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The 5 Best Surfing Destinations in Europe

by Cristina Costea

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With Hawaii, Australia, and Indonesia often stealing the spotlight, Europe may not be the first place that comes to mind when thinking about the world’s best surfing destinations. But it’s certainly one of the most impressive.

Add surfing in Europe to your bucket list and you’re in for some real magic! Besides stunning landmarks, great history, fascinating cultures, and great food, the Old Continent is also home to some of the world’s best waves.

We all need a bit of guidance, especially when it comes to finding the perfect spot for our next surf holiday. So let’s take a look at the five best surfing destinations in Europe:


1. Portugal


From a surfer’s standpoint, the Iberian Peninsula has it all. And Portugal takes the prize!

Its outstanding surf culture, authentic charm, the cute little whitewashed villages all along its coast, great food, and world-class waves draw an international crowd of surfers. Notwithstanding the fact that it’s one of the best places on the planet to learn to surf, with numerous surf camps and mellow waves to practice on.

From the northern breaks in Porto to the famous surf beaches near Lisbon and all the way to the sunny Algarve, the coastline is dotted with every wave imaginable. Peniche and Ericeira are the capitals of surfing in Portugal. Here, you’ll find Supertubos, one of the best beach breaks in the world, famous for its gnarly super-fast, and super-heavy barrels. You’ll find Ribeira D'Ilhas, a world-class reef break and venue of Portugal’s very first surf contest.

But wait, there’s more. Portugal is home to Nazaré, where Brazilian Rodrigo Koxa rode the biggest wave ever surfed in late 2017, an 80-foot behemoth, beating Garret McNamara’s previous record at the spot – a 78-foot wave ridden in 2011.

» From the surf seasons to the best waves and how to budget your trip, here’s all you need to know about surfing in Portugal.


2. Spain


Spain’s sun-kissed Atlantic coastline is home to some of the world’s best waves.

The best surf spots in Spain can be found on the northern coast. The Basque Country, Cantabria, Asturias, and Galicia are dotted with world-class surf breaks, the likes of Zarautz, Sopelana, Mundaka, Meñakoz, Somo, and Rodiles. Furthermore, San Sebastian is one of the world’s best surf towns and Spain’s culinary capital. No wonder it’s a preferred base camp for surfing the waves in the Basque Country.

Closer to Africa than Europe, many people think of the Canary Islands as a separate entity. With year-round sunshine, warm climate, and more stable water temperatures, the archipelago is a preferred getaway when the weather gets colder in mainland Europe.

Famous for their kitesurfing spots, the Canary Islands are also a coveted surfing destination, with numerous gnarly reef breaks but also many mellow beach breaks that are excellent for learning to surf and improving your technique.


3. France


History, culture, wine, cheese, and baguette. Finger-licking cuisine, great nightlife, and world-class surf France is the birthplace of surfing in Europe. The sport took off in Biarritz in the late 1950s and immediately spread throughout the country and the rest of the continent.

The country’s entire Atlantic coastline is dotted with surf spot after surf spot. From Normandy and Brittany in the north all the way south near the border with Spain, the waves attract an international crowd. However, it’s the surf in Southwest France that steals the spotlight. And with good reason.

Some of the best beach breaks on the planet can be found on the stretch of coast between Seignosse and Biarritz. Gironde, Landes, and the Basque Country are exposed to constant swells from the Bay of Biscay, which means great consistency. Beginners will find mellow waves in summer and advanced surfers will find great conditions in autumn and winter.

There are numerous surf spots for beginners, as well as gnarly barrels and some offshore big wave surf spots too. Furthermore, the food is great, the nightlife is pumping, and the many surfing festivals and competitions will only make your trip more memorable.


4. The United Kingdom


From sheltered beach breaks to gnarly barrels, the United Kingdom has enough surf spots to go around for everyone! Less crowded than other European surfing destinations, but with plenty of world-class waves nonetheless, the surf in the UK is truly epic. The only downside is that the water does tend to be on the cold side, so bundle up!

Belhaven Bay and Thurso East are two of the best surf spots in Scotland. In Cornwall, Watergate Bay and Fistral Beach in Newquay have been on the surfing radar since the 1960s. Both have hosted numerous prestigious surfing competitions, and are the venues of the annual Boardmasters Festival. Nearby, Porthleven is the best reef break in Cornwall. 


5. Ireland


Image credit: Mark Waters

Ireland is the third-largest island in Europe, and its picturesque and wild beaches are exposed to powerful swells and strong winds. The water can get brutally cold, but the quality of the surf is well worth the effort.

Bundoran Beach is the most popular surf spot in Ireland, offering a little bit of something for beginners and experienced surfers alike. The charming fishing village of Bundoran stands as testimony to Ireland’s raw beauty, while the welcoming locals and comforting food will keep you warm and get you back on your feet after each surfing session.


Eager to visit these wonderful destinations? Join a surf camp in Europe and learn to surf or take your skills to the net level!

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