How To Enjoy Europe, With And Without A Surfboard  - Stab Mag

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How To Enjoy Europe, With And Without A Surfboard 

Thirty things to do along the Stab Highway route, designed for pleasure instead of suffering.  

// Sep 3, 2023
Words by Brendan Buckley
Reading Time: 7 minutes

I played a role in the existence of Stab Highway Europe x Monster Energy. 

Specifically, I chose the route. It was an interesting exercise. I’ve been living in Europe for eight years — first near Hossegor, France, where Stab Highway began, and now near Ericiera, Portugal, where Stab Highway ended. I’m not just a selfish prick who designed a trip around where he’s lived. Those are Europe’s two biggest surf hubs. 

I’ve done many personal trips along the coastline we covered, and I believe it’s one of the best surf trips you can take. Let me elaborate. 

If you want excellent waves and warm water, go to Indo. You can surf eight hours a day and then retire to an air-conditioned room before having someone prepare a meal for you. You might not even have to worry about your laundry. Let’s be honest: Surfing yourself into a state of incoherence is rather fucking fun. 

But Europe’s on the opposite end of the spectrum. There’s a decent chance you won’t score. If you go in the prime season (September-October), your odds aren’t bad — but don’t expect it to be easy. The tides are massive. The languages can be tricky. Options can abound. You won’t be staying at a resort with a ruler-edge reef out front that’ll grind all day, every day. 

A surf trip to Europe is inevitably about more than just surfing. 

Food and friends come first in the old world. Photo: No Contest Italy

There’s something about managing a conversation in a language other than your own. About an evening surf with a bottle of wine waiting for you on the beach. About a 10:00 PM dinner reservation. About buildings you can learn from. About a detectably different attitude towards life. 

Our Highway route traced the whole coastline from Hossegor to Ericeira, and was just over 1400 km/900 miles or roughly 14 hours driving if you did it straight (we did not do it straight — see the Kepa Acero challenge).

In Highway, we created our challenges more for the enjoyment of the people watching them — not the people experiencing them. I thought it’d be nice to flip that.

So, I built a list of challenges to help you enjoy your Highway journey. The challenges will take you along our route, and expose you to the finer waves and things to do. I also mixed in a bit of generic information and some tips.

On that note: You can rent a van and do it that way if you like the idea of waking up overlooking empty beaches whose names you’ll struggle to remember. Or, rent a car and stay in hotels and Airbnbs as you travel along. Bonus points for staying in towns that seem the least touristic, and likely having dinners you’ll never forget. If you go the hotel route, check out JO&JOE in Hossegor and You and the Sea in Ericiera. JO&JOE is great to kick off your trip with a party, and You and the Sea will be your must-needed sanctuary at the end of the road.

Questions? Ideas to add? Hit us in the comments. 

Get in. Image: Google

France 

You’ll want to stay in either Hossegor or Biarritz. The coastline north of there is worth visiting, just maybe not on your first trip. The northwest corner of Bretagne is particularly beautiful and wave-rich. Check it out someday, drink the cider, eat the galettes, etc, etc. 

For our purposes, you’ll want to stay in Hossegor if you prefer to surf inside of waves and Biarritz if you like to surf in front of palaces. 

The waves are indisputably better in Hossegor. It’s often bigger, almost always hollower, and has those eight-turn rip-bowl sandbanks that are the most fun. 

Conversely, Biarritz has been chic since the fucking 1800s. The word charm is unavoidable, as it’s unlike any other coastal enclave on the planet. And the waves are still quite fun, just not as good as Hossegor. 

Your challenges: 

Find a bank to surf alone somewhere north of Hossegor. You’ve got about 100 km/62 miles until you hit an impasse in the form of Arcachon. 
-Have a night out at La Centrale. Coolin’s the hot spot now, but it’s also mandatory to go into Dick’s sand bar and admire the photos of early 2000s pro surfers torching it. 
-Go on a hike in the Pyrenees mountains. Driving a few hours inland to do this is very much worth it. Swim, perhaps naked, in one of the Lacs d’Ayous. Breathe. 
Surf and chill on the beach through an entire tide cycle in Hossegor. Like, make sure you’re there on dead high and dead low. Watch how many different sections of the beach turn on for brief periods, then shut back down. Wild. 
-Check Parlementia from Miki Dora’s bench in Guethary. Then go surfing, ideally with much swell. 
-Split a côte de bœuf with someone. If you’re vegan or vegetarian, eating out at traditional places won’t be easy this trip. Thoughts and prayers. 
Do an air at Grande Plage in Biarritz. You’ll be in front of a palace — and that’s pretty cool, no?
Have a sunset drink at Etxola Bibi in Biarritz. You’ll see a castle to your right and the Pyrenees to your south. 
-Commit to one bakery, and go every day. By the end of your time in France, the staff will find you strange but endearing. Choose wisely. 
-Get yelled at in French at least once. Don’t force it. It should come naturally. And if it doesn’t, you likely weren’t having enough fun. 

