Surfing in Europe

Europe offers excellent surfing beaches and reefs. Surfing in Europe is a unique experience, due to the quality of waves, and the range of breaks that are available. Traveling and surfing in Europe is a unique experience, due to the rich variation in landscapes and cultures. From the green fields that overlook the breaks in Britain and Ireland, to the endless dune backed beaches of France, to the volcanic landscape of the Canaries, the choice is endless.

The best surf spots in Europe

Mundaka

Recommended European surf spots

Europe has many great locations to surf. Some are famous world class breaks, and some are beautiful location with great surf. The famous spots such as Mundaka, Rodilles and Supertubos are generally not good places for travelling surfers to try and surf, due to crowds and localism. I have put together lists of locations that I would recommend travelling surfers to visit, to escape the crowds, to avoid localism problems and to get good waves. I have suggested locations for more inexperienced surfers also, as you’ll be looking for slightly different conditions.

Recommended French surf spots

From north to south:

Surf spot Region Comments Experienced Beginner Accommodation
St-Giles Croix-de-Vie Vendee A nice town with a big beach, and several other beaches around. Bigger peaks around the beach Plenty of room, mellow waves, smaller peaks A couple of campsites within walking distance of the beaches.
Les Sables-d’Olonne Vendee A bustling pretty town with a good sized beach, and others around. Good long right-hander off the rocks. Can handle big swells. Lots of mellow places to chose along the beach. A campsite within walking distance of the town and several others around.
Lacanau-Ocean Gironde A true surf town, with massive endless beaches. World class break, Pro event since 1979, picks up lots of swell, big hollow waves. With so much beach its easy to find a quiet spot, the north beach is more chilled. The Grand Pins campsite at the north beach is one of the best campsites in France, surfer friendly, and has everything you need.

Recommended Spanish surf spots

Surf spot Region Comments Experienced Beginner Accommodation
Playa de Meron and other beaches in the Parque Natural de Oyambre national park Cantabria Lots of beaches, beautiful location Lots of good peaks, fast and hollow waves at all tides Lots of beaches with mellow areas Free camping in San Vicente de la Barquera and towards Comillas. Various campsites around also.

 

Recommended Portuguese surf spots

Surf spot Region Comments Experienced Beginner Accommodation
Peniche Estremadura Peniche may be the home of Supertubos, but there are lots of beaches in the area, including the big crescent bay of Praia do Baleal. If the wind is onshore for most of the beaches Lagide and the edges of Baleal will be offshore or sheltered. As long as there is swell you can normally always find a wave that is working. Expect crowds and surf schools though. Popular with travelling surfers. Supertubos and lots of big reef breaks Lots of room at Baleal, Lagide is sheltered. Free camping in lots of car parks at Baleal. Very cheap campsite minutes from the beaches. Lot of surf camps also.

 

The best European regions during the year

Morocco is included as many people visit Morocco during European trips.

Month Region Comments
January Morocco, Canaries, Algarve Warm only in the south
February Algarve, Canaries Warm only in the south
March Algarve, Canaries, Andalucia, Northern Spain Warm in northern Spain (to escape the crowds) and south
April Algarve, Northen Spain , South western France Warm from south west France and south.
May Cornwall, South west France, Western France Warm enough from Cornwall and south, with good swell
June South west France, Devon and Cornwall, Galicia All areas are warm, best swell to the north
July South west France, western France , northern Spain All areas are warm, best swell to the north
August Northern Spain, western France, south west France, North west Portugal Hottest month, all areas are warm, best swell to the north
September South west France, western France, Lisbon, north west Portugal, northern Spain, Devon and Cornwall Northern areas are cooling, but much less crowded. Great swell from Cornwall down to the North of Portugal
October Northern Spain, south west France, north west Portugal, Peniche and Ericeira The warmth and swell are moving south
November Canaries, Algarve, Peniche and Ericeira, Morocco Cold in the north, consider only Peniche and south
December Morocco, Algarve, Canaries, Lisbon Cold in the north, consider Lisbon for a city break surf

 

Surf trip transport in Europe

Europe has an extensive network of railways and buses. There are lots of accomodation options, with cheap hotels and campsites. However the very best surf trip happens with your own transport. A van is the best option. You and some mates, a van that you can sleep in, and your surfboards stashed inside. For shorter trips, during summer and early autumn, a car and tents for camping is also a good option. See the guide on buying a van, or converting your own. See also living in a van, free caming and campsites.

