“As I often say, California is Portugal on steroids,” said Pedro Pinto, in an interview with Lusa on the sidelines of the “Surf Industry Sustainability Initiatives” conference, in San Diego, in the United States.
“It’s four times bigger, [it has] four times more population, but there are many similarities and there is a natural empathy”, he considered. “This is something that we work on to promote synergies that are mutually beneficial at a political and economic level, a macro level, but it is also important to do this at a local level.”
The conference, organized by the consulate and TMA Blue Tech, brought together an audience of surfers, academics from the University of California San Diego (UCSD), where there is a center of excellence in oceanography, environmental activists, entrepreneurs and students.
“It was an idea we had to raise the profile of Portugal in California with an issue that unites the two West coasts, the West coast of the USA, which is California, and the West coast of Europe, which is Portugal”, indicated Pedro Pinto.
“The idea was to use surfing as an instrument to raise awareness in promoting sustainability”, said the consul. “We thought it was an interesting path within this logic of bridging the gap between Portugal and California, which have immense similarities”.
With the similarities, he said, also come common challenges. “One of them is coastal protection, another is the use of offshore renewable energy”, he explained. “It’s something that we see more and more with relevance, this connection between Portugal and California, and [we] also want to promote this through surfing.”
During the conference, the concept of “surfonomics” was mentioned, which focuses on the quality and economic impact of natural resources and surfing, and Pedro Pinto considered that this is a visible evolution in Portugal.
“Nowadays, not only do you see a lot of people surfing, but you also see surf schools and there is a whole small industry around that, which benefits restaurants, people who rent houses abroad”, he indicated.
This can be seen, for example, in the impact of Nazaré and its big wave. “I would say that, after Cristiano Ronaldo, it is the second best-known Portuguese brand in the world and therefore it actually has economic relevance”, highlighted the consul general.
As California is a historical reference, where modern surfing emerged, the intention of these events is to exchange experiences and compare the two models. “One is older and very stabilized, another that has had a very interesting progression in recent years and in Europe is the leader, which is Portugal,” he said.
The conference in San Diego also served as a kick-off for the Global Wave Conference, which will take place between Peniche, Nazaré and Ericeira from October 2nd to 4th.