“Hey! Thanks for picking me up!” I throw my backpack into the seat and climb into the surf guide’s truck.
“No problem,” he says as he closes my door. Climbs back in. “Where are you from?”
“Philadelphia! The U.S.”
“Ah,” he chuckles. “I knew you were American.”
“Oh man I’m sure you did,” I say clicking my seat beat. “My accent gives it away huh?”
Didn’t think of it at the time, but I’m sure my aggressive sunburn probably gave it away too.
“No,” he says, pointing to my right hand. “That does.”
I’m holding a cup of coffee in a to-go plastic container, a “take-away-cup” as the cashier said to me, drawing out the foreign word, perplexed I couldn’t just drink the cup in the café calmly with the rest of the European population. Classic American move.
I laugh. “You know, the guy at the shop did have to dig to find this container on the top shelves.”
“I bet he did,” he says, smiling and shaking his head. And we merged onto Portugal’s westbound highway.
Rachel and I were in Lagos, Portugal, a beach town south of Lisbon. We hadn’t had Lagos on our radar originally, but Rachel’s friend had told her not to miss it. My interest piqued when he mentioned the great surfing there.
Our first full day in Lagos while walking into town, I saw an ad for surf trips outside a surf shop we passed, Magic Board Center. I went inside and chatted with the owner of the shop, about Portugal, the local waves, his love for the town of Lagos. I booked a trip for the next day.
At exactly 9:10am the following morning, I was trying not to spill my “takeaway cup” of coffee all over the surf guide’s truck seats. We picked up other surfers who signed up for the session and drove to a beautiful beach called Praia do Castelejo.
I’d signed up for my own board, preparing to paddle out, but wasn’t aware until I’d zipped up my wetsuit that I’d be going alone; the other surfers on the trip were beginners and had lessons through the day in the smaller surf closer to the beach. Our guide showed me where to paddle out, near the rocks so I wouldn’t be caught where the biggest waves were breaking. I was beyond nervous. I never surfed here before and these were not waves I was used to. I took my board and ran in before I could change my mind.
I was tentative at first, then felt braver with each wave, and even each wipe-out. I had more rough, shaky wave rides then smooth ones, absolutely. But that’s not what surfing is about for me.
It’s about the adventure of paddling out, the salt water pounding you in the face with each duck-dive. Seeing a huge wave in front of you about to break and feeling more of a strange thrill then panic. Begging your near-dead arms for one last paddle and then feeling like you’re floating when you catch the wave.
One of my favorite parts of surfing at Castelejo was looking at the other surfers in the line-up lingering between sets. You could tell who surfs here often and who’s new to the spot. But regardless of experience, everyone’s charging with electric anticipation. We’re all out there to claim our perfect wave.
A girl I met on the surf trip, Sheema, told me over our group’s lunch break that she’d lost her phone on one of her connecting flights through Europe.
“I was so mad at first, then I just started not to care,” she said shrugging. “I realized how attached I was to my phone and stopped missing it.”
“Besides,” she gestured towards the ocean, “this is what we should be enjoying. This is what this planet gives us. We aren’t supposed to look at phone screens all day when we have the sea.”
I grinned, nodded. Placed my half eaten sandwich in my backpack and stood up, pointed to the waves, where she was already looking.
“Let’s go back in.”
26 year-old Anna Idler lives in Montgomery County, PA and is a freelance writer for Montco Happening. To learn more about her travels, check out her website Outlaw Summer.
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