Portuguese surfer Isabel has been surfing since she was 14. Growing up in a country known for its brilliant surf, in a very sea and surf loving family, it’s no surprise she’s a natural. She moved to North Tyneside in 2021 and loves using her shortboard and longboard around the coast, and also loves the people here.
How long have you been surfing and how did you first get into it?
I started surfing properly when I was 14. My family is addicted to the beach and we would spend all our school holidays and weekends at the beach whenever the weather was good. However, the love for the surf is due to my uncle who has surfed all his life and has a surf school at the Matosinhos beach in Porto – Surfaventura. He was the one taking me and my brother to the water when we were tiny kids, and then at 14 I started working at the surf school during my school breaks and the instructors there just took me under their wings and taught me everything I know.
What do you love the most about North Tyneside as a surf destination?
Well the best thing about this area is the crowd and the people. You can be either alone at the peak or with some lovely people that always look at you and say “Hiya, you ok?”. There are loads of options around the North Tyneside coast including some not much explored which makes them the best spots for the days you just want to be alone with the sea. My favourite spot, I think it will always be home, and that is Praia da Arda and Praia do Cabedelo in Viana do Castelo, Portugal. Those are the beaches where I have spent most of my time and they offer two completely different waves, all year round.
Do you think there’s a good support network for female surfers (regardless of skill level) in the North East?
Again, here people are so nice, that the feeling of not being welcome almost doesn’t exist, well unless you start dropping in on people and then for sure you are in for a heated conversation when you get back to the peak. When I started back in Portugal, I think we were 5 girls in total in the Viana do Castelo region, nowadays there are loads of girls surfing and ripping! Winning more than the boys even (not that competition is a must but shows the progress). I have been in the North East for a bit more than a year now and even in this period I saw a huge change. Initially when I got here, there weren’t many girls that would attempt the big days or the wintery cold ones, but now this winter I keep on seeing girls going out and always with a smile despite the frozen toes and fingers. I think things will progress naturally to a bigger ratio of girls in the water, it’s still very male dominated, but there are already measures in place to overcome that.
Any advice for women wanting to get into surfing?
I would say just take a chance and go for it. It might happen that people will look at you weird at the beginning but don’t let that stop you. It always happens when I get in and there are people that never saw me surf and they look at me weird or even let me get a wave just to “come on show us what you got”! If I don’t screw up and the wave goes well I know that going back to the peak it will be all smiles but if I fall for any reason it will take me a while to be able to get a spot at the peak again… but again it’s a question of not letting others dictate what you can or cannot do, you can only progress by doing, so keep catching as many waves as possible.
Any special memories you can share from surfing up here?
From around here I would have to say the casual surfs with the seals, they are so cute and so terrifying at the same time. You never know when they are going to pop their heads out and if you will have to share the wave with them.
We get great swell here in the colder months – what do you prefer, winter or summer?
This is an easy one, summer! I come from a warm country and the nice sunny days at the beach with great waves are unbeatable. However, winter swells are so much better than summer ones. You can have both. The best thing about surfing in summer, I will have to say two things: the sun and the thinner wetsuits. For the winter: the swells and fewer crowds.
Do you think events like North Sea Weekender are important for the area? what do you think they bring to the local community?
They are very important, they spread awareness of the region’s potential. Having the contest here shows people around the UK and the eventually the world that there are very good spots around the North Tyneside and further up the coast. And on a personal side, these events bring people together, not only for the locals who work together to show and do our best, but to those visiting that we get to know.