It is with great emotion that I remember the excitement I felt when, on that day in August of 1993, I gave my first “surf lesson” in Prainha – the same Baleal beach, in the county of Peniche, where I had also surfed my first wave a good few years previously.
Two kids from Baleal island, whom I knew well, asked me that day if they could use my surfboard and try it out, and if I could help them, to which I agreed and said of course I’d help them, and so it happened.
Followed by these two kids, other parents who saw that surf lesson also approached me and asked if I could help their children, who were excited and also wanted to have a go! The community of families in Baleal was relatively small, and everyone knew everyone else. Suddenly I had a “class” of 6 kids, since word had quickly spread that Bruno Bairros was giving some cool surf lessons… and that’s how the Baleal Surf School was born!
I turned the garage of my family home on Baleal island into the meeting point for these first students, borrowing half a dozen old surfboards from friends. There were no wetsuits, only bathing suits.
I had 25 students in August 1993, and when that fantastic summer came to an end I looked back and reflected… I had helped several kids and adults discover the sensations of sliding over the sea to the rhythm of a wave, something extremely rewarding.
More than that, I had discovered a new vocation. Something told me it would change the course of my life.
The very next year I asked the Peniche maritime authorities for a licence to install a platform alongside one small corner of the bay, which was granted to me, but as we were now at the height of summer, they allowed me to have a trailer.
With entrepreneurial spirit I started renting a few boards, selling wax, and above all I had a base at the beach where interested parties could drive to and book their surf lessons.
Success came immediately, and in addition to the Portuguese families there were more and more foreign tourists, extremely curious and eager to try “surfing the waves” delighted as they were by the gentle waves of Baleal.
Those early years consisted of hard work and dedication, finding my way step by step.
It quickly became clear that a new dimension could be added to the school if the possibility of accommodation were included, thus creating a more attractive package and attracting more customers.
I started to rent some houses on Baleal island, and in 1996 I had my first group of tourists from Austria, through an agent who specialised in snowboarding, and wanted to build a bridge between “snow-surfing” and the essence of boardriding, sea-surfing!
However, the great leap forward occurred in 1997 when I successfully applied for a beach concession on the corner of the Bay, and installed a beach facility with unique characteristics for its time.
On the one hand a restaurant-bar, and on the other a marine base directly on the beach, where the natural conditions for learning to surf and perfecting the art are among the best to be found in the world.
This beautiful wooden structure, situated directly on the beach with a spectacular view and mild “gentle” waves put us at the surfing epicentre of the Peniche peninsula, and enabled us to consolidate the quality of our service.
Since then the Baleal Surf Camp has not stopped improving its services, having made a huge investment in 2013 with the complete renovation of the Bar do Bruno and marine base, as well as constantly improving its hotels, villas and apartments.
Proof of the recognition achieved by our work had already manifested itself in 2000 with an honourable mention from Turismo de Portugal [Portuguese tourist board] at the Beach Tourism awards, and more recently with SME Leader classification awarded by the same entity.
More than these formal acknowledgements, which are important, I am particularly pleased to see that the children of former students who started surfing through our school many years ago come to me, or for instance being invited to the weddings of people who met at Baleal Surf Camp, or even friends who for several decades have scheduled their holidays in Baleal, as this is where they met.
The essence of Baleal Surf Camp is really this…the unity that we provide to so many people from so many different origins and nationalities, the common factor being a connection to surf and to Baleal.
Thanks to everyone! Let’s keep surfing this wave, with you at our side.