Situated 500 kilometres north of the Canaries, Madeira is a beautiful verdant island, famous for its sheer cliffs and spectacular scenery. The language spoken is Portuguese.
The waves Only in recent years has the huge surf potential of Madeira been realised, with huge being the operative word here. All the island’s breaks are rock-bottomed reefs and points located at the base of sheer cliffs. Some of these hold waves to 15-foot-plus. The waves have to be six foot or bigger to break clear of the rocks. Getting in and out of the water is a nightmare, and there are no lifeguards or rescue helicopters. In short, this is a destination reserved for experienced hellman looking for major thrills!
Hot spots Jardim do Mar, on Madeira’s southwest coast, is the most frequently surfed of the island’s breaks. It’s a serious right-hand point that has been ridden to 15 feet. Inside Jardim is another right point, Ponta Pequena, that has a grinding end bowl which exacts a heavy toll on equipment. Further north is Paul do Mar, an uneven slab of reef which apparently produces rights comparable to Backdoor, with lots of close-outs; it’s regarded as one of the heaviest and most dangerous spots on the island.
Accommodation The best place to be based is Jardim do Mar, where there are a couple of small pensaos with basic but comfortable rooms for about £10 per night.
Food and drink Espetada (skewered beef roasted over an open fire) is an island speciality. The fish and seafood is also excellent – try atum grelhado (grilled tuna), espada (scabbard fish) or bacalhau (salted cod). Locally produced tropical fruits are cheap and plentiful. Drinkable Portuguese beers like Super Bock and Sagres can be bought anywhere, and most bars also serve excellent homemade wines.
Nightlife There are a couple of good bars in Jardim, and a few so-so nightclubs in Funchal. Check out the Casino there if you’re feeling flash!
Don’t miss The Whale Museum in Cangal is worth a look; and a ride down the road from Monte to Funchal in a Madeiran ‘toboggan taxi’ is essential.
Hazards The biggest danger to surfers on Madeira is the exceptionally powerful surf. Make no mistake, this is a destination for extremely fit surfers only, who have considerable experience in big waves. If you get into trouble here, you’re on your own! Other than that, the island is an easy going place with no real hazards other than the usual mad Portuguese drivers.
How to get there Cheap package deals are easy to come by, as the island is a popular winter holiday destination. These are often cheaper than standard flight-only fares to Funchal (around £195 with TAP Air Portugal).