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In search of the best waves for surfing in Europe

2021-06-15T13:38:24.401Z

Riding on a board is a good reason to travel to the ends of the world, but some of the most desired breakers for surfers are not far away



MORE INFORMATION

  • In the new guide 'The best places in the world to surf', by Lonely Planet

On the European coasts, surfers can experience magical moments on some beaches in the Cantabrian Sea, on the French Atlantic coast, in the seas of Great Britain or even beyond the Arctic Circle.

These are nine proposals for wave lovers.

Surf paradises in the French Basque Country

Hendaye

,

Saint Jean de Luz

,

Guéthary

and

Urrugne

are the surfing stars of the French Basque Country, which has more than 50 kilometers of coastline, with beaches for all tastes, from the largest, Hendaye, to the smallest coves. , like those of

Guéthary

. With impressive waves, but without being dangerous, these sandy areas have long been classic goals for all surfers, which also allow you to combine this sport with many other water activities and even with quiet beach days with the family. By selecting among all the possible waves, we were left with two:

Côte des Basques

, in

Biarritz

and

Parlementia

, in

Guéthary

.

enlarge photo Hendaye beach, in the French Basque Country.

GETTY images

If not for

La Gravière

and the sandy waves of

Soorts-Hossegor

, the

Côte des Basques

beach

It would probably take the cake for surfing in France thanks to its beautiful break on the banks of a castle with splendid views of the Pyrenees. It is in the extreme south of Biarritz and generates waves of left and right that tend to prefer low tide. To tell the truth, the beach does not even exist at high tide, but it is possible to sneak between the rocks and ride the waves if the swell is strong enough. There is a dedicated and large community of longboard surfers here and a few surf schools. The further south, the less people and the more interesting peaks for short boards. In any case, you have to get used to the idea that there will be crowds and enjoy a cocktail at sunset at the Etxola Bibi bar.

Also

Parlementia

, located next to the small town of

Guéthary

, 10 kilometers south of Biarritz, has a discreet and modern surfing community. When a major swell hits the west coast of France, this place is ideal for big wave surfing. It is a reef wave with a double slope: a long right and a left one that allows you to execute a couple of turns. It breaks with almost any swell and is best at mid tide, but it can withstand almost everything the Atlantic throws at it. Although it is entertaining every day of the year, there are months better than others, and even in winter there are days with strong swell and favorable wind that surfers do not hesitate to take advantage of. Compared to

Belharra

and

La Nord

(more unstable), Parlementia provides the best big waves in the area. 

enlarge photo Holborn Head Lighthouse in Scrabster, near Thurso, Scotland.

Jane Barlow GETTY images

Thurso and Skirza, extreme surfing in Scotland

Thurso

is a city of about 10,000 inhabitants in the far north of Scotland, easily

accessible

from

Glasgow

or

Edinburgh

. Although it does not have the best climate to practice this sport, it has managed to become a target for lovers of difficult waves, who find in these Scottish waters a challenge, almost more typical of the Vikings who settled in these places already. many centuries (its name means "site of Thor's river" in Old Norse). Like surfers, the fearsome Nordic peoples were drawn to the geography of

Thurso

But for different reasons: its deep bay formed a perfect natural harbor that they strategically exploited until the 11th century, when their expansion into Britain came to a bloody end.

In

Thurso

surfers face freezing cold, although some surf even in winter when the water freezes and they have to catch the waves between dislodged blocks of ice.

Despite that, they will never be alone, as surfing has been a triumph in Scotland for years and attracts more and more people.

Near Thurso there are other alternative breakers, some completely deserted.

Deeper in

Thurso

Bay

is the

Sewer Pipe

(or Shit Pipe)

break

, which generates

a-frame

reef waves

,

both right (more uniform) and left (more powerful).

It is excellent for those who are intermediate and think Thurso is cluttered or too complicated.

The wave of

Sewer Pipe

It is smaller, but performs better in the prevailing southwest wind and has a clean face when side winds blow at Thurso.

