The idea of surfing destinations would typically bring us to think about being in the chilly seas of Australia, sunny coasts of California, or unforgiving waves of Hawaii. We already have a list of beaches to go to in these places. But, has Europe ever crossed your mind?
Believe it or not, Europe is not just home to exquisite architectures and diverse cultures. Europe houses stunning beaches with perfect waves to surf. It has fantastic varieties of surfing spots from the icy waters of northern Scotland down to the balmier conditions of the Canary Islands.
Yes, there are a lot of surfing destinations in Europe. In this write-up, we’ll get to know each one of them.
Where to Surf in Europe
Generally accorded as a full continent because of its great physical size, Europe has a lot to offer for the surfing community. Being bordered by the Arctic Ocean to the north, the Atlantic Ocean to the west, and the Mediterranean Sea to the south, there are so many shores to put those surfing gears on.
#1. Biarritz, France
Biarritz offers more than a few remarkable surf spots for all skill types. Being situated in the middle of Europe’s premier surfing coastline, it showcases two of the country’s iconic beaches – the Grand Plage and Cote des Basques.
La Cote des Basques is perfect for beginners. Just south of the city, this sheltered spot offers mellow waves for beginners. Further south, the town of Ilbarritz has multiple surfing spots for both beginners and experts.
With a humid sea climate throughout the year, the best months to visit Biarritz is between June and September. But, if you have surfing activities on your itinerary, the best time to surf depends on your surfing ability – beginners from April to October and advanced from May to March and September to November.
#2. San Sebastian, Spain
Spain’s paradise for surfers, San Sebastian is known for the “Zurriola” – the beach for local surfers and tourists. With a history of being burned to the ground in 1493, it now shines in its genuine character.
A must for anyone on a European surfing trip, San Sebastian has many bars, cafes, and clubs by the foot of Monte Urgull that adds to the many reasons locals built surf camps for residents and tourists.
Beginners and intermediate riders may ride the breaks along Zurriola Beach during the months of September to December. Summer gets the town truly buzzing while winter has consistent swells and smaller crowds.
#3. Bundoran, Ireland
With perfect A-frames that offers up extensive walling lefts, multiple segments, and short hollower right-hander, Bundoran having the most consistent reed breaks in Ireland is the perfect place for a European surfing holiday.
Located right in the center of the town, Bundoran Peak is the best of both worlds. Its consistent waves work well all year round but can be best ridden during the winter months of November to February. Be sure to bring the right gear if riding the Peak during these months as it can get absolutely cold.
That wouldn’t come as a surprise considering Ireland’s weather isn’t the best. Winter months can go down to below 0° C and summer rarely exceeds 25° C. But, just as long as you have the proper wetsuit, you’ll be fine.
#4. Peniche, Portugal
Peniche is famous for a lot of things – stretched sandy beaches, surfing spots, sardines, etc. Did we mention surfing spots? Yes, Peniche is mainland Europe’s westerly city and one of the best places to surf in Portugal.
Dubbed as the country’s surf capital, it has a variety of surf spots with consistent waves. Adding to its popularity is the annual WSL World Tour Championship that happens every October. Combine that with the wind that is always offshore, surfing becomes so much better.
Although Portugal is generally considered as a year-round surfing destination, the best and most steadfast surfing conditions happens during autumn and winter. During the months of April and September are friendlier and smaller waves – the perfect time for beginners and intermediate to surf.
#5. Hossegor, France
Hossegor receives the world’s best surfers every October as they host Quiksilver Pro. All of them competing at one of the world’s best beach breaks – La Gravière. During its peak months, this beach break displays heavy drops into speedy spitting barrels.
These barrels bring out every tube-hunter in the area including the many faithful devotees from all around the world. Having said that, it means this is not the place for beginners to learn.
Just a few miles north of La Gravière is yet another punchy beach break – Les Culs Nuls. Considered the most consistent surfing spot, the barrels are adequate for a good ride, but with a softer and calmer vibe than La Gravière.
#6. Nazare, Portugal
Ask any pro surfer or surfing enthusiast about what happened on the 28th of January in 2013, and they will tell you in a heartbeat about that day the biggest wave was ever surfed. Garrett McNamara took a queue from his wife on the radio about the incoming wave without realizing it was measuring 100 ft.
