When talking surf destinations, there's long been a dichotomy of "town" and "country." Town breaks tend to be in or near cities, with boardwalks, promenades, nightlife, and action. Out in the country, it's more about earth meeting the sea and the natural environment. Cascais, Portugal, home of the Championship Tour's Cascais Women's Pro, has a little bit of both.
On the Estoril Coast, Cascais is a favorite spot for tourists from around the world who want to enjoy the best of the metropolitan and maritime experiences. Less than 20 miles from downtown Lisbon, it's a short drive out of the city, but there are also inexpensive trains that run fairly regularly. It is flanked to the north by the lush, coastal Sintra Mountains.
This is where the Portuguese first surfed and started to grow the sport. Today, the nation is as passionate about it as almost anywhere in the world. Along with the Women's Pro, Cascais is also home to a valuable 10,000-point men's Qualifying Series event, the Allianz Billabong Pro Cascais.
"I think we have always been very connected to the ocean," said says Tiago Pires, the first Portuguese surfer to qualify for the WSL World Tour. "Since the time of the discovery period in the 15th and 16th centuries, Portugal has had amazing sailors and men of the sea.
"Nowadays, things are a bit different, but our love for the ocean lives with our people. We still have amazing sailors and fishermen, but we also discover this new form of interacting with the sea known as surfing. Our coastline is short but very refined, and Portugal has the best weather pattern of the whole continent, which explains our enthusiasm for the beach."
The Cascais Pro has a choice of two main spots within this zone -- Carcavelos and Guincho. Carcavelos is a wide section of southwest-facing beach stretching west from Forte de São Julião da Barra that favors a southwest swell and northeast wind. The beachbreak at Guincho is directly west-facing. Guincho is more open to those northwest swells, but is more susceptible to the wind. When they're on, both breaks have the potential to produce barrels.
Insider Tip: Portugal is famous for its explorers and navigators, but those choosing to explore Lisbon should use a local navigator. The city is famously confusing to drive and, whereas having a good grasp on Spanish can help in other European countries, it can be useless in Portugal.
For the most part, the Lisbon area is simply a fantastic juxtaposition of fun surf breaks and "old world" European charm, featuring grinding waves, green wine and sardinhas assadas.
Carissa Moore (HAW) has great momentum coming into the event. After winning the Swatch Women's Pro at Trestles last week, she sits at No. 1 on the Jeep Leaderboard. Current World No. 2 Courtney Conlogue (USA), who made the Quarterfinals here last year, and No. 3 Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS), who finished runner-up in 2014, will be on her heels. Stephanie Gilmore (AUS), the defending Champ, is still recovering from her leg injury and withdrew from the 2015 event.
"Surfing has an amazing image in Portugal and that's something that I'm really proud of," Pires, the former CT surfer, said. "We've became these sort of heroes of a new age, and that's really cool to see."