities so bad that our desire ended up limiting our chance to see (and feel) all shades of gray out there.

We gather our surf knowledge about Europe (which isn’t much) and agree that if we are to find waves in Portugal, it will be in Sagres.

Enveloped by the feeling of ‘no time to waste’, we pack our tents and get ready to leave that very night. As soon as the sun goes down, we set off southbound on the E1, towards Santiago de Compostela and onward to Portuguese lands.

According to our estimates, if we drive all night at a comfortable pace, we will get to Sagres just in time for sunrise. The road is as plain and straight as they come. By rolling down the windows I can sense a variation in the humidity of the air and, consequently, on the landscape.

A couple of hours into Portugal and we pass through the outskirts of Porto – its craggy terrain dotted with rundown buildings give the city a bohemian air, while the Douro River welcomes the fresh Atlantic breeze glowing with the esplanade’s spotlights.

Since time is of the essence, we choose to go around Lisbon and deviate from the temptation of indulging on the charisma of Portugal’s capital. It is still dark outside when we enter the region of the Algarve – one of the country’s finest; and by the time we reach Sagres, the sky begins to shift from pitch black to a dark tone of blue.

At once, we drive away from the town center.

We choose a spot on one of the many barren cliff edges that surround the area from where to watch the sunrise.

While I would have normally grabbed my notebook to jot down the night’s highlights, this time I prefer to open my padfolio and play around with a set of watercolors, in a humble attempt to depict what I see.

A salty breeze strikes my nostrils.

It comes from the sea and yet doesn’t feel humid at all. Or at least not compared to the mugginess of Galicia. While looking out to sea, a deep confidence takes over me.

This abrupt change of air, environment, and mindset seems to be exactly what we needed.

Everyone has subtle, honest smiles on their faces: the hallmark on a hopeful stoke over the prospect of waves, and novelty.

I take advantage of the moment to suggest that we gather what is left of our motivation to drive and find a beach with something that resembles a wave, so to wash off the dust from the road.

That’s it. This must be the place.

All of us had heard about Praia do Castelejo, a few kilometers northwest of Sagres – so that is where we go.

As we pull up to the car park, lines of swell define their formation on the water’s surface.

I wrap myself on my microfiber towel and slip into my wetsuit at record speed.

With gaze fixed at the lineup, I grab my travel toiletry bag – which is now our communal ‘surf pack’, filled with sunscreen, lip balms, and wax – and rub some zinc on my face.

Once we hit the brine, all our worries and anxieties vanish. It is safe to say that the dry, hot air of southern Portugal is much more inviting for a Spring dip than the shivering humid air of Galicia.

Hence, we had made the right decision to hit the road.

 After the surf session, we head back into town to find a cafe. With salty skin, we take another look at the map, check the swell charts, and discuss our course of action for the next few days, all while luxuriating on a Pastel de Belém.

Image credits: Michael (@basedxmichael), Anja (@anja_r), Mike Wilson (@mkwlsn)

About the author

For the past 10 years, Kim has been living off his backpack and exploring the interrelations between places & people from different corners of the globe, as a means to defy preconceptions and unveil meaningful connections within nature. Meanwhile, he writes surf-related articles, travel memoirs, and researched essays that conjoin his personal experiences with sociocultural and environmental peculiarities from the places he visited. To know more about Kim, visit his Instagram feed!