Tranquility, camaraderie and fun: Why it's hard to beat Portugal's Ericeira Surf House
PUBLISHED: 16:56 05 June 2019 | UPDATED: 16:56 05 June 2019
My epic surf moments are sadly few and far between, but there's something about being faced with either ducking under or trying to catch a wave that's meditative, exhilarating and fun - and that floaty feeling when you do catch one defies description.
Now that my youngest child is 10 I decided it was time to share the joy of surfing with my kids - so we headed to Ericeira, the surfing capital of Portugal.
We rocked up at the Ericeira Surf House, about half an hour's drive north from Lisbon, on a balmy spring evening to a very warm welcome. Set just out of town it had looked good in the pictures we'd seen online - but they don't do justice to the stunning valley view and the tranquillity of the place.
It was set up five years ago by Dutch trio, Erwin, Noora and Ray, and everything here is geared towards making it as easy as possible for you to get in the water with the least amount of hassle.
There's a storeroom with wetsuits and boards, and you can borrow their bikes equipped with surf racks to get to the beach. Teachers from Surfriders school collect willing participants on site daily in their minibus.
There's a swimming pool and sun loungers for sunny days and a weekly yoga class in the garden to help you nimble up.
While I could also tell that Noora, who I'd been liaising with by email was very friendly, each of the hosts makes an effort to personally welcome each new guest, and their warmth is infectious.
Many of the guests are travelling alone, but within no time at all it's as if everyone's an old friend.
Although I was the only parent during our time at the lodge, there was no cliqueyness and my kids and I were made to feel super welcome.
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There's always someone on hand to serve food, drinks and coffee in the outdoor bar, and three times a week a communal meal is served here for a bargain 10€. There's homemade pizza on Sunday, Tex Mex on Tuesday and a BBQ Thursday.
On other nights you can use the communal kitchen, and by the end of the first day - having bonded over surfing - there's some real camaraderie going on with people making dinner together.
The waves were quite big on our first day surfing so we were taken to the Lizandro beach break that's closest to the villa. There's a mix of absolute beginners and improvers, so we split into two classes and drill our take off while lying on the boards in the sand, trying to jump to our feet as fast as possible.
I feel my children are in safe hands with the teachers, and by the end of two hours in the water everyone has managed to stand up on their boards.
The second day with a calmer sea we are taken to the Matadouro reef, where the small clean waves are perfect for everyone.
Jeff from the house takes pictures of everyone in the surf on our third day with his high powered lens camera, which are used as teaching tools at a mammoth two-hour theory lesson given by instructor Sansão. He passes on safety tips about rip tides and how to increase your stamina if you get held by a wave underwater.
Although it generated a few laughs, it's looking at the pictures of everyone's stance which I found most helpful.
It helped me visualise that your body must be facing forward, ready to be aggressive with the wave if needs be - and stuck with me the next time we got in the sea. The Ericeira Surf House has captured something unique - from the tranquil location, the camaraderie, and the fun of the surf.
It's a bargain too. A seven night package including three two-hour lessons, a theory lesson, breakfast and three meals costs from €369.