Nazare has the world’s best surfers surfing its oceans. The wave that McNamara rode in 2013 wasn’t the first big wave. In 2011, was a 78 ft wave that brought so many challengers to the shore. Pro surfer Maya Gabreira was rescued unconscious from a near-fatal wipeout during that ride.
The waves sound rogue, but according to the scrutiny of top European oceanographers, the waves behave differently depending on the months. In summer, it is a perfect spot for beginners. In its peak months, if it isn’t brutal, it rises from 3 to 20 ft.
#7. Ericeira, Portugal
Often compared to Mexico’s Baja California and Australia’s Gold Coast, Ericeira is Portugal’s jewel in the crown of Portuguese surf. It shouldn’t surprise you, Ericeira is the first choice among surfers traveling to Europe.
To start the list of reasons surfers pick Ericeira is its highest concentration of quality waves in Europe. One of the surfing destinations that offer the most consistent waves, every little corner of this village exhales surf vibes.
So much surf vibes that surfers outnumber beach-goers, surf houses, and locals. Often surfers can no longer find lodges as they have gone more than the number of houses.
All year round, Ericeira has the best weather that even in winter, they have sunny days. The constant cool breeze keeps summers not too hot, as well. Beginner’s best time to surf is between May and September.
#8. Mundaka, Spain
One of the gems of the Basque Coast, Mundaka in Spain is truly a surfer’s haven. With waves breaking left on the river mouth sand bar, it provides a long and powerful barreling ride. Mundaka holds big swells and has the best waves in Europe during its peak months.
The past years had Mundaka testing the world’s best surfers with its tubes. Billabong holds an annual Billabong Pro Mundaka contest. The same surfing competition that crowns the likes of Bobby Martinez, Kelly Slater, and Andy Irons. In 2010, Adriano de Souza bested everyone else.
It was during the 80s when Mundaka’s gnarly beast of waves started attracting surfers. Since then, its picture-perfect left-hand tubes have been the source of growing Euro force in Spain with European riders frequenting the place to do training.
#9. Watergate Bay, England
Watergate Bay, an uncovered beach break offers consistent surf that can work at any time of the year. The surfs that build Watergate Bay come from different groundswells with its best swells having the direction from west-northwest.
The most interesting thing about Watergate Bay in North Cornwall is that it offers both left and right-hand waves. These waves are not affected by tides and from time to time bring about dangerous rips that surfers have to watch out for.
Watergate Bay has limited accommodation which is a good thing because it makes the spot fee from trashy tourists. The beach is kilometers long and crowds that build up tend to thin out in the northern part even on summer days.
#10. The Bubble, Canary Islands
The Bubble in the Canary Islands is Europe’s response to Hawaii. A place with endless summer, it has year-round warm weather and consistent waves to surf on.
The Canary Islands, aside from the Bubble houses over a hundred top-notch waves, point-breaks, and reefs. Everywhere you will see surf camps that welcome surfers from different levels of expertise and from far and wide.
From September to April, you can enjoy the main surfing season where the consistent swell is accompanied by warm and sunny weather. The best waves happen from November to February. These months are for the most experienced of riders.
Hawaii, Australia, and California no doubt has the most consistent, well-formed, and powerful breaks. Thus surfers from everywhere in the world end up fighting over the perfect wave that these places offer, particularly the surfing beaches in California.
If you are fed up with sharing the waves with so many beachgoers, you know Europe is always around and within it are plenty of surfing spots that are just as good as the previous.
Have a European surf spot in mind that I missed? You know what to do in the comments section below.
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I’m so glad Waterrgate Bay made it onto the list, Newquay is such a great spot for surfing. I use to live further south in Cornwall which was perfect for surfing. Each day I could look at the surf report around the local beaches and head to the one which had what I was looking for. Sometimes a nice gentle surf, but most of the time I prefer the rougher choppy waves (crazy I know, but feels so good!)
I’d recommend Porthtowan, small quiet beach with great waves. To top it off an after surf drink at Blue Bar listening to the waves crash against the beach.
Definitely going to head to some of the French, Spanish and Portuguese beaches for a surf now!
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