THE OTHER CAVE
THE ALGARVE NUBBIN OF PORTUGAL IS A WINTER BOLTHOLE FOR SURFING BRITS, GIVING RESPITE AS IT DOES FROM THE COLD TENDRILS OF OUR LONG WINTER. EMPTY BEACHES, AWESOME SEAFOOD AND UNFETTERED ACCESS TO THAT GLOWING BALL OF FIRE IN THE SKY ARE ALL PLUS POINTS.
Skindog never thought he'd surf in an actual cave. Then again neither did we. Random goings on down Portugal way.
he jet stream had been hugging the UK like an overly amorous wet dog so shooting a sunny, summery, bunch of shots for a certain wetsuit company in Cornwall, Devon or Wales was a big ask. If the brief was 'drowned rat chic with a hint of flash flood' then we'd have had no problem. But it wasn't and Mama Nature has got her gears stuck in 'like winter, but about 5˚C warmer' grey funk mode. So we had to hit Plan B. Which was to go sarf, so to speak. Chasing the sun. Which with Europe literally cooking in a heatwave on the flip side of errant jet stream wasn't too much of a stress.
Only issue was being summer hols in Europe means getting accommodation at short notice for a decent sized crew was a tad tricky. So bereft was the entire Algarve of a place to suit we ended up in Portimao. Where that you say? Well it's in that bit of the Algarve you drive past blindly from Faro airport to get to the good bit of the Algarve from Lagos westwards. Plus side Port' has very big
supermarkets, a Decathlon and some fine food joints. Not to mention an 11th floor penthouse apartment big enough for our mob.
I got there earlyish with Peony Knight and Nelson Cloarec, so we baggsied good rooms, and as folks drifted in on various flights from distant corners of Europe the crew assembled. Only Skindog and Lukas were missing, but their flight direct from Newquay (who knew?!) got in late. One thing we didn't think of: 11th floor penthouse apartments are all well and good when you're board bag fits in a lift. If it don't, and Ben's 10-foot coffin sure as shit didn't, it means that some bugger has to carry the thing up 11 flights of stairs ... Even better when it's still 30C plus at midnight.
Crew assembled we began our mission, exploring the dusty tracks and remote beaches of the west. The empty beaches we know and love in the Algarve are a different beast in the summer. Parking is an issue. Get there for the dawnie and it's no bother. Anything past ten a.m. and you're struggling. Especially on the prettier south coast stretch. In the water it's still quiet, sure there are a million surf schools, but out back is mellow. So far so good.
After a few days of fun surfs, toste mistas and galaos we had to get some funky lifestyle shots. That thing that all surfers hate. So we did some Googlerising and Noah Biersack came up with a fruity looking cave that you could only access from the ocean. Sounded like an option. A huge natural space with a skylight that you had to get a boat to; unless you were a very strong swimmer. Everything we read reinforced the 'ooh pards its a tricky old swim unless you're a reet good ocean swimmer' kinda vibe. So we figured paddling it on boards would be no issue. Us photogs could just risk the swim...
The photos all showed a virginal cavern, empty apart from the photographer capturing it's glory hole. They didn't quite prepare us for the reality.
On one of the few days the always reliable west coast waves were a bit shit we gave up goose chasing and called a cave mission on. Thinking we'd rock up, paddle round, shoot some stuff and be home in time for tea. As we descended the
A huge natural space with a skylight that you had to get a boat to; unless you were a very strong swimmer.
narrow valley to the beach nearest the cave it was obvious we'd misjudged. It was rammed. And the nearest carpark was on top of the next headland... It was also about 40C. Some smart arse thought we could get to the cave from the next beach, so off we wandered, ill-advisably in our wetties. Of course the next beach was surrounded by 80foot cliffs. On the upper limit of acceptable cliff jumps. So by the time we'd retraced our steps and got down to the right beach we were, let's just say, a "bit" sweaty. The little beach was packed. Much like I imagine an afternoon in Ibiza would be, lots of beautiful people crammed together. They gave us funny looks walking through with surfboards and camera housings.
We jumped in and began the long, arduous paddle/swim to the cave, after all they do boat trips to the cave from the beach so it must be some fair old distance...
After a solid 45-seconds swim to the tip of the cliff we could see the cave entrance. Yep. Couldn't have been more 'just round the corner' if it tried. Still good ruse the locals have got going with the 20 euro a pop boat trips. You could actually float round to it without too much stress. Some five year olds had managed to do it on their inflatables so it was not the challenging crossing it was repeatedly made out to be.
The cave itself, was of course, not empty and serene. It wasn't a cathedral to geological processes fit for reflection on the majesty of the planet. It was busy with people and thanks to the two sea side holes the boat tours could drive in and out. Which also made it stink a bit of boat engine fumes. Like most much hyped natural phenomena it was the victim of it's own beauty. But and here's the kicker, amongst the summer tourist hell on the surf free part of the Algarve coast there was a little wave breaking.
The small wind swell would periodically wedge off the wall and zip across the gravelly bank in a
After a solid 45-seconds swim to the tip of the cliff we could see the cave entrance. Yep. Couldn't have been more 'just round the corner' if it tried.
virtual shore break. The tide was coming in and we didn't have anywhere else to be so we hung out to see if a bit more water on the bank would make it a random but rideable lil runner. Sure it was a mission on a shortboard but those ruddy annoying logs that were causing Ben so much exercise on a daily basis finally came in useful...
With a bit more water on the bank Ben quickly figured out the right ones. Wait for the wedge, few strokes and he'd launch and off cross stepping and hanging five across little green gems in a totes famous tourist cave. It was one of the most surreal sights I've seen in surfing. But we'd not quite seen it all...
The tourist boats from the beach that ferried folks (generally whinging about being stung for €20) in so they could raise the phones in sync and nail the Insty shot before being driven out 15 seconds later were small fry. Massive party boats rocked up as well. So big they couldn't do the drive thru so they'd just stick their beaks in. Which ended up with the very bizarre situ of a party boat full of nubile youths cheering as Ben, Nelson, Noah or young Portuguese ripper Guilherme Ribeiro took off in the wave cave.
This was in summer with a little wind swell ... What the hell happens in winter in there remains to be seen?!
cross stepping and hanging five across little green gems in a totes famous tourist cave
Left: Lukas Skinner and arguably one of the world's weirdest surf spots. The mind boggles as to what happens in here with a proper winter swell. Right: Ruddy great party boats kinda ruin the chill cave vibes a bit.
Left: Noah Biersack getting the crowd froth on. Yes it was as bizarre as it looks. Right: Wouldn't want to have been stood up on top when the lid fell in.