In the best moments, fast and very funny walls appear.

Do not be impressed by its name ("cloaca"): it is named for the peat-stained waters that flow through the river mouth and give the waves their characteristic brown color.

When massive winter swells hit

Caithness County

, in the small fishing village of

Skirza

on the east coast of this part of the

Highlands

One may be lucky enough to find one of the most legendary waves in Scotland: a powerful and long left-hand wave near the port that breaks over some rocks creating tubes that extend for tens of meters. Sheltered by a bay at the north-eastern end of the island, Skirza enjoys an onshore wind in winter when it blows strongly from the west (unlike Thurso), but requires a huge swell from the north or a lot of wind from the east to get into the bay, making it very fickle. If, as is probable, we do not find waves, we can continue 11 kilometers south on the A9 to

Sinclair Bay

, whose breaker is more exposed to the swell and offers good sand waves on the left and right.

enlarge photo Tullan Strand, one of the surf beaches of County Donegal, in Ireland.

MNStudio GETTY images

On the green waves of Ireland: Bundoran and Mullaghmore

On the beautiful west coast of Northern Ireland there are beaches known to surfers as 'a cold paradise', and the best place to jump into the water with a board is

Bundoran,

the Irish capital of surfing, in County

Donegal

. Here the waves matter more than the tan, as in other sunnier surf paradises, and real surfers see their advantages. There is no

posturing

: the one who comes does it exclusively to practice surfing, not to be seen. The most popular place is known as

The Peak

, a reef break only suitable for the most experienced, but there are other options.

A few miles west of Bundoran is

Mullaghmore

, a tiny hamlet. Before its big wave was discovered in the 1990s, it was infamous as the place where English Earl Louis Mountbatten and his 14-year-old grandson were killed in an IRA bombing in 1979. Thanks to big wave expert Richie Fitzgerald, the

40

-foot

slabs

that rise in the chilly, chilly waters of the Atlantic in front of Mullaghmore, or

Mully

, are now well known among the surfing community, although few people dare to ride them. As in the other places where there are big waves, it is worth visiting it to admire the spectacle (in the case of

Mully

, the promontory where it breaks is the ideal viewpoint).

And to the southwest of Bundoran,

Pampa

is a steep wave that forces you to draw a very fast line if you want to have any chance of surfing its tube, up to 150 meters long and between 2.5 and three meters high.

Named for a bulky billboard for the nearby PMPA insurance company, it was featured in the surf movie

Litmus

(1995), starring Joel Fitzgerald and Tom Curren.

If it seems like too much of a beast,

Rossnowlagh

Beach

, five miles south of Bundoran, is a beginner's paradise.

enlarge photo Cliffs of Moher, in County Clare, on the west coast of Ireland.

Francesco Vaninetti GETTY images

Another Irish proposal

Lahinch

, located a few miles south of

Galway

in County Clare on the west coast of Ireland, has become very popular with beginner surfers. Its main breakers (

Beach

and

Left

) are usually full of people, but when there is waves there are very few lucky people who manage to stand up on the board. That does not mean that there is not an established group of surfers willing to show off their skills. And with two additional more tricky waves at Lahinch (

Cornish Left

, a fast left tube wave, and 

Shit Creek

, a demanding reef wave), and other famous breakers nearby, such as

Crab Island

or the intimidating

Aileen

, it's no surprise that this area is one of the epicenters of surfing in the country.

enlarge photo The wave of Mundaka, on the coast of Bizkaia, is considered one of the best lefts in Europe.

Ian McDonnell GETTY images

The Basque waves: Mundaka, Zurriola and Sopelana

The waves of

the Basque Country

compete with those of

Tarifa

and

Fuerteventura

as the great surfing paradises of Spain. But the Cantabrian Sea has something different: they are open, wide beaches, with intense waves. The first foreign surfers arrived here in the sixties of the last century and since then their international fame has not stopped growing. The great destination is

Zarautz

, both for the novice and for the experienced. It is the longest beach in Gipuzkoa and the venue for many competitions.

