Portugal, 2014, Algarve - Jah-Shaka Surf Camp
From the 29th March- 5th April, Jah Shaka Surf opens it's doors to Students from all over Europe for Mavericks. A week dedicated to surf, sun and parties.
I jumped at the chance to check out Jah Shaka Surf, joining the University of Ulster's Surf Club on their surf trip to see what the week would have in store. With little hesitation and I was off to the sun soaked Algarve for waves, beaches and a great craic.
It is fair to say I was skeptical of a guided surf trip as it is something I have avoided at all costs in the past, due to the compromise in freedom and self discovery. Come on, if Colombus found the America's, who knows what I might find, right? As it turns out, Jah-Shakah Surf Camp is the pièce de résistance of 7 day guided surf trips. I loved every second, here's what I found particularly special.
The villa was located in the residential area surrounding Praia de Luz. We arrived late morning; the first day was intended to be allocating equipment, groups to instructors, as well as becoming familiar with our home for the week. Myself and my step brother were frothing for a first surf. Praia de Luz is located on the South Coast of Portugal, meaning that it would take a fair bit of swell to swing round the coast. Luck was in our favour, the West coast was being bombarded with the tail end of the Hercules swells and we were informed there would be waves locally. It was a 10 minute jog down to a waist high left hand reef/beachie. On the way back, we noticed the local amenities, such as a small grocery shop and a handful of charming restaurants. There would be no better spot for base camp.
The instructors and villa staff were quick to identify the varying abilities within the group, we were allocated instructors and vans for the week. They pretty much had it bang on, with a few tweaks, with a few well structured questions. This is no easy task, with a group formed of almost entirely first year university students!
We were blessed with waves for the length of our stay. But before I go into dreamy surf chat, I'll highlight the features around the villa that brought us comfort and that I found particularly resourceful. Inside, the villa has a large open plan living/dining room space. Fitted with sofas, the worlds comfiest fold out chairs, a magically never ending beer fridge, fast and easy to connect to wi-fi (important from me to work away from home), a log fire to keep us cosy at night and every surf dvd under the moon. What more could one ask for post surf session? If you require more, have a go at bodyboarding. Joking, hahaha, whatever your discipline I love you, just a little bit less.
Gut wrenchingly funny jokes aside, outside was equipped with a sandy volleyball court that brings out the competitive side in everybody. A cold but clean pool. I imagine it is pleasant in the summer, I could only describe it as refreshing in January! Other outdoor activities included, the use of bikes, skateboards, indo-boards and a slack line for the gymnasts. If it was enough to entertain the Irish for prolonged periods of time, you will be overwhelmed with toys to keep your froth ticking between surfs.
The package included breakfast, lunch, and 5 evening meals cooked in house. Each one of these meals is buffet style and they don't cut corners on quality and not to mention quantity. Nobody could say they were not fed like a king. Two of the evening meals where bbq's, we were treated to succulent ribs and more burgers than you could imagine, the staff were somewhat imaginative with their drinking games. They needed to be, they put two complimentary buckets of Sangria on the tables. Then looked at us with that expression on their faces, 'How do you like those apples (grapes)?'. The Irish called their bluff and awesome party nights were had. With free transfers to Lagos for those who fancied a night on the Portuguese 'lash'. There are plenty of great bars in Lagos and late nights for those who want to get loose.
Dreamy surf chat.
From Luz you have access to the South Coast, most spots are within a 15 minute drive. Waves on the South Coast in my opinion have more punch for the pound, but are definitely less consistent. Zavial is always worth a check, in my not so professional opinion, this is the best wave I have surfed in the area. There are loads more for a keen explorer to find an empty gem. The West coast is littered with spots. The drive is about 25 minutes to Sagres, from there, you pretty much take your pick. I could go into detail about each spot, they are all have their unique selling points. However, the beauty of Portugal really lies in the diversity of beach directions and the vast number of them. It adds up to a clean rideable wave everyday. It has to be the most consistently surfable coastline in Europe that I have visited.
Jah-Shakah provided photography and video analysis at the end of the trip. The staff worked outside of their paid hours to provide in depth analysis. The equipment they use is professional, allowing feedback to be given in a structured and defined format. The coaches were of varying abilities, catering up to the experienced intermediate surfer.
If you're after an easy get away, of the kind which only involves your brain to process; eat, sleep, surf. Even those simple processes are taken care of on your behalf. Then the Jah-Shaka Surf Camp is definitely an affordable option that I guarantee you will not forget. Responsible for this feat, is their staff who are 110% committed to tailoring the surf trip to your individual needs.
Tempted yet? Mavericks Student Week runs from 29th March- 5th April. Deposits of £50 secure your spot and how fast they're selling is testament for what a great deal this is! Further information can be found on their site. http://jahshakasurf.com/project/studentsurfweek/"