Most visiting surfers stay on the southwest coast, either in the villages of Jardim do Mar or Paul do Mar, as the area offers consistent surf at a variety of spots, and is usually protected from the prevailing NE winds.
If the wind turns onshore on the south coast, which can happen during stormy weather, the north shore is only a 40-minute drive away and usually protected from the southerly winds. Sometimes, however, due to the high coastal cliffs, the wind can actually wrap around the whole island, which will blow just about every spot out and make for a frustrating day of driving.
The most consistent spots on the island are Ponta Pequena and Paul do Mar on the southwest shore, and Faja da Areia on the north shore. Small swell or strong wind conditions often dictate that only one spot on the island will be working, which can become problematic on weekends when everyone is in the water. Conversely, when a big swell hits and lots of breaks are firing, it can be hard to find someone to surf with on weekdays. Every surf spot on Madeira is powerful and dangerous. There are no beachbreaks and gentler east coast waves like Machico break over rocks, which explains why there are still not many local surfers. Faja da Areia is generally regarded as the best place to learn on the island, and hence is also the most crowded. Despite being the 'beginner spot' , it's still a steep, ledgy wave that can pound the snot out of anyone. Welcome to Madeira! On the neighbouring island of Porto Santo, a craggy, unpromising north coast gives way to a very long, south-facing beachbreak that occasionally offers beginner peaks in NE-SW windswells.
The surf season runs from October through March with November to February considered as the prime months. Summers are generally flat, with few breaks able to make much of locally generated windswells on the east coast or Atlantic hurricane swells that tend to sweep further north. Unlike the Azores, Madeira is shadowed by Africa for any long-range southern hemi swells.