Shop Talk: Extreme Algarve

Photo: Imenso Pix

Photo: Imenso Pix

Shop Talk: Extreme Algarve

With its pristine coastline, clear water, rivers, and caves, Portugal’s Algarve region is a paddling paradise. Sebastian Wolff of Extreme Algarve, is giving both tourists and locals a different view of the region with paddle trips, while also spreading the SUP bug with startup clubs and multiple events.

SUP mag: Tell us about your background.
Wolff: I was born in South Africa, nowhere near the ocean. After spending 11 years in the big smog of London I decided that London life was not for me. My better half, Michaela, recommended that I do something I love.
As a result, I enrolled in a surf coach course and went on holiday to Morocco. After deciding that was what Michaela and I wanted to do, we went back to work, gave notice, and the following January were driving down the French coast with surf guide in hand, looking for somewhere to set up. We inadvertently ended up in the Algarve, as for me being African, the weather was a major issue and I couldn’t handle the terrible winters of the UK, France and northern Spain.

SUP mag: How’d you get into the SUP market?
Wolff: The purists will hate me for this, but I guess I really added SUP as a time-filler for when there’s no wind, or, for clients who might want a less exhausting option to surfing. We also wanted to be the first real provider of SUP in the Lagos area, so it was a kind of business move too.
After doing a lot of research, I hooked up with Tina from Starboard in Lisbon and she helped me choose boards for our school. I had no experience in the sport, so I booked an ASI accredited SUP instructor course and flew out Steve West and his lovely wife Mandy.

SUP mag: Tell us about the SUP scene in Portugal.
Wolff: The Portuguese scene is growing rapidly. Everyone involved is super enthusiastic and keen to promote the sport. Joao Maya, Tiago Silva, and Tina Sahl, as well as Rui and Nuno from SET clothing are great ambassadors and are putting their heart and soul into promoting SUP throughout the country.
Look out for the Berlenga Ocean Challenge, a 15-km downwinder from the Berlenga islands to the mainland—it’s a brilliant event, even if you’re not competing. There’s also a great race across the Tagus River, and a circuit of six or seven competitions nationwide. We’ve had big names such as Steve West, Sean Poynter, and Susanne Lier all doing courses and clinics, and this year we look forward to having Will Anido from downunder doing courses in Peniche.
Last year we got two new SUP schools just in Lagos. Locals like Anne de Jong and Tiago are doing great things through SUP as a way for a healthier lifestyle, along with nutrition and SUP yoga and I believe Tiago is actually training Sean Poynter for this year’s events.
Tina from Starboard is also awesome and set up the Beyond Boards team, which I will be competing with this year.

SUP mag: Tell us about your location.
Wolff: The Algarve is one huge outdoor playground and a paradise for paddling. Our lodge is a few minutes from the town center and 20 seconds from Praia Porto de Mos Beach, where we paddle in the summer, and Meia Praia beach, the town’s main beach.
Lagos is surrounded by grottos and caves, so, our clients get lessons in perfect conditions with absolutely stunning scenery. All lessons include a trip through the caves and stops at secluded beaches for snorkeling, sun bathing and exploring. If we get a bit of swell, no problems, we drive 10 minutes down to the kite lagoon for glassy, flat water with different scenery.
One of our favorite trips is the west coast river trip. We make our way through extremely dense vegetation. Otters, wild ducks, huge fish, and an ancient water mill are a few visual treats along the way. We also do a sunset snorkel trip at this huge cave on the south coast.

SUP mag: What type of customers do you have?
Wolff: Our clients are mostly beginners that have never been on a board before. We’re slowly starting to see people book only SUP holidays and it’s awesome to be able to give someone a complete SUP experience.

SUP mag: Tell us about the services or classes do you offer.
Wolff: We offer one-on-one and group classes, and a solid lesson covering everything from safety to turning. Prior to any of our tours I’ll make sure the guys at least get a lesson. The surf lessons are a lot more advanced and I’ll never take anyone who hasn’t had at least a day of paddling flat water—there’s a lot of things to take into account, and we take safety seriously.