Those looking for spectacular waves should go to

Meñakoz,

in

Sopelana

, a wild beach, 33.5 kilometers west of

Mundaka

, suitable for everyone from beginners to professionals who compete in the tournaments that it frequently hosts. The breaker is on a beautiful stretch of coastline where a rocky reef creates a reliable and uniform peak in the west corner of the sand at high tide. When the tide goes out, a wave of sand remains. It is a busy place, but its waves are less intimidating than the neighboring ones. The best time to surf here is from October to April. In

Mundaka

We found one of the 10 best waves in the world, with good left waves only for specialists and a very long tubular wave. It is at the end of the

Guernika estuary

, in the

Urdaibai biosphere reserve

.

For urban surfing, a good option is

Zurri

(La Zurriola or Gros beach), the only beach dedicated to surfing in

San Sebastián

, a city of almost 200,000 inhabitants and the first place in the Bay of Biscay where this sport settled during the 1970s. A few steps from the pedestrian streets of the old town, famous for its wineries, tapas bars and Michelin-starred restaurants, the beach and its surfers inject dynamism into one of Europe's cultural hubs.

Despite the crowds and the changing sandbanks that condition the quality of the wave,

Zurri is

still one of the best urban breakers in the world.

English surfing: Cornwall, Yorkshire and Devon

Thousands of people congregate every year at

Fistral Bay

in

Newquay

(in the British county of

Cornwall)

. And if the UK's best-known surf destination is a bit chaotic, it's because by now everyone knows that it enjoys quality waves all year round (so much so that every August it hosts the

Boardmasters Festival

). In the UK surfing originated in

Newquay

; judging from the old holiday advertisements, the British began riding waves on wooden boards in the 1930s, followed by

Malibu boards

introduced by Australian lifeguards in the early 1960s. Today, the landscape is so heavily influenced by Australia's that some say local surfers have incorporated a slight nasal accent into their Cornish accent.

enlarge photo A surfer dressed as Chewbacca during a science fiction festival in Scarborough, a coastal town in North Yorkshire (England).

Ian Forsyth GETTY images

A famous surfing destination in England is in the north, in

Scarborough,

in the county of

North Yorkshire

. The self-proclaimed first spa city in the country has received visitors through its waters since the 17th century, although surfing arrived in the late 1960s and did not take off until twenty years later. Thanks to its characteristics, it has the largest offer of surf shops on the entire coast of the United Kingdom, bathed by the North Sea. Of the two bays in the city,

North Bay

is the most active because it receives the swells from the north and the large swells from the southeast that break under the castle.

South Bay

It offers sandy waves and a swift right-hand reef wave in the far south and, like its northern cousin, prefers low-mid tide. Also not to be missed are the donkey rides, arcades and the elegant

Grand Hotel

.

Another destination in the country that has become a surfing mecca is

the English Riviera

, in the county of

Devon

, best known for its

cream tea

and

scones

, as well as for its rolling green hills, its moors and its picturesque

pubs

.

Also for being the homeland of famous British sailors (Francis Drake, Walter Raleigh and Francis Chichester).

Currently, it is a triumph for surfing thanks to the constant swell of its north coast.

In one of its locations,

Lynmouth,

a perfect wave occurs when the huge swell from the west hits the southwest of England and winds blow from the south or southeast.

They are extremely long and reach three meters in height.

Tables in the Portuguese Atlantic

Guincho

,

Peniche

,

Ericeira

,

Lourinha

,

Nazaré

… along the entire central coast of the Portuguese Atlantic there are names with many connotations for surfers. Nearby, accessible and with some of the largest waves in Europe, these enclaves also have other added attractions: quiet villages, beaches lined with dunes, unforgettable sunsets, seafood restaurants and, for the Spanish, its proximity.

