From Where You'd Rather Be: The World's Best Beachbreaks – Hossegor, France
Words by Tom Freed | Photos by Tom Carey
Whenever someone utters the phrase “from where you’d rather be,” Stab’s collective mind’s eye immediately focuses on a sand-bottomed setup beneath a smiling sun. We’re talking beachbreaks. Trunks. Bath water. All the finer things! And, since we so adore such things, we’ve decided to team up with our like-minded pals at Coronaextra.com.au to deliver you a new series: The World’s Best Beachbreaks.
We’ll be detailing, visually but also through written text, all our favourite sand setups from around the world. The requirements? Nothing but golden grains beneath, nothing but a warm orb above, trunk temperatures only, and a perfect setup to end the day with a Corona and lime.
No. 3: Hossegor, France
They say that select wines of France are continually unequaled because of that certain something in the soil. And not because of the fact that the earth there is fertile, well-irrigated and sublimely temperate, but because of the blood. Soil mixed for centuries with the blood of fallen empires, revolutions, world wars, armies, movements and eras all sown with the nutrient-rich plasma of the human experience. Soil lush with history. Perhaps the same could be said for French beach breaks. Perhaps the many bars and banks along the shores of Hossegor are rich with the sands of time. The heaving, spitting barrels at La Graviere charged with mankind’s past and present glory. Whatever the reason, you will find your ancient sandbar and you will get barreled and just maybe you’ll hear the whispers of millennia-passed within those tubes. And even if you don’t hear it, nor even get barreled, there’s always the wine – and apparently it’s good there.
Lemme break it down for ya:
Go: May/June or Oct/Nov
Land in: Biarritz-Anglet-Bayonne Airport, Southwest France
Then: Rent a car and drive 30 min north to Hossegor
Stay: In Hossegor at a hotel, or right by the sandbars at the reasonable Koala Surf Camp.
Bring a: A few shortboards (she’s a man-eater!), a step-up (she holds!)
What’s she like? Not to get meta here or anything, but over the course of this 12-part project, interviewing pro after pro about their home-breaks, ALL, unanimously would say when describing their beach break, “Kinda like Hossegor, but…” Thus, Hossegor appears to be the golden-standard of beachie dream-narrative. She is: miles and miles and miles of hollow, powerful sandbars. She breaks quite close to the shore, is tré hollow and goes both ways a la A-frame fashion. A lovely Atlantic jade in color, foamy and/or amber in hue depending on the swell. Thunderous kegs that hold into the 10-12ft range at spots like La Graviere when on. Or small and playful air-ramps (See: every Joe G. film for proof) that break on any swell with any wind like Capbreton. Right over those beach dunes? Ancient cobblestone streets, cafes and la vie française. Between the dunes and the shoreline? Topless, dusky damsels sunning beneath clear French skies.
What really makes her tick? Tides. And banks. Know what’s happening with the banks, and then know the tides. Yeah, in that order. Bottom line, French sand bars ain’t the easiest to predict. Rule of thumb, she likes a shorter period swell, as opposed to long, so she won’t closeout as much. Say, in the 6-8ft range at 10-11 sec, swell comin’ from the West or Northwest with a preferably East (offshore) wind to give ya tewbs. Usually mid-tide going low for a lotta the bars, so git yerself a chart and make a few friends so you can have that one-two combo punch down (1. Know what sand’s doing, 2. What tide it is). The peaks and sand in Capbreton are a little less affected then the ones a lil north in Hossegor, though.
Other options in the area… Unless it’s too big, you could just take a stroll down the beach and find your own-ish bank to flair on, but if ya need to get outta dodge, Lacanau to the north has some fun beachies and Anglet to the south has fair share too, but none that compare to Hossegor’s when it’s pumping. Then of course a couple hours south is Spain which has some sand-bottomed left there called Mundaka or something…
For a good time… Hossegor’s “Centrale” zone has a ton of bars to hop around all night, one quite popular being the Rock Food Bar. For the most délicieux sandwiches, swing by Le Cabanon, perfect for a meal after packing French pits all day. Some great Thai-inspired dishes at Le Cabanon, too, by the way. A quick tip for French babes, while you’re out? Have a lighter or a few ciggies on ya (even if ya don’t smoke) to offer a gal — odds are, they’re a-lookin’! Blanket statement? absolument!
At all costs, don’t… Roll deep. In the water, outside of it in a restaurant, whatever; keep it mellow. You rock up with a bunch of mates and that’s how you’ll get those legendary French punims of utter distain. You know the ones, or at least of heard of them. Don’t want ‘em? Then be respectful and don’t show up with five-plus dudes.
OK, I hear ya, but what’s a local say? Jeremy Flores says, “Hossegor and Capbreton are my two favorite zones at home. I love Capbreton because it breaks close to the shore and pretty much on just about anything. It’s just these perfect peaks — sooo peaky — and it doesn’t even really matter if it’s onshore or offshore. If it’s onshore, you’ve got these massive ramps and if it’s offshore, you’re getting, like, 4-6ft barrels. Then you can just go North toward Hossegor and the banks change a lot so you can surf some of the most powerful beachbreaks in the world. 10-12ft Graviere also breaks just a few meters from the shore. I guess the water’s really deep outside, a huge trench out there, so it creates that power in the waves when they get near shore, which is why I think you can get so smoked there, too [laughs]. Further north in Hossegor are more breaks that change with the banks, which create longer rights or lefts depending on the tide. Tides in France are the most important thing to be aware of to get a good session in France. For instance, today I was surfing a spot and it was like 8-10ft and cranking. I thought it was usually a low tide spot, but because the banks changed, it was great at high tide. You just never know, so you have to keep an eye on the banks. Know what the banks are doing, and then know what tide it is.”