Madeira

Europes highest cliff

Europes highest cliff

Madeira is the closest thing to Jurassic park in Europe. There are huge cliffs, lush sub tropical vegetation and an LA glow to the islands infrastructure. We ditched the van in Lisbon for a week and stayed in a cushy apartment overlooking an epic point break.  

Camara de Lobos 

Camara de Lobos 

Duncan's happy place - Jardim do Mar   

Duncan's happy place - Jardim do Mar   

Despite its awesomeness there is a sad story behind Jardim do Mar, our balcony point break. At best it can only be surfed for one hour at low tide. This is because in 2013 the governor of Madeira decided to build a promenade there which, degraded the wave and made it unsafe in most conditions. Sadly many other renowned spots had similar fates, in one instance a €50+ million marina was built which, no boat touches as its dangerously exposed. The story continues as sea wall extensions have been proposed at the remaining point breaks like Paul Do Mar. 

Cabo girão - highest cliff

Cabo girão - highest cliff

The construction addicts at the top did not deter the great time we had, we'd love to come back for more. The waves were unforgettable, it's like the European version of Hawaii. 

Jardim Do Mar mega wave

Jardim Do Mar mega wave

The first surf was at Paul Do Mar. Getting out to the surf across the lizard strewn rocks is a challenge. Many sessions result in minor cuts from the volcanic stones or their urchin allies. The point break was looking quite good but empty, the tide was low and the rocks protruding. The myriad of hazards makes surfing these new spots alone a daunting prospect. Along came Bastien, a surf friend made on the premise of 'if you surf it, I will too.' Together they popped their Madeiran cherries, but it was a session of constant paranoia and positional checks, and yet they survived.

If you go, I'll go. 

If you go, I'll go. 

Timidly trying the waves

Timidly trying the waves

Bastien; fellow goofy foot and emotional supporter.

Bastien; fellow goofy foot and emotional supporter.

Here be urchins

Here be urchins

After the first surf we explored the island, it's beauty speaks for itself. The Ponta de Sao Lourenco hike was popular due to its breathtaking terrain.

Southern tip of Madeira

Southern tip of Madeira

2hr Sao Lourenco hike 

2hr Sao Lourenco hike 

Very hot walk, finale sea dip recommended.

Very hot walk, finale sea dip recommended.

Levada walks are common, the ancient water ways connect the whole island. We journeyed to the top of the island above the clouds on a dour day for a swim in some waterfalls. 

Lavada walks

Lavada walks

Clear above the clouds  

Clear above the clouds  

The spring water is FREEZING

The spring water is FREEZING

Duncan's standing stone

Duncan's standing stone

Most people turn back after the first waterfall, the path becomes vague and overgrown. We hacked on alone and emerged somewhere beautiful and isolated. Duncan risked the freezing water and surprised some fishes. 

Cheeky cannon ball

Cheeky cannon ball

Obligatory hill top shot

Obligatory hill top shot

In the north, where mornings break in the shadows of mountainous cliffs, the Madeiran surf community stood out. Duncan and Basiten surfed Faja da Areia with a group of chatty locals, by the end they were sharing waves, pictures and post surf coffee. A proliferation of island friendship unheard of in the rest of Portugal. 

Mountainous morning shadows

Mountainous morning shadows

Miguel knew the spot well

Miguel knew the spot well

Very fun drops

Very fun drops

On a rainy day we toured some caves formed by Volcanic lava. The guided tour and gimmicky photos at the end was lame but we learnt something about shield volcanoes. 

Lava chamber filled with spring water  

Lava chamber filled with spring water  

We saw lots of sights in our 1.0 litre rental car, but it literally couldn't make it up some of the steep narrow lanes. It's knackered clutch made for some anxious hill starts. 

I wish this was a Jeep

I wish this was a Jeep

We returned to Paul Do Mar on a cleaner swell and the results speak for themselves. Duncan paddled out as the third person in the line up, but spent a lot of the time with the spot to himself.

Frothy face

Frothy face

Must... slow... down... 

Must... slow... down... 

Warm blue waters

Warm blue waters

Weeee

Weeee

Send in the drones

Send in the drones

Post surf we splashed about in sea pools at the islands northern most tip. We left with cuts and bruises from trying to stand in the breaking waves. 

Hard concrete edges and raw Atlantic swell

Hard concrete edges and raw Atlantic swell

Thunderbirds Tracey island  

Thunderbirds Tracey island  

We got stuck attempting to reach Pico do Arieiro, a hike between the two highest peaks on the island. The car said NO so we turned our backs on her and crept up the hill by foot to nearby Monte Palace gardens. It was a pricey tourist trap along with its associated gondolier and not our thing for a few decades at least. We waved at the oldies getting their kicks from a 2K wicker basket descent, then left for Funchal city centre. 

Funchal city centre

Funchal city centre

Over the hill in a basket  

Over the hill in a basket  

There was just enough time before our flight for one more surf. Revisiting Paul Do Mar was a no-brainier. This time the waves were a bit bigger but still the crowds were non existent. Another significant period of this session was surfed solo. It was pretty much as good as it gets.

No one out

No one out

image.jpg
Big smiles

Big smiles

Loads of waves, no other surfers. 

Loads of waves, no other surfers. 

image.jpg
Falling then stalling

Falling then stalling

Inside section racing

Inside section racing