Spain Is The Best Surf Trip You’ve Never Thought Of
This land is more than Mundaka.
It’s France’s fault.
Center of European surfing, France. Beachbreaks and wine and nudity, France. Featured in your favorite surf movies, France. Hosted a thousand contests, France. On every surfer’s bucket list, France.
And to be honest, it’s fair. A surf trip to France in the fall is a guaranteed good time. You might be standing in tubes or you might be surfing fun-sized rip bowls, but the chance of getting skunked is incredibly minimal. Plus, it’s a fairly user-friendly surf trip and you can eat a fucking crepe and tell yourself you’re more cultured because of it.
That’s why France is the reason why you (probably) haven’t considered a surf trip to Spain.
And, no, going to San Sebastian for two days of your two weeks in Hossegor does not count.
There’s a whole lot of Spanish coastline beyond that. And a world of potential.
The best time to go is the same time you’d want to go to France — September or October (now) — and it’s for the same reasons. The Northern Atlantic comes alive, the water is still warm-ish and the weather ain’t grumpy yet. There’s something about the energy of an entire continent breathing in the last few roses of summer while knowing, deep down, that it is dying in every minute and soon, it will all feel like a mirage.
Plus it’s cheaper and less crowded than summer, if you prefer practicality over romance.
You’ll want to hit the northern coast. There are other, far more fickle, areas in the south and on the Mediterranean. But on this trip, you’ll hit a few provinces in the north — the Basque Country, Cantabria, Asturias and Galicia. Each of these places has its own identity and culture. They’re trips within trips.
Now, you might want to fly into Barcelona. Spend a few days lighting your brain on fire there and create some sins to cleanse. You can either rent a car/van there and do the five-hour drive across the country or you can take the train to San Sebastian and rent one there. You’ll need a car for this trip, but you’ll want a van. Play that as you please.
If having nights that don’t end until the next afternoon isn’t your cup of tea, you’ll skip Barcelona and fly straight into Bilbao. Either way, start in the Basque Country. San Sebastian is easy to fall in love with and has fun waves. Mundaka’s nearby, but it needs proper swell to work. If you don’t luck into that, there are plenty of other fun options around.
You can spend a few days cruising there, then keep moving west. This is where things get interesting.
Part of that French convenience we talked about — which is the first time the words “French” and “convenience” have ever been placed together — is the coastline. France is straight. Spain is kinky. Not only in the sense that the beaches seem even nuder than France’s, but also because the coastline is full of kinks that can block swell or magnify it. Swell directions matter here. And tides are everything.
Getting fun waves is easy. Getting great waves is not. Once you leave the Basque surf bubble, there are a few hundred kilometers of coastline for you to explore — which is exactly what you should feel like you’re doing.
While you certainly won’t be the first to surf anywhere in Spain, you are pretty much guaranteed to have memorable sessions at waves you’ve never heard of. This article isn’t written to expose any spots. It’s a thought-provoker for a trip.
The information is out there. Google is your friend. MagicSeaweed, your father’s overly explicative friend. WannaSurf, in all of its first-generation internet glory, still hosts plenty of whispers worth listening to. People, for the most part, are friendly in the water. Be kind and respectful and they might help you score. Be a cunt and get your tires slashed. Up to you.
And so the bulk of your trip will be falling in love with small seaside towns, drinking great wine, eating great food, not hearing anybody else speak English, surfing waves that nobody in your Contacts knows anything about. You’ll learn to adore beach breaks for their consistency — they’re always there for you — and appreciate the joy of hunting fickle spots. There’s nothing like figuring one out.
And you will end your trip in Galicia, the northwest corner of Spain, home to annual QS in Pantin. The coastline is rugged here, and incredibly swell exposed. You can feel the world becoming slowly more Portuguese as you drive through. It’s a great place to end your trip before hustling back to return your rental car and catch your flight, with a map full of dropped pins you might not ever share.
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