Hot tip: If you see this flag, don’t refer to where you are as Spain. Photo: Jon Bakio

Spain 

You certainly know of Mundaka. You’ve likely heard of San Sebastian and maybe even Punta Roca or Zarautz. They’re all places in the Spanish Basque Country, just across the border from the Hossegor/Biarritz zone. It’s gorgeous and is a reasonably popular haunt for visiting surfers. But, once you punch west of there, you’ll be in the lesser-known territory. 

It is divine. 

And there are waves. 

If you follow our route, you’ll visit the provinces of Cantabria, Asturias, and Galicia. Galicia — home to the Pantin WSL event — is the most surf-known of the three. But that whole stretch has so many fun waves. It’s also loaded with slabs, though it’s quite unlikely you’ll find and surf them without the assistance of a dialed local. 

Out of respect for this area, I’m not gonna spell it all out here. Plus, it’s fun to have to figure it out on your own. Two Google tips:

  1. Chuck maps on satellite mode. Instead of trying to be a hero and find world-class pointbreaks, just try to find sandy, swell-exposed beaches. Check the images people have uploaded to see what we’re working with. Keep an eye out for rocks out the back — they can create wedges on the inside. It’s also important to spot a parking lot or trail. Otherwise, you might end up standing on a cliff, looking down at a fun wave you can’t access. 
  2. Enter your search queries in another language — in this case, Spanish. You’ll access different websites and information, which you can translate if necessary. 

Your challenges: 

-Eat ten different pintxos in San Sebastian. This is the only challenge we’ll carry over from the show. You can take longer than an hour. 
Surf every province on the coastline. Basque Country, Cantabria, Asturias, Galicia. If you skip one, you lose. 
Have a proper four-course lunch at a cideria. Bonus points if you punch into a random inland town off the beaten path and don’t hear any Enlgish spoken. 
Spend a night in a small, coastal Basque town you’ve never heard of. And I guarantee you will fall in love. 
Have dinner in Potes after a surf. Why am I peeling you an hour away from the coast? You’ll see. 
Surf Mundaka on an off-day. Go when it’s firing if you want to watch people stand in machine-like waves while you struggle. Go on an off-day to belt a few long waves in a more relaxed environment. 
-Maket at least one friend from another country. You must exchange numbers, and tell them they’re welcome to stay at your house if they’re ever in the area. 
Visit Santiago de Compostela. Do not drink out of a hiker’s shoe. 
Eat free tapas in Galicia. It’s a tradition for places to serve you small bites while you’re having a drink. Stay long enough and you might just get full. 
-Find and surf the wave seen in the section starting at 11:38 in the clip above. Heaven. Good luck. 

Stab Highway’s yellow team, enjoying Europe, as the title suggests. Photo: Jon Bakio

Portugal 

Remember, in the beginning, when I said you might not get world-class waves? Portugal has entered the chat. 

It pumps. Often. The hubs are Ericeira and Peniche, which are separated by about an hour’s drive. It’s much easier to score here than on any other section of the Stab Highway route — in part because you have more options with the wind. South wind? Hit the north-facing coast near Peniche. North wind? Go to the south-facing coast near Lisbon, or Algarve, or just surf Supertubos if you don’t mind side/offshore wind into the lefts (hi). If the wind is east, you’ll have tons of options. 

Yeah, the main spots are crowded. But you can still easily surf fun waves alone. Get back on satellite mode and figure it out. And don’t skip the north of the country while you’re driving down from Spain. There are a lot of overlooked waves up there, and much fewer people. 

Your challenges: 

Paddle out at the right reef-point — which still somehow feels taboo to name — before sunrise. This might be your only chance to get a good wave there. 
-Go left at Buracos. When it’s on, it’s an absurdly long right. Ignore that. 
-Drink Douro wine while bathing in the Douro river. If you’re a wine dawg, you can even punch inland and visit some striking vineyards. 
-Spend at least one night in a castle. The Pousada do Castelo de Óbidos is reasonable. 
Surf Nazare’s Praia do Norte on a small day. Bit overhead, low tide, east wind. You’re welcome in advance.  
-Go to a football (soccer) game in either Lisbon or Porto. Choose it out of convenience, but commit to being a supporter of that team for the rest of your life. 
-Sit way down the beach at Supertubos. If you’re the type of person who wants that type of wave, you’ll know what I’m talking about when you see it. 
-Eat a pastel da nata every day. Use this article as an excuse. 
-Surf — or watch — one of the slabs. The cave is in Ericeira. That left is closer to Peniche. If they’re above your pay grade, you can enjoy watching the ocean do absurd things from the cliffs.
Go to a Fado show in Lisbon. It’s touristy as all fuck, but you’ll probably end up still being in the restaurant at 1 AM, a few bottles of wine deep, feeling sentimental about a language you don’t understand. 

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