SUP mag: What other events are you involved with?
Wolff: This September we’re arranging a BOP-style race and long distance event. As far as I know, we don’t have anything like this in Portugal, so we’re hoping it’ll be popular. The long distance race participants might encounter our famous Nortada (northerly wind) on the return journey, so it could be quite spicy.
Myself and a couple of surf schools have set up a not-for-profit surf club for local kids, called Algarve Nippers, and we’d love to tie a SUP club in with this. As well as taking local kids surfing for a nominal fee, Algarve Nippers also take disadvantaged kids surfing for free.

SUP mag: Tell us about the shop’s plans for this year.
Wolff: Tania Nesbitt from the ASI has helped us with a lot of surf school-related issues, and through the ASI, we’ll run two SUP instructor courses a year at our lodge.
Our association, Algarve Surf Maritime Activity Association (ASMAA), has come a long way in creating a fair surf license for surf schools in the Algarve. We’ve been working closely with the Maritime police, who issue the licenses, and are pretty close on getting a proper license for SUP schools.
Tom Longhurst and myself are looking at paddling the length of the Algarve for charity, and to make people aware of the proposed oilrigs going up along the coast. The real bad news is that they’re looking at fracking. With the Algarve being a sustainable energy provider’s dream come true, we do not want our country and coastline ruined.

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  • Nick Robinson

    Great interview Sebastian. Awesome to see you getting the word out about Portugal.

  • Laurinda Seabra

    Very nice Sebastian. Great to see all you doing with ASMAA about getting the word out about the risks that the oil and gas industry is presenting to our oceans and our coast.
    Keep up the good work.

  • Beyond Boards

    Well done! We look forward to a great SUP Season. Team Starboard/Beyond Boards is ready for action.

  • Jorge Jesus

    The Algarve still continues to be the paradise for illegal aliens, even when these people will do business without paying fees, rent illegal houses, Please stop stealing in Portugal, all this talk is very beautiful, and where are the Portugueses.

  • Pedro

    I totally agree with Jorge’s words… tell us Sebastian, how many legal instructors you have working for you? In surf and kitesurf? From what is “public” not even ONE”!!!! Not one of your instructors hold de “Cédula de Treinador” issued by IDPJ (Instituto Português de Desporto e Juventude”, the only and MAIN certification LEGAL in PORTUGAL!!! … and by your words you are a reference…. fucking give me a break!!!! How many lessons invoices you made/gave this last years???? Do you even have a company open in Portuguese finances??? If yes, which one? Under what name??? STOP STEALING THE PORTUGUESE!!!

  • Pedro

    And the worst, is this magazines that are fooled by this kind of beach junkies that are around us, specially in Algarve! There are everywhere in the country, real and legal Portuguese natives business to give interviews….. shame!!!!!
    Have another question Mr Sebastian, how many Portuguese instructors you have?

  • Sebastian Wolff

    Pedro and Jorge.
    Calme pah. You guys need to get your facts straight before posting things like this. I was going to answer your angry rants one by one but I wont bother as It´s probably a waste of time. If any Portuguese want to open a business here in the Algarve thats up to them. For me I love living here and being part of the community. I think you guys need to broaden your minds by maybe going traveling. (and Pedro just a little fact for you, the IPDJ are obligated to endorse ANY foreign sports certificates, so get with the program) Maybe if you guys focused on your own business and not those of others you would be doing better yourself.

  • Laurinda Seabra

    It is always sad when I’m faced with xenofobic comments by fellow Portuguese nationals.

    As a Portuguese EXPAT that has lived in many countries for more than 40 years, I always wonder what would happen if the same atitude was experienced by the Portuguese in these countries, especially when you have Portuguese ministers telling locals to emigrate to greener pastures.

    I am one of the 10Million Portuguese and Luso-descendents that are emigrants in over 147 countries in the world.

    Don’t trow stones … you never know when you or one of the people closed to you will find itself as an emigrant. I’m sure you would like to know that they would be welcomed and loved wherever they happen to be.

