By Sophie Sadler
The Algarve Surf Club aims to have a positive social impact in the western Algarve by inspiring kids to immerse themselves in surf culture.
“Our main goal is to get kids in the water to have fun; that’s our passion,” explains surf instructor Pedro Arco. “Through surfing, they can learn so much for life, about nature, solidarity and themselves.”
Lessons in surf schools are often prohibitively expensive for many local families. Pedro has observed that if the parents aren’t surfers and don’t have time to drive the kids to follow the surf, they generally give up. “We want to give surfing back to the locals. When I was a child kid, I went to a surf club in Portimão, which engages far more of the local families kids, but you are confined mainly to Praia da Rocha, and this area (around Sagres) has so many more beaches available within a very short distance.”
Pedro was one of the lucky ones whose parents had the ability and willingness to support his passion for surfing. When he left Portimão to join the Algarve Surf Club in Sagres, his father drove him there from Carvoeiro every weekend.
Sérgio Brandão, legendary surf coach and current president of the Portuguese Association of Surf Schools, is the poster child and soul of Sagres’ surf club. Before having children of his own, he dedicated his life to encouraging kids to surf. Now he shares his time and energy between his family, his business training surf instructors, and his dedication and passion as a surf coach. Back in the day, he coached and mentored Alex Botelho and Miguel Mouzinho, just two of the group of talented young surf kids he brought up. Within that group was 17-year-old Pedro Arco.
“Sérgio has a certain personality which inspires kids and pushes them to their limits and gives them the faith to believe in themselves,” he says.
Sérgio and Pedro have years of experience as licensed surf coaches and have participated in surf competitions on a national and international level. If Sergio pushes the kids, it’s clear Pedro nurtures them; he reveals he has spent hours in the water with those who have lost their confidence and need support.
“You need to push, but not too hard. You are close to the force of nature and the children need to conquer their fear; it’s a great life lesson,” says Johanna Crato, a German-born mum whose two sons are members. They competed at a national level in Pentathlon, but her own passion has always been swimming. “The most fulfilling thing I have ever done is teach kids swimming.” Having lived in many different countries and with a masters in sport science, she has set up swimming clubs wherever she moved, and she is now offering swimming lessons adapted to building strength to paddle for the Algarve Surf Club.
Completing the surf coaching team are Renato, Lucas and Hazel, all former students of Sergio’s and passionate surfers.
Mattai Rossanino – a true lover of skateboarding – is passionate about teaching young people to skate. For 34 years, he was active in the skate scene of Turin (Italy). He lists “creativity, friendship and passion” as the invisible energy that attaches him to the sport. Every Friday, he gives tuition to the club members in Sagres or Bensafrim skateparks.
To improve their fitness, Paul Birgoleit, who holds a degree in sport science, has adapted a specific surf workout for children to follow online. The training started during lockdown, but is being continued as a practical way of offering fitness training to children within their often tight schedules.
The parents of Algarve Surf Club are organising carpools to help each other and be more environmentally friendly. Every Friday afternoon, they receive a message telling them which of the beaches has the best conditions and they meet there. Beginners meet on Saturdays, and advanced or very motivated children meet every Saturday and Sunday for surfing and technique.
The dream is to have a permanent base and their own transport eventually.
As well as expanding membership of the club from the current 30 kids, the club is dreaming big. They realise the monthly fee of €100 to join is beyond many. Sérgio has approached the Vila do Bispo câmara to ask for funding to support underprivileged kids to become part of the club, helping them acquire equipment that is out of reach for many. President of the Vila do Bispo câmara, Adelino Soares, has already promised an infrastructural base in Sagres to teach the children more than just surfing. Part of the club’s ethos is respecting and looking after nature, so this is a strong message they wish to instil in their students and they intend to organise beach clean-ups.
Currently, though, the main aim is to engage young people in water-centred activities to give them confidence and increased fitness, which will eventually lead to being better surfers, with a healthy perspective on life. In the holidays, the Algarve Surf Club organises camps that offer the full bandwidth of the surf lifestyle: surf, skate, workout, guitar and drum jam sessions, lifeguard training and marine life education.
These surf buddies have serious passion and integrity. I do not doubt that their efforts will positively impact the local youth.