The northern provinces of Minho and Douro have largely skipped the attention of visiting surfers, despite having a trove of surf and cultural resources. This super consistent stretch of coast grabs the maximum from any swell direction and provides a wide range of wave breaking surfaces from gentle beaches and rivermouths to sheer slab reefs. Minho province shares many characteristics with its northern Spanish neighbour, Galicia, - lots of hills, lots of greenery and lots and lots of rain. Porto is the capital of Douro province, where it isn't quite as wet, but the bleak industrial landscape combines with the weather to help deter visiting surfers. However it's the pollution around Porto that might be the biggest turn off in north Portugal. It gets so dirty that the local authorities sometimes put a ban on people entering the sea at all!
The best time for a surf trip around here is late spring through to autumn. The north winds that plague much of the country don't seem to be as bad here.
The Minho river demarcates the border with Spain and sometimes provides hollow rights at its mouth. The average quality and consistency beachbreak peaks of Moledo do Minho are adjacent to sand-covered reefs that can turn perfect at lower tides, but get crowded. The southern end of Vila Praia de Âncora offers a much more consistent beachbreak in NW swells and is usually quieter. The serious surf starts in Afife with a high quality beachbreak often likened to Supertubos, but without the crowds. It's consistent, very fast, hollow and prefers a SW swell with a low to mid tide. Viana do Castelo, home of the Portuguese branch of Surfrider Foundation, hides a beautiful beach S of town called Cabadelo. Take a ferry or drive around to access the quite inconsistent but large righthander breaking off the river jetty that offers some N wind protection. If it's too small, drive 30km (19mi) south to the very consistent west-facing beachbreak just north of Esposende. It won't handle much size, the water is very cold but crowds are minimal. Check Aguçadoura for an endless beach with numerous quality peaks, the water here is super clean but it gets out of control when big. 5km (3mi) offshore float the Pelamis sea snakes that use the energy of waves to generate electricity. Experts should try the quality reefbreak left at Pòvoa do Varzim; it's short, sharp, shallow and full of open barrels in a SW swell. The neighbouring town of Vila do Conde is a popular place for the people of Porto. Near a bunch of rocks on the town centre beach, breaks a short, hollow punchy lefthander that can get busy due to its reliability. On the other side of the river, Azurara delivers mediocre but consistent beach peaks with better wind protection and a good shorebreak for bodyboarding. It's the first spot north of Porto with genuinely clean water. Similar waves can be found in Perafita, but the background is much more industrial and the rocks surrounding the beach are even hot to the touch! There are plenty of barrels in Leça over highly consistent sandbars but few takers thanks to ridiculous pollution levels. In case of a massive swell, head to Matosinhos on the south side of the port and north of the rivermouth. The breakwater is a real swell filter here, but lifeguards red flag the beach when pollution levels are high (all the time), though many locals ignore the ban. The same extreme pollution affects all the breaks to the south including Luz, where the sandbars deliver semi-sheltered waves and the rare but epic rivermouth rights of Barra do Porto. Miramar can be excellent thanks to a high quality righthander that breaks over the reef near the offshore island. It's fickle, but fast and hollow with potential barrels in a solid NW swell. Espinho is the best spot in north Portugal despite the pollution, localism and heavy crowds. The jetty of this dilapidated city holds a long, consistent tubey right with good protection from the 'nortada' winds. Watch out for the inside section that closes-out over shallow rocks.