The Azores – Europe’s answer to Hawaii for surfing?
Thirty legends from the world of surfing will meet in Portugal for the first time with the challenge of positioning the Portuguese islands as the Hawaii of Europe.
The mega competition will take place on the island of São Miguel between 18 and 23 September in what is the archipelago’s latest bid to promote the islands as a nautical sports destination.
Over the past three years over €1.5 million has been invested in marketing the islands for water sports while over the period hotel stays have soared 93% (€1.2 million in 2014 to €2.4 million in 2017) while bed numbers have increased by 64% with nautical tourism designated as a priority product within the Strategic Marketing Plan for the development of tourism for the Azores.
In 2017 the World Surf League (WSL) competition, Azores Airlines Pro, raked in €4 million in one week and expectations for the world surfing championships ‘Azores Airlines World Masters Championships’ are “running high” says Rodrigo Herédia from the competition’s organisation.
Top surfers are expected to arrive from all over the world: with many from Australia (14), Hawaii (6); New Zealand, USA, Brazil, United Kingdom, South Africa and Portugal being the other nationalities represented.
Tom Curren (USA), Sunny Garcia (Hawaii), Mark Occhilupo (Australia), Shaun Thomson (South Africa) and João Alexandre “Dapin” (Portugal) are the famous names from the world of surfing and these already established surfers are followed by around a million followers on the social networks.
Although this is not the kind of event that draws thousands of tourists to see the competition, it does represent an “excellent marketing campaign to put the Azores on the international tourism map as a destination for nature and radical sports lovers and for practising surfing,” says Rodrigo Herédia adding that, “with surfing now an Olympic sport its association with the Azores can have a huge impact for the region.”
“We want the Azores to stand out as a surfing and water sports destination, a place for training and high-level competitions against the peaceful backdrop of stunning natural beauty, great for competition level training , but also with top conditions for learning and practising surfing at an amateur and family leisure level”, says Marta Guerreiro, the Secretary of the Azores Regional Tourism Board.
The Azores Airlines World Masters Championships between 18 and 23 September will take place at the Santa Bárbara beach, Ribeira Grande, on the island of São Miguel involving 30 ex-world champions who are famous for the sport worldwide.