Stand Up Paddle Guide to Cascais by Leonard Nika

Cascais

Cascais is a wonderful Atlantic coastal town just 30km west of the Portuguese capital, Lisbon, and is one of the wealthiest communities within the entire country. Traditionally a fishing community, Cascais has developed in recent decades into a popular tourist destination for Portuguese and foreign visitors alike. As such, it has become well connected to the nearby capital, and by extension, the rest of the world via Lisbon’s Humberto Delgado International Airport. Sitting on the outer tip of the coastline, jutting out from the Portuguese land mass on the Atlantic coast, Cascais draws in travellers with its quaint old town and beautiful seaside setting. By the same token, the long fetch coming in off the Atlantic brings with it strong winds, challenging wave conditions and some very enjoyable bumps, all to be taken advantage of on a good day. It is also the home of Starboard rider Leonard Nika, who reckons it’s the best place in Europe to find the perfect combination of great waves, a pleasant climate, friendly locals and delicious cuisine. He gives us his tips on where to go, what to do and how to SUP in Cascais!

Aerial view over the bay at the stunning coastal town of Cascais in Portugal

Leonard Nika’s link to Cascais

I live in Cascais, and for me, the locality has an awful lot to offer stand up paddle enthusiasts. Beyond the gorgeous coastline, which is of stunning natural beauty, and the clean waters that continuously roll in along the strand, there are countless great spots to go surfing, practice your stand up paddle technique or just partake in a leisurely paddle among friends in the invigorating freshness of  the Atlantic Ocean.

SUP and surfing are not the only sports one can take part in Cascais though. The diverse natural surroundings allow adventure-seekers of all levels and preferences to find exactly what they’re looking for in terms of mountain biking, hiking trails, spots to enjoy canoeing and kayaking, climbing, running, windsurfing, kitesurfing and whatever it may be. That’s a big part of what I love about Cascais. It’s a small place, but it offers a wealth of possibilities in sporting terms.

The waves gently roll in at the bay in Cascais, Portugal

Local riders and SUP community

Stand up paddle is still very much in its infancy here in Cascais. Locals who take part in it or who come here to practice primarily do it for recreational purposes.

Though the Wave and Race SUP Championship is held here and Filipe Meira, Portuguese SUP race champion, trains in Cascais due to the favourable conditions.

The glorious white sand on the Praia do Guincho, near Cascais, Portugal

Renting SUP boards and SUP gear in Cascais

Renting SUP boards, from inflatable to rigid, can be done without great difficulty in Cascais. Around Duchess Beach, in the centre of Cascais, there are a few great places for stand up rentals, including SurfnPaddle Portugal.

But if you’re in the market for a more specific race board and pro wave you can get in touch with me and I’d be happy to advise.

Peaceful flatwater SUP training conditions in Cascais, Portugal

SUP schools in Cascais

There are quite a few SUP schools in Cascais now, and the number is growing all the time, as the sport grows and becomes more popular with tourists and locals alike.

SurfnPaddle Portugal, which I mentioned previously, is one of these. They offer lessons, guided SUP tours and other diverse activities. Another is Beyond Boards, which is situated on the bay of Cascais and offers similar options. Soon, I myself will also open my very own training camp and race/wave school in Cascais, so if anyone would like to come for a sporting weekend or would like to take part in one of the camps, they should reach out.

The stunning long Atlantic beaches on the Costa da Caparica in Portugal

Major local stand up paddle events

Aside from the Wave and Race SUP Championship I mentioned earlier, the major event taking place in Cascais is the Rio Tejo crossing, where more than 300 people, including many local players and famous basketball stars come out to attend and take part annually.

A view of the ferris wheel in the Portuguese seaside town of Cascais

Best SUP spots in Cascais

My favourite beach in Cascais is Praia do Guincho, and in this location alone, you can find 4 great spots. The place itself almost resembles an African desert that was lifted and delicately placed on the Portuguese coast. Here you can surf some nigh-on perfect waves and enjoy stunning views.

Just a 10-minute drive from Cascais you’ll also find the Praia da Rata beach. It’s a reef break and it provides some superb conditions as it is covered by the town’s harbour. It’s great to go here for some paddling because it is never too crowded.

Then, just 5 minutes south of Cascais, you’ll find Parade. This is a prime SUP spot as the waves are long and roll in slowly. Conditions vary greatly at this location, so you have to catch it on a good day, but it is particularly great to come here to surf alone when conditions are at their best.

Last, but not least, there is the Costa da Caparica. For me, this coastal stretch is no less than one of the best places in the world to go paddling. Here’ you’re gifted with over 20 great SUP spots in the first 5km of coastline… and the coastline stretches on for another 25km beyond that! This place is made especially good because, again, you can find your own nook and end up surfing or paddling all by yourself, in complete tranquility, just tackling those endless crashing waves.

Endless waves and stand up paddle opportunities on Portugal's beautiful Costa da Caparica

Best spots to train in Cascais

The bay off Cascais is very good to train for races as you are privy to flatwater conditions, and there is also a part where you can practice on some smaller waves as they crash in.

For proper SUP surf waves, Praia do Guincho is really your best bet for training, as here you can find stellar waves all year long.

The Costa da Caparica in Portugal, with its endless rolling waves coming in off the Atlantic Ocean

Best downwind runs in Cascais

The best downwind run that I have done in my SUP career to date is the one stretching from Cabo da Roca to Cascais. You start out with almost no wind, and as soon you pass the tip of protuberating land mass at Capo da Roca, the wind blows at a rate of about 100km/h on a good summer day, and you’re treated to around 16/18km of pure downwind heaven.

The second downwind run that I hold in particularly high esteem is the run stretching from Cascais to Praia da Torre. When the ocean swell is at its best, this can be great. The run itself only amounts to about 10km, but it is great because the bumps are pretty impressive and you can ride each one for about a kilometre or so.

And finally, there is another great downwind run going from Costa da Caparica to Lagoa de Albufeira. This is about 20km of downwind, and when the conditions are in place, it’s exhilarating!

As you can tell, in Cascais, we’re kind of spoiled for choice!

The coastal cliffside views at the Praia do Guincho, Portugal

And as a tourist…

Of course, there is more to Cascais than perfect SUP sessions and hunting down an awesome downwind. The naturally beautiful surroundings and the local culture are enough to charm and entice any curious voyager. There are myriad tourist spots that you can reach within a stone’s throw either by ocean or from the land.

Cabo da Roca, for its part, happens to be the furthermost point in Europe extending out onto the Atlantic Ocean. From there, you can get the impression of staring out into the New World, just as great explorers did long ago.

The rather famous town of Sintra is located further inland and it is very much worth a visit if you are staying in and around Cascais. The food here is another particularly magnetising factor. In all the restaurants, you’ll be treated to fresh fish, and of course, the local speciality is bacalhau. But that doesn’t mean you should miss out on BBQ frango, which is also very good if prepared well.

The Peno National Castle at Sintra, Portugal

Photo credits: Leonard Nika / Shutterstock / Georgia Schofield

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