Our next rider is from an area of Portugal that is without doubt one of the best surf regions in Europe, in fact throughout the world.
The quality beaches and reefs that serve up the goods day after day have meant that Portugal is a magnet for hardcore bodyboarders and the skill levels are through the roof.
The community is amazing and the comp scene phenomenal holding at least 3 APB events culminating in one of the most intense finales at Nazare possible....
I know me and Jansje get super excited every time we get to cruise to Portugal.
My name is Mafalda Martinho, I’m 18 and I am from Ericeira, I actually live in Lisbon because I study there but I used to say that I lived in Ericeira.
I really feel that small village is a magic place and is where I belong.
I don’t remember the first time I got on a boogieboard, ever since I was a child I was kind of overactive and a sporty girl, it’s all fine until the summer vacations where I used to spend time with my grandparents, I think my parents had to find a solution to reduce my energy levels with sports during the day.
My mother always told me that she encouraged us (me and my sister) to bodyboard instead of surf because we would be safer with flippers in case we got ourselves in some difficult situation in the riptide.
I was about 14 when I bought my first real board and wetsuit at Sport Zone, after that my mum started taking us to the water to have some fun and spent some time together on her vacations.
The next problem had just started and they just didn’t realise that.
So, for the ones who know me, I never give up on the things I really want (my family tell me that I have a massive persistence, sometimes I burn out their brains, until I get what I need) they started to trust me ad allowed me to hang out with friends.
So, once I had the older surfer friends, the board, the flippers and the wetsuit, I just needed to convince my parents that I could surf at what time I wanted with people who they had't even met.
Unfortunately my talking skills weren’t enough to change their minds, so I got a deal, I had to start swimming twice a week and I had to surf with a coach, Oscar Mansura (fun fact: I hate swimming), of course I hadn’t give up on the part “surf whenever I wanted”, but I really liked to surf with my coach because more than learning I had lots of fun in the water and I had someone who I could trust on the bigger days, I had just found a hero.
Even though I've never said it to him, he was my inspiration and more than a coach he was a good friend. Of course I started meeting people in the water and I was getting more and more stoked with the other boys surfing when Oscar started taking me to harder waves. All my idols some years ago were there and they still are my friends.
I never cared about competing and I didn’t follow any big riders, now I have some that I really like to watch and support, Isabela Sousa, Daniel Fonseca and Ian Campbell, they are 3 of my favourite ones.
I started surfing in São Sebastião but as soon as my coach took me to Pedra Branca I just fell in love with that wave.
It’s definitely my favourite wave, not only because it’s perfect but is the one where everything happened, although I love two other waves on that beach,
It was here the first time I hurt myself, where I learnt my best manoeuvres, where I caught the biggest waves and where I learned how to get respect from the others.
I feel really confident surfing there no matter what the conditions, below 2 meters, but I still want to be challenged by that wave even though I know it pretty well.
About competitions, I went for the first time to the regional in Ericeira(2017),at my beach but it was terrible.
It was a very strong wave and it was in the middle of the winter. I looked at the forecast and it was crazy difficult for my level at that time, I won’t forget it.
I followed the other girls as the president of my club advised me, Miguel Barata, but soon I was pulled by the current.
I had 5 minutes to paddle out but I took about 10 to reach the outside because I never gave up to fight with the sea, besides that, everyone was looking at me. In fact I got it, and I almost couldn’t breathe, but what matters is that I did it, and I was shaking, my mouth was tasting like blood and after recovering had a wave and of course impressed my parents and myself.
It was another level, but I overcame my problems. After this experience, I officially hated competitions and it was out of my plans to repeat it again. I was wrong, a few months later, it was summer again and I had turned 17. Miguel Barata invited me to go to the Portugal Cup which was going to take place in Figueira the Foz.
I decided to give it a go because I had never surfed out of Ericeira until then and I would meet new people from my town and have a kind of surf trip.
I got there without any pressure or being nervous, I passed my heats and soon I was in the semi finals against three more experienced girls and I did the best roll of my live, something that I didn’t even know I could do, suddenly I was in the final and I got a 3rd place.
After that I realised that competing could be fun if I wasn’t thinking about it and achieving good results was not so unreachable.
I started my first year in the national’s under 18 in 2018 and I didn’t have as much fun as the other comp but I was and I am still trying to find out how to like to compete. It’s actually a different challenge, competitive sports have too many unfortunate situations that lead many pro riders to give up.
Yesterday I started to compete on the European tour (2019) and for the first time I got really happy with my surf. I had no high expectations and maybe that is the trick who knows?
Now I am taking it more seriously but I am not thinking about making this my life, unfortunately bodyboarding doesn’t have that dimension yet, but I hope it will have one day if more passionate people like you and LidLife, continue to contribute to the sport.
At the moment it is difficult for me to make time for everything at the same time.
I am currently taking a master’s degree in Biomedical Engineering, learning mandarin, just started Muaythai and surf ( it’s a funny way to get the physical condition bodyboarders need and I am really enjoying both sports), to add to that I still need to practice bodyboarding many hours per week and spend some weekends at the beach waiting for my heat. Why do I have so many activities? Well, I hate the feeling of loosing time and if I have all my free time busy I feel productive at the end of each day and that’s what makes me concretize and happy.
Furthermore, I have to emphasize that nothing would be possible without the support of my Sponsor Mothersurf, Ericeira Surf Clube and of course, my parents. I have no words to describe how happy I am to be a surf rider of Mothersurf, an eco shop that has a new concept to help the world, that provides me the best organic wetsuits I ever had (from sooruz) and the leash and board from Sniper (Ian Campbell NRG).
To conclude I want to say that more than a passion bodyboarding is a life style, it's magic the way it changes our habits, minds, dreams, how it helps in our stressful life, how we change all our plans of personal life to catch some more nice waves or even our travels. Besides that, surf and bodyboarding can give you something much more important than good waves. You can learn to respect, how to help, get some life values that sometimes you don’t get at home and specially be brave and make the others respect you. Most of the time I only surf with men in the water and I have to say that is extremely difficult to deal with the “sharks” but I can only say thank you to them to make me what I am right now.
Mafalda it was great to finally meet you, you are mature beyond your years and your skill and confidence in the water is that of a woman twice your age.
You have an amazing future in front of you and it was a pleasure for me and Jansje to hang out with you and the guys in Cascais at the fantastic BBQ and #1 Bodyboard Luah Soulhouse, we are both excited for what your future holds.
Photo credits include:
Van Life Productions
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