  • Laurinda Seabra

    Pedro, it is clear that you lack real knowledge of the laws pertaining to surf schools in Portugal, and the rules and regulations that goes with being a licencesed operator.

    Portugal being part of the EU, has to comply with EU directives. One of them is the recognition of international certificates by the relevant authorithies. In regard to the IPDJ … and in typical Portuguese norm, the process is delayed beyond belief (that could be expected of a third world country but not of a developed country like Portugal)

    To state that foreigners are “stealing” from the Portuguese sounds to me more like jealousy (e dor de cotovelo) than anything else.

    The difference that I have personally observed is that de facto most foreigners do work to be were they are, contribute to the local economy of their area via purchasing from locals, and to national economy via taxes.

    Unlike many portuguese that lacks standards, does everything on the fly ( e acima do joelho) … and could be seen as “cowboys” … with the major complaint being that everything is too “complicado” so they do nothing except complain, or they just blame all and sundry, etc

    Rather spend your time and energy on being constructive …

    From another portuguese

  • Jorge Jesus

    Look at the guy rage this should be your feeling, then do not you remember when you paid a few Brazilians to kill a competitor of another surf school that gave you a punch in traffic, do you love living in the Algarve and then join the community regards the Portuguese and do not thou wars with Portuguese after all you’re the foreigner, demands expand my mind and travel because it is a country that is not yours unless you told it not, I have traveled more than you have you come remanded in Africa South, courses and Portuguese laws are to be respected or the courses that you bring forth the ISA are better than ours, because it suits you, will bathe the dog.

  • Jorge Jesus

    Look how she is the one who always walks the talk ill of Portuguese, Portugal is part of the European Union’s but is not the banana republic, then a foreigner who puts all the money into his pocket and pay nothing for taxes walks stealing, or the lady thinks this is South Africa where Laurinda and Sebastian came running, his gang of racist, for I will not be jealous Pedro nor I because we already have the land you covet so, contribute to the economy is not only bill and get the pocket and also pay taxes, on thier criticizes the Portuguese the answer is simple if you are not happy go away because nobody is called here.

    you are Portuguese in name only.

  • Laurinda Seabra


    Ouch! Stop being xenofobic it does nothing for Portugal.Fortunately you are not representative of the Portuguese nation.

    Regarding Portugal being a “Banana republic” it sure looks like it. It is 3rd in ranking on corruption in Europe in a transparency international report (that should tell you something).

    Another factor is that the majority of “foreigners”(and I include myself in this basket) are MORE concerned about Portugal than many born here. Most portugas are just worried about soccer (benfica / sporting/etc),filling their own pockets by backling the system at every chance they have, and in not rocking the “political” boat because there are benefits to be had for these that follow the party line.

    BTW, dual nationalities (Portuguese being one), luso descendents and portuguese expats spread all over the world account for more than 20 million people. I guess we all have the same rights as the 10million living in Portugal currently,if not even more so. From those 20 million,millions of euros are sent to Portugal every month assisting to balance the “Balance of payments” of the country, many own property in Portugal, and many also pay taxes in Portugal.

    That does not mean that we are blind to what is happening here. Having been exposed to different cultures and systems, we can and do indeed speak against what we see that Portugal and its corrupted leaders are doing to the detriment of the country and local residents.

    In addition, the “Foregners” living here, most do indeed pay taxes, buy from local suppliers and do not take their money out of the country into offshores and tax havens like the majority of the Portugas that have some money and should be an example to the nation.

    I think you should just acquaint yourself of the facts before talking nonsense.

  • Jorge Jesus

    in Portugal it is said if you do not like because it does not go away to another country

  • Laurinda Seabra

    As I have as much right to be in Portugal as you do, I am staying, the only difference is that I am doing something to change the “corrupted” environment of this country which I love,now what are you doing except moaning at these that are doing something to change things for the better for ALL and planet?

  • Sebastian Wolff

    Killing people??? Brazilians???hahaha dude you been watching to much TV, go out and do some paddling 😉 I´m sure you’re a nice guy so stop trying to be an asshole, lets go for s beer one day 😉

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