Portugal: The Land of Hospitality with South Coast Team Rider John Norris

South Coast Surf Shops’ team rider John Norris is at it again. Here’s his account of a short trip to Portugal, the place he has come to know as the land of Hospitality, and epic sandbar wedges.

 John Noris Catching Air Surfing in Protugal

Surfing in Portugal


When I think of Portugal, one word comes to mind– hospitality. I’ve never in my life experienced such welcoming and friendly people. My trip to Portugal was a short one, but I think its almost better that way, only giving me a little taste of a country I now need to go back to and explore its entirety.

Only a couple days before I had arrived, I had no plans. I’d heard rumors of long points and dredging beachbreaks, wedgy coves and shallow slabs. This place seemed like the holy grail. Unfortunately there was no swell on the horizon but I didn’t care, I live for getting lost in unfamiliar countries. I was going.

A friend originally from Portugal who now lives in La Jolla found out I was going to Lisbon, messaged a friend and told him I was coming and wanted to surf. This is where the hospitality began. Without ever meeting the guy in my life, Tomas Valente messaged me and told me he could meet up the afternoon I arrived for a surf, and had a board that I could borrow for the time I was there. I rented a car and started the drive over to his house about a half hour away– if you know the roads that is. Not speaking the language and furthermore not understanding the street signs, I was lost. What should’ve been a thirty minute drive turned into an hour and a half, but eventually I made it. With a quick handshake to Tomas and his friend Diogo, these guys treated me like family.

We made our way to a beach named Guincho, a wedgy beachbreak nestled inside of a wind-sheltered cove. We see a couple of wedges and Tomas decides this is probably our best bet for the day. Keep in mind that there’s no swell in the water, but somehow with the way Portugal sticks out into the ocean, there are chest high wedges coming in. We surfed for about an hour, the tide got too high and it was time to move on to another wave. A five minute drive and we got to another playful beachbreak named Cresmina. Surfed again for about an hour and a half and we were beat. We head back to Tomas’ house and call it a day. He immediately asks if I wanted to surf again tomorrow and I gladly said yes.

The next day, there was a little bit of a south swell in the water so we decided to go a bit further to a wave called Praia Grande. There was a running left sandbar that would peel for a little over 50 yards with nobody out and we were on it. A couple hours later and a handful of great rides later, we were beat. It was time to say our goodbyes and start my journey home already. I told you it was short– but so well worth it. Everyone needs to give Portugal a try.

-John Noris

 Photos: John Noris Portugal Surfing

Featured Photographer: Michael Barrus Interview

Photographer Michael Barrus Interview with South Coast

Michael Barrus describes himself as a UCSD nerd who ended up hanging out in La Jolla too much. Michael was born in Boston, raised in the Bay area, and cut his teeth in cold, oversized waves in Northern California. Barrus has spent more time trying to survive in the ocean than most people have, and way too much time with a camera. We at South Coast first got in touch with Michael Barrus through shop rider John Noris; which the two of them have been on quite the adventure lately as far as world travel to surf goes. Read more about why we wanted to share this talented surf photographer with you in this interview.

Michael Barrus Photo


What’s that? I’ve lived in twelve houses in my twenty-two years. I’m currently shacking up in La Jolla, been here for five years.

Years Shooting Photos:

Going on four years now.

How did you get into photography?

I played with cameras occasionally growing up, but I never properly fell in love until I was eighteen on nineteen. I spent about three months on crutches, and being out of the water was driving me insane. I couldn’t stand being away from the ocean for long, so I started bringing a digital camera down to the beach instead of a board. I eventually got off the crutches but I didn’t put the camera down; at that point, I loved it as much as I did surfing. I’ve been glued to a viewfinder since then, though I’m finally beginning to surf as much as I shoot these days.

Michael Barrus Photo

Do you enjoy working with film or primarily digital?

Digital. It’s so much easier. Film is beautiful and has depth and tones that you don’t see in digital photos, but every photo costs money and money is not something I have very much of.

Do you have any role model photographers or artists?

Of course. You can’t progress in any activity unless you have examples that you’re working towards. The people that have blown my mind (not necessarily in order of mind-blowingness) are Charles Bergquist, Chris Burkard, Morgan Maassen, Henri Cartier-Bressant, Todd Glaser, Steve Sherman, Patrick O’Dell, Terry Richardson, Robert Capa and Weegee.

Bergquist is a local media genius who lets me tool around his studio whenever I’m in town, which isn’t actually very often. He taught me pretty much everything I know about editing photos. He deserves a lot of recognition, and I owe him for being open and friendly and helpful.

