Portugal is fast becoming a European mecca for surfers. KIMBERLEY BARBER visits Martinhal Beach Resort and Hotel to take the plunge and try out the sport.
Rugged, windswept but insanely beautiful, Martinhal is billed as the leading family resort in Europe.
Think north Cornwall on a beautiful summer’s day and then multiply that experience by two and you’ll have some kind of idea of the wonderfulness of this Portugese gem.
It’s not just families that can enjoy Martinhal. As a couple we’d signed up to take advantage of the wide range of sports on offer.
With regular sports-focused weekends throughout the winter, we decided to break our surfing duck and learn while catching a few autumn rays.
That’s why I found myself zipped into a wetsuit and paddling frantically as waves crashed over me.
Carlos, a 38-year-old schoolteacher and part-time surf instructor, had given up his Sunday to take my partner and I, plus a family from Switzerland, out to experience surfing.
We were all novices and Carlos had the patience of a saint as he talked us through how to stand up on our boards.
Once in the water, and having caught my first wave, all the instruction was forgotten with the rush of racing along the ocean to the shore.
However, not one to give up easily, I was straight back out battling against the waves to catch my next adrenaline rush.
As the waves became more powerful, it took all my strength not to be sucked in and pushed back with every step I took into the ocean.
That’s when Carlos called lunchtime and said we’d check out some of the other numerous bays in the region to find one with less powerful waves.
That’s the beauty of this spot, situated on the very pinnacle of Europe – you have choice.
There are more than 20 beaches within a 20-minute radius, from ones that stretch out for miles with golden sand and dunes, to others with rocks and pools that would make great sites for exploration. The choice is vast.
As it benefits from having both a west and a south coast, the surf conditions can vary greatly – as we discovered when we called in to our next bay and the ocean was so flat it was almost glass-like.
So we stopped at a beautiful little Portuguese restaurant for a well-earned ice cream and coffee, before heading on to the next beautiful bay where the conditions were just right.
There we spent the rest of the day in the warm water, having the time of our lives.
The two teenagers from the Swiss family, were happy and enjoying themselves (a rarity for teenagers), while their dad Eric managed to perfect the art of surf cool and stand up on his board for a few seconds before splashing back into the ocean.
After our day out on the waves, we were whacked. But luckily Martinhal has a gorgeous bijou surf bar, complete with hammock and VW camper van, for the newly-crowned surf dudes to enjoy some delicious cocktails and regale each other with tales of courage about our personal battles with the sea.
The hotel rooms were just as gorgeous, with every attention to detail thought of.
A list of activities as long as your arm were taking place every day, so we were spoilt for choice - with zumba, yoga, stand-up paddle boarding, kayaking and sailing, there was something for everyone.
With views looking out over the stretching coast, it was easy to see how Martinhal has won awards.
I would go as far as to say that it was one of the best holidays I’ve ever been on.
Martinhal Beach Resort and Hotel, in Sagres, Portugal, offers a seven-night package from €83 per adult per night half-board in hotel room (partial sea view maximum two adults).
Additional child up to 12 years old and one child up to two years can stay with parents free of charge.
There is a complimentary kids club between November 2 and March 26.
Villas with one, two and three bedrooms are also available. For prices go online at martinhal.com or call +351 282 240 200