You don't have to go far from

Lisbon

to enjoy some good waves. Both to the south and west of the Portuguese capital there are dozens of beaches, stretches of sand and coves oriented in all directions and ideal for surfing in all conditions. Just by taking one of the ferries that regularly cross the Tagus in a southerly direction you will reach the beaches of

Costa de Caparica

, separated by small piers and exposed to the waves. Instead, if you head west of Lisbon, things will get even more interesting with sand, reef and rock waves frequented by devoted local surfing communities. The most famous is that of

Carcavelos,

a sandy wave with a thick lip that is considered epic with a decent swell from the west or southwest.

Guincho

for example, just half an hour by car from Lisbon, is one of the great paradises of world surfing, with tremendous waves.

To the north, the picturesque white town of

Ericeira

stretches over cliffs and with golden beaches that are a magnet for surfers, with their constant waves and with one of the best reef breakers in Europe, which is home to international championships.

enlarge photo The Spanish surfer Axier Muniain in Praia do Norte, in Nazaré (Portugal).

Pedro Fiúza GETTY images

But if we ask a Portuguese to name a surf destination, they will surely name

Peniche.

This small peninsula has a perfect urban sandbank and several nearby surfing enclaves, such as

Nazaré

. To the south of this urban sandy area, and separated from it by the harbor breakwater, are the long and wild

Praia do Salgado

and the radical

Praia Norte

, where the American surfer Garrett McNamara broke in 2011 the record of riding the largest wave in the world (24 meters high). Since then, this fishing village has become a place of pilgrimage for surfers, who come to Nazaré in search of its giant waves: they reach 30 meters due to a five-kilometer deep underwater canyon that points towards the beach. Less known are the waves of

Baleal

(very good for beginners) or the quiet beaches of

Foz do Arelho

.

In reality, the entire Portuguese coast (not just the central one) is full of corners unexplored by surfers.

For example, the Portuguese region of

Minho

, which borders Galicia.

There are no world-famous breakers there, but its rugged coastline surrounded by impressive forested hills offers plenty of variety.

As in

Moledo do Minho

and

Vila Praia de Âncora

, where one does not stop wondering if the rock wave that hides behind the next corner will be a perfect and empty one.

It is advisable to bring a good wetsuit (the water is cold even in the middle of summer) and to explore the area calmly in a motorhome.

enlarge photo Aerial view of a surf camp in Klitmøller, Denmark.

Jonathan NACKSTRAND GETTY images

Klitmøller, the icy Danish

Perhaps

Denmark

is most famous for its bike paths that its surf breaks, but that has not prevented the coastal strip bordering the picturesque fishing village of

Klitmøller

has earned the nickname discreet "Cold Hawaii". It is a very little tropical surfer's paradise, but if the wind blows strongly it also attracts lovers of windsurfing and paddleboarding. Located in the

North Jutland

region of

the north-west of the country, the Klitmøller breaker generates left and right reef waves. Other good waves in the vicinity are

Bunkers

,

Inside Reef

and

Vorupør Bay

.

enlarge photo Tjornuvik Fjord, on the island of Streymoy, in the Danish archipelago of the Faroe Islands.

MLenny GETTY images

Faroe: arctic waves 

Located between

Iceland

and

Scotland

and bordering the Arctic Circle, the

Faroe Islands

they were thus baptized by the Vikings because of the abundance of sheep they found (Føroyar could be translated as "islands of the lambs"). This archipelago at the mercy of the gigantic swells of the Atlantic became a reference for the surfing community from 2015 thanks to a documentary by Chris Burkard. Since then, many professionals and their entourages of photographers have ventured here to ride waves off sheer cliffs and verdant mountains despite the extreme cold. The small number of local and foreign surfers grows year after year, but it is advisable to hire a guide because the breakers can be dangerous and difficult to access. The best waves appear with spring and autumn swells and are suitable for advanced and expert surfers. The place of access to the big waves is

Torshavn

.

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Source: elparis

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