Surf shops and surfing equipment in Europe

Popular surf spots and surfing towns will have surf shops, but they may be in limited numbers or have limited stock. I’d suggest taking a spare leash and always keep a supply of wax, stock up well in advange.

The largest surfing communities have the best surf shops, if you are looking to buy surfboards or wetsuits. Lacanau-Ocean, Hossegor and Biarritz in France, San Sebastian, Mundaka and Santander in Spain, Peniche and Ericeira in Portugal have the best concentration of surf shops. Outside of these areas it can be difficult to find a range of equipment.

If your board gets damaged you can find board repair services at a good surf shop. Until you find a repair service seal the damage with gaffer tape. If you leave it too long though you risk permantely damaging your board.

Surfing localism and etiquette in Europe

With the increasing number of surfers, especially travelling surfers in Europe, it is important to make sure you travel and surf respectfully. If you find yourself in a situation stay calm and respectful. As you a visiting surfer you expect to surf when possible and not all of the time. The locals will never welcome you with open arms, but if you stay friendly and respectful you will be accepted much more quickly.

When visiting crowded and hyped breaks such as Mundaka, Rodilles and Supertubos sit and watch a while before you decide whether you are going to paddle out to the line up. Breaks such as these are becoming increasingly more tense. Some breaks, such as Rodilles, have developed reputations where visiting surfers are advised not to join the line up. Try other breaks on the beach.

Beaches and the sea

Europe has a great diverisity of beaches, from long stretches in France to small bays found everywhere. The water quality of the sea around every city in Europe is poluted. Always keep this in mind when entering the water near a city. Always respect the enviroment.

Risks in the sea in Europe

There are a few risks you face in the sea in Europe

Weaver fish

Weaver fish are small fish that are found in the shallows around low tide. They are very difficult to spot and avoid. If you tred on one you’ll get a painful injection via the spines on their back. The injection is very painful, but generally not leathal. To treat, immerse your foot into water as hot as you can tolerate for 15 minutes. This will break down the poison and stop the pain.

Urchins

Urchins are found on rocky reefs and mostly found in warmer areas such as Portugal, the Canaries and Morocco. Urchins have a hard, spinny armour. if you stand on one the brittle spines will break off and lodge in your foot. If it happens then you can pick out the spines with a sterile needle. Wearing boots stop most urchins. If in doubt wear them!

Jelly Fish

Jelly Fish are found throughtout Europe. Jelly fish travel on the wind and currents so they are more prevalent in the shallows following onshore winds. Most are relativley harmless, administering a small sting via their tentacles. Even washed-up jelly fish can sting,so dont touch them. People often suffer allergic reactions during which they can feel serious discomfort, dizziness, or breathlessness. Weeing on the sting will steralise and neautralise the sting. Anticeptic cream can help swelling. Beach lifeguards can treat stings.

The history of surfing in Europe

European surfing started in Biarritz in France, and Newquay in England in the 1960s. The visiting American and Australian surfers saw the potential of the atlantic waves. Surfing has become very popular in Europe, with an estimated 2.2 million surfers on the continent. In France and Portugal top surfers are celebraties, and surfing is often seen on terrestrial TV. The surf exploosion has also bought about crowds on the top breaks, and localism is a problem at many spots. If you take the time to surf in Europe, you will experience surfing like nowhere else.

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