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Porto surf camp: Reaping the joy of the great outdoors on the Portuguese coast

PUBLISHED: 20:51 25 October 2019 | UPDATED: 21:07 25 October 2019

The waves are good for all levels, from beginner to advanced. Picture: iSurf Portugal

The waves are good for all levels, from beginner to advanced. Picture: iSurf Portugal

i surf Portugal

Camping holidays don't have to be hard work, as Emma Bartholomew finds at a family surf camp in the north of Portugal.

Sunset at the family surf camp. Picture: iSurf PortugalSunset at the family surf camp. Picture: iSurf Portugal

Surfing isn't an easy sport to maintain once you have kids. Motherhood personally set me back 17 years, during which time I stopped going entirely.

But it doesn't have to be that way - and the iSurf Portugal team has everything in place to get you in the Atlantic on a board - even with babies and toddlers in tow.

As parents themselves, Julia and Sam - who set up their glamping encampment at the Orbitur Rio Alto campsite near Póvoa de Varzim - know what families need for a happy holiday. They provide nannies for childcare while parents surf or do yoga. If your kids are old enough they can surf as well.

One of the nicest things about camping is waking up to the sound of the ocean and the scent of pine trees - but it can also be a lot of hard work. Here all you need to do is lie back in the hammock and relax, as there's a team of chefs who put together healthy, child-friendly breakfasts every day - with the likes of bircher muesli and smoothies - and serve dinner five nights a week.

The children's lessons usually take place at the same time as the adult classes. Picture: iSurf PortugalThe children's lessons usually take place at the same time as the adult classes. Picture: iSurf Portugal

They can deliver you a packed lunch at the beach, too.
It's possible to arrange a transfer from Porto airport, but I hired out a car for the 30 minute journey.

Because our plane was delayed my daughter and I arrived far later than planned, and way past mealtime - and I'd expected to set off on a food finding mission once we dropped off our bags.

But the team went beyond the call of duty preparing us delicious burritos - and this kind gesture is indicative of the general welcoming attitude here.

Spacious tipi tents have lights, electricity and sleep up to five, and are stocked with superb single mattresses for a sound night's sleep. There's a spotless sanitary block with toilets and hot showers next door.

The bell tents at the  family surf camp sleep four people. Picture: iSurf PortugalThe bell tents at the family surf camp sleep four people. Picture: iSurf Portugal

All in all, you reap the joy of being in the great outdoors, without any hardship.

Depending on the high tide, yoga is held before or after the surf, and Julia teaches a challenging but calming class under the pines.

The four-star campsite lies right next to a vast, empty, long beach and surf boards and wet suits are provided.

Many guests are single parents, and most have never surfed before. My main aim for the holiday was for my daughter to make some friends - and she was in luck with three children her age in her surf class.

Carrying back the surf boards at the end of a lesson. Picture: iSurf PortugalCarrying back the surf boards at the end of a lesson. Picture: iSurf Portugal

Meanwhile for me surfing with Sam, who's from Grimsby, was like having a private coach.

What I've taken away is that the surfing is all about how to judge the sea to catch the perfect wave. You need ones that break cleanly so - in theory - you can ride along them rather than the ones that crash down, inducing nose dives. I haven't quite got the eye for the sea yet, or the technique, but it was encouraging to hear Sam shout: "Em go for this one mate - it's yours."

Other activities include a mini-Olympic games with an obstacle course involving jumping over surf boards and tug of war.

There's a competition to see who can clock up the most silly poses on a board, like the lying down 'coffin' or a peeing dog.

The surf boards are stored in a container right next to the beach. Picture: iSurf PortugalThe surf boards are stored in a container right next to the beach. Picture: iSurf Portugal

A campfire karaoke is hilarious and ends up with everyone cathartically singing along to every song.

What's clear is the dozen or so staff here, who hail from all over the globe, are having a fantastic time and that rubs off.

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Lots of them appear to have come out here on holiday and never left - and I can see why.

There's a tent set up on the beach all day where the lunch is delivered to, and where the nannies and children can seek shade while everyone is in the water. Picture: iSurf PortugalThere's a tent set up on the beach all day where the lunch is delivered to, and where the nannies and children can seek shade while everyone is in the water. Picture: iSurf Portugal

"I wish we didn't have to go," said my daughter who obviously felt the same way. "Can we come back next year?" You couldn't ask for a better endorsement than that.

A seven night stay in a tipi tent costs from £370 per week, per person. More:

isurfportugal.com.

Julia runs a yoga class every day in the shade of the pines. Picture: iSurf PortugalJulia runs a yoga class every day in the shade of the pines. Picture: iSurf Portugal

Three healthy meals a day are provided at the camp, so you don't need to worry about cooking. Picture: iSurf PortugalThree healthy meals a day are provided at the camp, so you don't need to worry about cooking. Picture: iSurf Portugal

The bell tents have electricity for lighting and to charge your phone. Picture: iSurf PortugalThe bell tents have electricity for lighting and to charge your phone. Picture: iSurf Portugal

Breakfast and dinner are provided at the surf camp, and you can also order packed lunches each day to be delivered to the beach. Picture: iSurf PortugalBreakfast and dinner are provided at the surf camp, and you can also order packed lunches each day to be delivered to the beach. Picture: iSurf Portugal

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