The next surf trip seemed so far away. Hence I decided to go on a short trip with friends in the Algarve, Portugal. Because of all the good reviews on Tripadvisor and their Facebookpage we decided to go to the Jah Shaka Surfcamp in Luz, near Lagos.
For me it was the first time in the Algarve and I really like the landscape. Some fancy stone formations and rough cliffs are surrounding small bays and wide sand beaches. Located on the south-west of this beautiful country, there are always some good waves promised. Lagos and Sagres are small, picturesque villages with those white houses, which are typical for this area. Both have a lovely small and cute center with an amount of restaurants and tiny stores. Everything is very touristic but still nice.
Jah Shaka – The Camp
The camp is located near Luz. At first you will realize the beautiful yard with its pool, a beachvolleyball field, a football table, a fireplace. There are so much possibilities to chill and doing activities. In the backyard is the camping site located. The other guests will share one of the rooms in the villa. In the huge hall there is a chimney and a TV, which is just too much in use. The rooms are appropriate, but clean. Just a little minus is the number of bathrooms – there are three of them. For the guest in the house it would be enough, but when you add the camping guests it is definitely not. Especially in the morning or after the surf sessions, there will be a lot of traffic and it will be hard to get a free slot.
Jah Shaka – Camplife and Activities
A great evening program and nice food – this is in my opinion the forte of the Jah Shaka Camp. Nearly every evening there were well structured activities for the camp inhabitants, like some inhouse dinners, which were awesome, and some common meals in nearby restaurants, which are also highly recommendable. Even for vegetarians were some alternatives. Besides regularly yoga classes SUP tours are offered. If there are enough people interested, you can book a sunrise or sunset tour.
Jah Shaka – Food
Like I mentioned before: The meals were all good. The breakfast was pretty varied and offered all you need to start the day. Pancakes, cereals, bread, eggs, fresh fruits and yogurt – even soy yogurt, just to name a few. If you booked a surf session there was a lunch break at the beach. Some salads and stuff to make a sandwich were put on a surfboard and everybody could just pick the things he liked.
Jah Skaka – Surf lessons
This is my most criticized point. And that’s bad, because that was the main reason for my trip. Before we booked the lessons I was really struggling between guiding or lessons. But I thought to myself, that a little bit of teaching would be good for me. You know, work on some stuff, learning something new… so I did choose the lessons. Spoiler alert: it was the wrong decision and I tell you why:
The main reason in my opinion was, way too big groups. So you had one surf guide for seven people, which was reasoned by the number of seats in the vans. Even too much, if you ask me. But okay, depends also on the instructor. At the beach the people were separated into different groups. From beginners over people, who want to work on their basic techniques to advanced. Depending on the people it happened that we were more than 12 people in a group with only one instructor. I am not wondering that didn’t work out – an individual and intensive treatment is just not possible with that number of people.
At the beach they gave a brief introduction into some techniques, e.g. turns and if wanted, a quick warm up. And then… in the water: all together! We were lucky that there were no other surf school around, but imagine about 30 people just chasing for one wave. The safety rules were not explained so this is a miracle that not more people got injured. Everybody went into the ocean without watching the others and without enough space to each other.
At my first day my group was about nine people including myself. Our Coach went into the line up with ONE girl. The rest of us left back unattended. I paddled out as well and the coach just didn’t attend me. On the second day I got no feedback neither. On day four I really wanted to know: I paddled in just in between two guides and surfed back just the same way… no feedback at all. No comment, no word at all. I started to do mistakes on purpose just to see if they will mention something. But no!.On my last day we went to a beach and were left there for over three hours to wait for better conditions while the coaches were surfing. So why not start later?
To put it all together: no one ever spoke a word to me when I was in the water. No hints, no suggestions, neither a “Hey, great job”
Okay, that is just my opinion. But other participants had the same impression. My friend told me from a strange situation. She recognized that one of the students was wearing the leash on the front foot – WRONG! After she watched it for half an hour she went to one of the coaches and hesitatingly asked: “I am not a surf teacher and I don’t really know, but I think there’s maybe something wrong. Does the boy wearing his leash on the wrong foot?” The coach replied: yeah, he does, but he is catching more waves than anybody else, so what???” Another friend of mine told me that he didn’t get a feedback on the water as well – just on the beach while dryland training. Someone else, who was smart enough to just book the guiding told me, that he sees no difference between the guiding and the lessons.
On the other hand, there were plenty of people who really liked the way of teaching. I’m not sure, if they have nothing to compare with or if there was a difference in that treatment. I don’t know, but for me the surf lesson experience was a huge disappointment, so sorry to say. Instead of getting better and learning some new stuff I felt like I did a step back.
- the Algarve is definitely worth a visit
- I will not visit this surf camp a second time
- although all the trappings was really great
- the organization was good and mood was great but
- the staff seemed partly unmotivated and what I had come for,
- the surfing lessons were a disaster for me