Massen and Burkard are a couple of the best surf photographers there are. They’re both good photographers period, and they’re taking surf photography the direction it needs to go to be considered a legitimate breed of photography rather than just a shoddy documentation of a sport. There’s so much beauty in surfing, but so much surf photography is so bad (from a photographic standpoint). Burkard was really the first person I’ve seen to buck conventions and start treating surf photography from a more detached perspective- as photography and then documentation. I think he’s opened a lot of doors for more artistic approaches to surfing, not just blue water/black wetsuit/white board/midday sun. Google the rest of those names, you won’t regret it.

Michael Barrus Photo

Favorite Subject(s):

Waves, drunk girls, people surfing waves, and sober girls, not necessarily in that order.


Nikon D200. Retro, as far as digital cameras go.


Anywhere with Johnny Noris. In the last year, we’ve gone to Canada, Mainland Mexico, Baja, France, Spain, Washington, Oregon, Northern California, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New Hampshire and Maine. I’ve spent a little time in Japan, Central America and Indonesia on my own.

What makes your photography different or unique?

I hope it’s unique. That’s a serious claim to make about your own work. I’d like to think that I spend more time studying photography outside of the surf world than most “surf photographers” do. Like I said earlier, most surf photography is pretty straightforward- someone doing a turn, as seen from eye level through a 600mm lens. It’s just kinda boring after a while, especially if you don’t surf. My goal is to take photos that people find interesting, even if they don’t know a thing about surfing. I don’t want to need people to understand the difference between certain types of airs or whatever to like my shots. I want photos that are visually stunning enough that people stop and stare, even if they’ve never seen the ocean before. I try to incorporate techniques I see in lifestyle photography, landscape photography, candids, fashion photography, whatever, into surfing-related photos. I’d like to think that people can look at my photographs and appreciate them as photographs, as aesthetically pleasing objects regardless of the subject matter, which isn’t something that can be said of most surf photography.

How would you describe your photography style?

Rich colors, pulled-back framing, high-contrast, grainy. I think there is this theme of alienation that kind of runs through my work. I don’t really show a lot of faces; you don’t see the front of people very often in my photographs. I think photos are kind of invasive, that taking a photo of someone’s face is kind of voyeuristic. I like photographing people, but it’s more their presence in a photo than the details about them that I enjoy.

Michael Barrus Photo

Where has your photography been seen?

Wherever there’s an internet connection? I don’t really print very much. I’ve shown some photos in bars and little student galleries. I really only contribute to Surfline, as I have a pretty good relationship with those guys. I’m not really much of a hustler; I’m not good at selling myself. I’d love to spread my photos around though. People are always welcome to get in touch with me if they want to use me or my photos for any purpose.

You just returned from France? How was it shooting there?

France was fucking mental. France is literally the best place I’ve ever been- the culture, the historical artifacts, the architecture, the waves, the Nutella, the girls, the social scene, the beaches, the cities, the roads, the natural environment. The country is incredible. Johnny Noris and I went without knowing where we were going to stay, who we were going to stay with or what we were going to do for the two weeks we were there. We met some French surfers the first day we were there and ended up rallying around southern France with them for a week before heading inland and north where I knew some people. We literally spent three days surfing and two weeks exploring the country, and I don’t think either of us missed the ocean at all. It was the most interesting place I’ve ever been.

The waves were incredible, but the currents were devastating. I had to get out of the water and run up the sand every three minutes. It was such a tease to see these perfect waves barreling down the beach with no one out and know that the currents were going to keep me from getting near them. I’d go back in a second. We got great shots in almost no time. I can’t imagine what we would get if we went in season and had a couple weeks to shoot.

What makes surf photography challenging compared to other subject matter?

The medium, for sure. Being in the ocean. It’s so hard to shoot a good photograph while you’re trying to swim with a camera in one hand and negotiate all the elements at the same time. It’s stressful. It’s distracting. It’s much harder to predict where the wave are going to be, where your subject is going to be. It think it has held surfing photography back in a lot of ways. Surf photography isn’t like skate photography or snowboarding photography where everything is static and you can set up and then have the athlete hit the same kicker or section over and over again. It’s hard. You don’t get that many chances.

In-water or on Beach?

In the water. Always. Surfing just looks better when you’re right there, floating with the surfers.. The only time I really enjoy shooting from the beach is when the waves are empty and perfect and the surrounding environment is beautiful. A good line-up shot is classic.

When the waves are really pushing would you rather score barrels or photos of your buddies deep inside barrels?

