The second stop of the 2021 Challenger Series brings some of the world's best surfers to Europe as they try and secure a spot on the 2022 Championship Tour. The MEO Vissla Pro Ericeira runs from October 2 to 10 and will see the race to secure a CT spot heat up at one of Europe's great right-handers, Ribeira D'Ilhas.
The second of four Challenger Series events this year, there are 10,000 qualification points on table for whoever can top the podium. The 96-man and 64-woman fields are made up of Championship Tour surfers, as well as competitors drawn from the seven WSL Regional Qualifying Series around the world. The MEO Vissla Pro Ericeira will be streamed live on Worldsurfleague.com.
On the men's side of the draw, some of this year's top seeds are currently set to compete, including Kanoa Igarashi, Frederico Morais and even World No.2, Italo Ferreira, who has a long competitive history in Portugal.
On the Challenger Series, surfers compete for a chance to advance to the elite Championship Tour in 2022. For the men, that means finishing in the top 12. For the women, a top 6 finish in this year's condensed four-event season earns a spot in the big leagues.
Championship Tour surfers can compete on the Challenger Series regardless of where they sit on the CT rankings, which means the draw for both men and women is absolutely stacked with talent.
The event will be held at the famed Portuguese pointbreak of Ribeira D'Ilhas, which is often justifiably compared to other classic right-hand points around the world. It produces a long, rippable wall and a treacherous inside bowl. In October, the North Atlantic should produce classic swells to light up the entire European coastline, and specifically the west-facing coast of Portugal, on which Ribeira D'Ilhas is located, about halfway between Lisbon and Peniche.
While it is possible to get waves year-round, the best time to score great surf at Ericeira's best spots is during the fall season, mainly September to November. The water isn't too cold, and the North Atlantic begins to churn out big, long-period swells that hit the Portuguese coast head-on and could very well treat you to the best ride of your life.
The last time the break was showcased with a major event with qualification points on the line was the 2019 EDP Billabong Pro Ericeira, which was won by Samuel Pupo. It also played host to a specialty Countdown Series event -- the MEO Portugal Cup of Surfing -- in 2020, which was won by local hero Frederico Morais and France's Johanne Defay.
Europe has long been known as a great place for surf exploration, with areas like the Basque Country and the southwest coast of France becoming the focus of the European surfing scene. And while Portugal has been well-known amongst Euro surfers for years, it's only been in the last decade or two that this tiny country on the tip of the continent has become known globally as a surfing Mecca.
Places like Peniche, Nazaré, and Cascais are now famous for hosting professional contests and producing massive waves. But only the small coastal village of Ericeira has the distinct honor of being considered the capital of European surfing and the only place on the continent that's among the World Surfing Reserves.
Located 28 miles northwest of Lisbon, Ericeira sits along some of the most scenic Portuguese coastline. Before becoming a surf playground, Ericeira was a sleepy fishing village where King Manuel II of Portugal went into exile back in 1910. Now, the city it's home to a strong surf community with a host of beginner, intermediate, and expert-level waves on offer.
People just starting out with the sport can sign up for Ericeira surf school lessons and learn on the easy breaking waves of Foz do Lizandro, while intermediates can test their skills at more challenging breaks like Praia do Sul. However, if you want to see world-class surfers on world-class waves, check out Cave, Pedra Branca, or Crazy Left. All break in shallow water and offer heavy, spitting barrels that aren't for the faint of heart. If you're not at that level yet, they sure are fun to watch when they're doing their thing.
While surfing has been popular in the country since the early ‘60s, it wasn't until 1989 that the first ASP World Tour event was held, and Australian Rob Bain was crowned the first-place winner. That was quickly followed by the first national competition, which offered prize money. Since 2009, the country has been the home of a regular Championship Tour event won by big names like John Florence, Coco Ho, and Filipe Toledo.