“Dear surfing entrepreneurs, managers and coaches in Portugal, we are going through an historic moment of growth and assertion of national surfing, with an increasingly diverse supply of training and learn-to-surf services for people of all levels, ages, social backgrounds, and nationalities. Personally, I have had the privilege of witnessing first-hand all stages of this development, since the emergence of the first operators in the beginning of the 90’s, who have motivated me to start my own project in the Algarve in 1996, when I started working closely with many local young talents.
During that first stage, Portuguese Coaches traveled throughout the world, visiting the main world surfing powers, in search of training and knowledge. All of that knowledge was absorbed and imported to our country, allowing for more Coached to be properly trained and, thus, for Surf Schools to establish throughout our coastline, which have since been responsible for developing the foundations of our Surfing in all its scopes, of sport, tourism and ocean education.
Curiously, unlike most national sporting structuring, these developments were mainly fomented by private companies, besides some noticeable exceptions promoted by clubs. All of these initiatives were a result of a great passion for surfing, of a deep will to live from and to the sea, allowing the general population to enjoy the pleasure of sliding on a wave way before this was a lucrative activity, thus perpetuating the Portuguese maritime tradition and identity.
In fact, in an historically sea-oriented country, and in a context of an increasing search for authenticity in the tourism sector, the huge promotion and demand of surfing tourism in Portugal comes as no surprise, which has allowed these Men and Women of the sea to become professional in what they love.
However, no growth comes without challenges. Our beaches, from North to South and in the Islands, are becoming increasingly crowded, many times with inexperienced surfers lacking the skills to guarantee their safety, as well as the safety of others. Accidents on the beaches are multiplying, which is increasing the tension and conflict between swimmers, surfers, and all other beach users. The regulation of our activity is still inexistent at a national scale, and the licensing of these operators is precarious, hindering the consolidation of the entire sector, and paving the way for illegal agents. Many deaths from drowning are still happening in our beaches every year, due to the general population’s lack of knowledge of our surrounding environment.
We still have a long way ahead. It is imperative that we come up with a long-term strategy for our national surfing, which must naturally be supported by its foundations. Such strategy should consider the implementation of a national, uniform, regulation of Surf Schools and Coaches, based on a balanced planning of the beaches which allows all users to enjoy their activities with quality and in a safely manner. The connection between surfing and water safety and rescue should also be strengthened, based on education and knowledge. This way, we can aspire to create not only great athletes and champions, but an entire society of Ocean protectors and defenders.
The Portuguese Surf School Association is already on this path, the ‘beach kids’ are now meeting in Ministries and State Secretaries. It is now important that all agents get together like never before, so we can all take National Surfing to where it belongs. On my part, I will be the President of every Surf School and Coach, and will be counting on the participation and adhesion of everyone to take this mission towards success. We believe that union will be the base for solution, and we will always be willing to gather everyone’s perceptions and suggestions.”
The President of the Direction Board,
Sérgio Wu Brandão