Such a hard call. I love to surf, and I love to get barreled, but I’ve chosen shooting instead of surfing. It’s hard to watch waves roll through and know that you have to be the photographer, but it’s worth it to me to go home and know that you’ve nailed the shot. I love having something I can look at and play with after our session is over.

Michael Barrus Photo

Have you ever broken equipment while shooting or traveling?

Yeah. I had to cut my first trip to Canada short because I dropped my camera while changing lenses on a boat. My housing stopped working a month into a two month trip to Puerto Escondido. I’ve smashed lenses, scratched ports, broken sensors, killed memory cards and ruined film. I’ve done it all. It’s part of the game.

What plans and/or projects are you looking forward to?

Going to Baja at the end of this week for abut a month. I’m excited to spend some time in the dirt. It gets my life back in order- I go to bed early, wake up early, and spend the whole day in the water. I love it.

What drives you to continue shooting photography?

I get tired of the photos I have in my archives and I want to improve them. I want to fill out my portfolio. I want to be better than I was last month. I just want to be better than I am.

Michael Barrus

We at South Coast Surf Shops would like to thank Michael Barrus for answering these question and providing us with some of his amazing and inspiring photography. We are way thrilled to have such an accomplished in-water and lifestyle photographer to continue to build a relationship with. We are sure there will be more to come (Michael just left for Baja for a month) so check back here and expect to see more of his beautiful work. Until then make sure you check out his website and flickr listed below.

Shop Rider John Noris Surf Travel Update: Rio, Florianopolis, and Argentina

Part 1: Rio De Janeiro

The days are already beginning to blend together. Talks of going to Brasil and meeting up with friends have become a reality. Its all coming at me so fast and I know that even though I’ve only been here for a week and a half the whole trip is going to go by like the blink of an eye. I started out my journey in Rio De Janeiro where I met up with my friend Bruno Dana. Bruno lives in Ipanema and treated me like a king! We ate fresh acai, surfed some of the fine beach breaks and wedges of Rio and had a great time, even though it was short lived. After only a day and a half, I flew into Florianopolis, not knowing if anyone was going to pick me up from the airport or what my plan exactly was. I was greeted at the entrance of the airport by Caue Wood and Pedro Husadel…Thank God! The next couple of days we surfed some insane waves at breaks called Matadeiro and Lagoinha, both wedgy a-framing beach breaks. The 5 star WQS contest at Atlantida Beach in Xangri-la was the next day so we headed down to be greeted with shitty weather and even worse waves. About this time is when Lele Usua popped his head inside our hotel room! The Grinch! Caue and I lost first heat so we took off back up to Florianopolis after a couple days of hanging out. Lele continued making heats so he stayed. Back in Florianopolis, we scored some insane waves at a place called Campeche. Triple barrels were going down and we truly had some insane sessions! The wind switched, the swell died and the surfing stopped as of this afternoon. Lele ended up making finals and getting 3rd overall, so now it’s time to party!

Part 2: Floripa

Back in Florianopolis, we we’re instantly greeted by perfect waves. Caue and I surfed an insane sand bottom right point called Campeche where we were getting double barrels regularly. We got two other great wedgy barreling beach breaks called Matadeiro and Lagoinha and had a great time just cruising and relaxing. We hung out with beautiful women, got good waves and got to chill with our friends Elohe and Felipe as well!
Good times in Floripa… I’m headed back in October and can’t wait!

Part 3: Argentina

With the contest in Chile coming up, Lele and I decided to go hang out in Argentina for 10 days before heading over there. Upon arrival in Buenos Aires, we were notified that the contest in Chile was cancelled, so we were left wondering what to do. We decided to hang out for my birthday which happened to be on Argentina’s Independence day and to say the least, Argentina rages! Nights generally don’t start out until 2AM in Argentina and usually end at around 7 in the morning. The Usuna’s are celebrities in Mar Del Plata and we were VIP at some of the biggest and best clubs in all of Argentina.
Everything about Argentina was absolutely amazing. The meat is the juiciest sweetest meat that you’ve ever tasted. The people are nice. The women- oh my God the women. The most beautiful women that I’ve ever laid my eyes on. Most foreign countries I joke around about falling in love, particularly because of the broken English that they seduce me with, but here there’s an exception. Not are the women breathtakingly beautiful but they are kind, sincere and very intelligent people! After this trip, I’m 99% sure that I will marry an Argentinian woman…
Although we didn’t get great waves, we got some fun little beach breaks and to be honest, I could care less about surfing in Argentina next time I go. I just want to find my future wife!