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Blue Tomato

Stormrider Guide to surfing Sal

Cape Verde Islands, AFRICA

Cape Verde surfing at Punta Preta, YEP


+ Generally uncrowded - Inconsistent, seasonal swells
+ Shapely reef waves - Windy
+ Exploration possibilities - Flat desert landscape
+ Wind/Kitesurfing heaven - Fairly expensive

Cape Verde surfing centres on Sal, the flattest island and the main tourist entry point. Dry, hot Saharan winds scour the rocky earth and it is so arid many of its landscapes would not look out of place on the moon. It has become synonymous with wind and kitesurfing, since the year-round NE trades provide cross or offshore conditions on the west coast as well as holding some excellent righthand reefs and points for the sail-less.

When to Go

Only the biggest winter N and summer S groundswells will travel this far. Sal is blocked by Boa Vista island from the S-SE swells, and is only able to pick up NW swells, rare WSW and the omnipresent NE windswells. Strong NE winds are the standard, year-round trades with more favourable E in late autumn. Tidal ranges are less than 1m, but cause most waves to break too close to the rocks at high tide.

Surf Spots

Just south of the harbour at Palmeira sees a short, zippy left break into a clear channel on small to moderate swells and is worth the 35min drive if it is too small in Santa Maria. Fontana is a pretty place, located in a small bay that produces a mysto right when the swell is big. Needs E or SE winds so not very consistent. Curral Joul sits out on the tip of the exposed headland and will handle as big as it gets. The continuous line of rocks make the line-up difficult to read and it sections off badly in places, so experts only. Deeper in the bay and a much better bet is Alibaba, a superb walled-up righthander that motors down the rocky point, close to the cliffs, so it is less affected by the cross-shore NE’ers. Monte Leão can produce perfect, long rights and has the advantage of being quite sheltered from the wind by the Sleeping Lion mountain. It needs a big NW swell to wrap around the headland or a moderate WSW to sneak in between the other islands to begin breaking. The cluster of rocks at Rife is better suited to wave-sailing since the rights break lazily down towards the channel inside the protected bay. The best wave, 30 minutes walk from Santa Maria, is Ponta Preta, which has long rights peeling for up to 300m over sharp, black boulders. Barrel sections, speed walls and wind whipped copings are shared out between the surf and wind crews. This is a world-class wave so be sure your ability matches up. Ponta do Sino is a mixture of sand and reef that’s usually bigger than Santa Maria, but often blown out. Santa Maria is an 8km (5mi) sandy beach on the southern tip of Sal that catches the all too rare SW swells and summer NE swells, along with big winter NW on the wrap. Mainly mellow, small beachbreaks, breaking around the wooden pier (Ponton) plus there are some lefts breaking on a reef close to the big hotel and old harbour. Nice, easy, beginner-friendly stretch at high tide over the sand and the left is used as an indicator to the west coast swell size. If you’re lucky, and the persistent NE trade winds stop blowing, then the regulation 1-5ft (0.3-1.5m) NE windswell might clean up, meaning a check for rare long lefts, at the far end of Fragata Beach aka Kitebeach. There may be some good discoveries on the east coast in such conditions, but it’s sharky. Don’t forget about the other islands, with good waves to be found on Boa Vista, Santiago and Sao Vicente.


dominant swell W -NE W -NE W -SW W -SW W -NE W -NE
swell size (ft) 4 3 2 0-1 2-3 4
consistency (%) 50 40 20 10 40 50
dominant wind NE -NE NE -NE N -NE N -NE N -NE NE -NE
average force F4 F4 F4 F4 F4 F4
consistency (%) 65 61 94 79 82 67
water temp (C) 21 21 24 26 27 25
wetsuit springsuit springsuit boardshorts boardshorts boardshorts boardshorts

Travel Information

Sal is flat and extremely dry due to the strong NE trade winds. Much of the year is warm, but July to September is the so-called ‘wet’ season, when temps and humidity rise. The cold Canary Current requires a springsuit in the winter to counter the wind chill factor.

Lodging and Food
There’s a wide variety of international hotels (RIU, Melia Tortuga, Morabeza fr $93/p/n/dble). Cheap ‘pensãoes’ (Hotel Santa Maria Beach fr $24/p/n/dble). The budget meal is cachupa, at $5, western food costs more like $25.

Nature and Culture
Sal is the place to learn to windsurf or kitesurf with one of the many schools. The diving is some of the best in the West Africa area, such as the Buracona hole.