It's a sign of the times that seemingly all surf shops must now come equipped with a Slayer espresso machine operated by a pretentious barista. No longer contented to simply fondle a few handshapes and leave with bar of wax, surfers—particularly urban-based surfers—also need an exotically sourced pour-over from a third-wave coffee purveyor and a selection of artisanal baked goods, while they scope out new surf crafts. It's clear that the needs of surfers have evolved quite a bit since the post-war years of Kivlin, Quigg and company, content to eat canned meats and retire to improvisational thatched-roof shelters after hours of riding waves on the North Shore. Today, it seems that coast-adjacent, dense, urban areas best meet the needs of the contemporary surfer.
In the gig economy, cities—regional and global centers of industry, commerce, and culture—are where the jobs are. Modern cities have become walk-able, gastronomic and booze-centric, tolerant and progressive playgrounds for a Millennial generation primed to live and work in a more communal, stimulating environment. And when you stir in an accessible coastline and roughly a hundred days of ridable waves per year, a city can also provide a surfer a dynamic and balanced existence.
So in case you're considering a relocation opportunity, we pored over job statistics, surf reports, and city guides—taking into consideration surf proximity and quality, employment opportunities, and quality of life—to narrow down the world's best surf cities. The list we've assembled includes ten world centers, economic hubs revered for their cultural institutions where one can find a steady job and consistent-enough surf to satiate the most wave-obsessed among us. These are cities where, even if you're resigned to only surf with the weekend warrior crowd, you'll never be bored—provided you haven't handed over all your disposable income to some pretentious barista.
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From cold, scary, bombing beach breaks to cruise-y, mellow points, the sundry surf scene in Lisbon is as distinctive as the City of Seven Hills, itself. Peak-y beach breaks like Carcavelos, just ten minutes from the bustling, historically important city center, wedge and heave in front of throngs of tourists and Portuguese urbanites, while mellow points like Sao Pedro offer long rides and a more quaint experience not too far removed from chaos. Short-period windswells and mild water temps of summer give way to long north Atlantic low pressure produced groundswells, which light up the majority of spots in the fall for weeks on end, before frigid temps and even longer period groundswells make for call for wintertime heroics. With a mix of relatively chilly, and notoriously dirty water, pervasive afternoon on-shores, and its old-European-meets-contemporary Metropolitan affect, Lisbon is a bit like San Francisco, only with about a few thousand more years of recorded cultural history under its belt.
In 2011, at the height of the World recession, Portugal was being lumped in with other economically shattered European countries like Italy, Greece, and Spain-PIGS, as they were referred to. But Lisbon–which predates other modern European cities like London, Paris, and Rome by centuries-didn’t survive invasions by Germanic tribes, the Moor, and Napoleon, the Crusades, and a catastrophic earthquake or two, without a little resilience. Just a decade after the recession, Lisbon’s service-based economy is the envy of Europe, and its job market is the best in the EU. As the wealthiest region in Portugal, responsible for 45% of the nation’s GDP, Lisbon is a hub for manufacturers, media companies, and financial institutions. Tourism is growing faster in Portgual than any other country, so there is currently a high demand for service industry jobs.
QUALITY OF LIFE:
More sunshine than some of the sunniest European cities, with ancient architecture, superlative seafood, raucous nightlife, quality surf, and relatively reliable public transportation to access it all, Lisbon is a dream city for a surfer. You’re not likely to tire of the views from atop the Seven Hills, but if you’re looking to get out, you’ve got all of Europte to explore. And if you get homesick, Lisbon is the closest European capital to America.
Median Income: $51,000
Top Industries: Manufacturing, construction, tourism
Median Home Price: $380/Sq. foot
Median Rental Price: $918/month for a 1BR in city center
Water Temperature Range: 57-71F
Surf Spots: Carcavelos, Costa de Caparica, Praia da Poca, Bafureira, Sao Pedro