by Maria João Proença
Aethos Ericeira’s uninterrupted ocean view is not just any ocean view. The refreshing breeze that welcomes you in the morning and the sound of the waves that rock you to sleep at night are part of one of the main leading actors in Ericeira’s century-old history, the sea.
Nowadays one of the most popular beach tourist destinations in the district of Lisbon, Ericeira’s deep connection to the sea dates back to its foundation in the 13th century. Legend has it that its name (originally Ouriçeira, which means “land of urchins”) came from the abundance of sea urchins on its beaches. This theory was, however, refuted by more recent evidence that suggests that the so-called urchins were in fact hedgehogs, but the legend lived on and the sea urchin remains a symbol of the village to this day.
Ericeira’s population was once made solely of sea people known as Jagozes, a name which locals are still known for today. From the sea came not only the much appreciated Atlantic sea breeze but also the main source of livelihood for those who regularly ventured into the rough seas in search of whales, hake or ray.
In the 19th century, Ericeira went from being a modest fishing village to living its true glory days. Its port, through which numerous shipments of products entered by boat, was at the time considered the fourth most important port in Portugal, surpassed only by Lisbon, Porto and Setúbal.
With the arrival of the railway to the west of Portugal at the end of the century, Ericeira began losing its commercial relevance in exchange for a growing tourist appeal. The local weather conditions and the high concentration of iodine on its beaches helped classify the small village as one of the most appealing beach destinations in Portugal.
In the 1970s, Ericeira also started welcoming another type of tourism. It was now suddenly turning into a haven for surfers. This is when surfing starts becoming an intrinsic part of the village’s essence. The waves that were once seen as obstacles for local fishermen were now beginning to be seen as a playground for all those who couldn’t live without a surfboard under their feet.
In 2011 Ericeira made History as the first World Surfing Reserve in Europe and the second in the world. From that moment on, the village would initiate a process of great economic and tourist development. Nowadays, many are those who come to Ericeira looking for amazing waves, especially in the area that stretches from Empa beach to São Lourenço beach. National and international surfing championships have multiplied over the years and references to surf are everywhere.
There’s an old song that claims that in Ericeira the sea is bluer. And it couldn’t be more true. Here, not only is the sea bluer, but it is also lived with more intensity and passion. This is not just any sea, it is the sea of Ericeira.