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All You Need to Know About Surfing in Spain

by Octavia Drughi

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Some of the best waves in Europe are found on the Iberian Peninsula, and Spain’s long sun-kissed coastline is the perfect destination for a surf trip. Any time of the year.

Why España? Because of tapas, sangria, and flamenco. Because it’s a colorful and diverse country, full of flavors and surprises. If its spectacular beaches, variety of waves, warm climate, surf festivals, food, the great number of surf camps in Spain, and the fact that the world’s best surfers keep on coming back here won’t convince you, I don’t know what will.

From the wave seasons and the surfing destinations to what to eat and more useful travel advice, here’s all you need to know about budgeting and planning your surf trip to Spain:

Not heading to mainland Spain? Find out all you need to know about surfing in the Canary Islands.

 

Surfing seasons in Spain

surf-seasons-spain

Image credit: Latas Surf

Thanks to the country’s varied geography and incredible swell consistency, you’ll always find a wave to ride. Therefore, you can surf in Spain all year round.

For beginner surfers, the best time to go is during summer and early autumn, when the waves are smaller and friendlier. This is also a good time for intermediates looking to brush up their skills.

For intermediate and advanced surfers, the best time to go surfing in Spain is between September and April. Autumn and spring swells are bigger than in summer, producing larger and well-shaped waves. The conditions are very reliable and the beaches are less crowded.

Winter brings in huge swells, but there are plenty of sheltered spots, so you can find both powerful and gentler waves.

With that being said, for beginners and experienced surfers alike, autumn is the best time to be surfing in Spain.

The swells start to pick up, but the waves are not too powerful yet. The water is still warm, the weather is a little cooler and more pleasant than during summer, and the crowds would have dispersed.

 

Wetsuit requirements

wetsuit-surf-spain

The water on the Atlantic coast of mainland Spain stays rather cool throughout the year. In northern Spain, water temperatures peak in the range of 20-24ºC (68-77ºF) in August, and drop all the way to 12-13ºC (53-55ºF) in March.

During summer, you can surf in a 2mm long-sleeve shorty. However, if the wind is up, you’ll need a 3/2mm wetsuit. During the coldest winter months, you’ll need a fully-sealed 4/3mm wetsuit and 3mm booties, although a 5/3 would be even better, especially for longer sessions.

In southern Spain, water temperatures peak in the range of 20-25ºC (68-75ºF) and drop to 15-17°C (59-63°F) in winter. You can surf in a 2mm top during the warmer summer months, and you’ll need a 3/2mm or a 4/3mm wetsuit during winter.

 

Spain’s surf scene

surf-basque-country

Image credit: San Sebastian Surf Camp

Spain’s surf culture is as diverse as the country itself.

The history of surfing in Spain is quite remarkable, as the sport appears to have emerged in several places across the country almost simultaneously, in the 1960s.

Today, surfing is a popular pastime. Most surf beaches get crowded during summer, which is also when you’ll find a higher number of surf schools and surf camps operating.

Local surfers tend to take surfing quite seriously. Due to the ever-growing popularity of surfing in Spain and the large number of experienced surfers traveling here from far and wide, the standard has been set quite high. Localism has been reported in spots like Rodiles, but as long as you follow proper surf etiquette, you should have no problems.

 

The best surfing destinations in Spain

surf-san-sebastian

Image credit: San Sebastian Surf Camp

While there are occasional waves on Spain’s Mediterranean coast, near Barcelona, the Atlantic is where all the action is. The surf in Spain is split into two main sections by Portugal – northern Spain (Basque Country, Cantabria, Asturias, and Galicia) and southern Spain (Andalusia).

 

Northern Spain

surf-san-sebastian-spain

Image credit: San Sebastian Surf Camp

Northern Spain is a surfer’s paradise. This stretch of coastline is dotted with surf spots for all levels and tastes – mellow beach breaks, long points, hollow reefs, punchy rights and lefts, and challenging waves like the world famous Meñakoz and Mundaka in Basque Country. 

Near Bilbao, Mundaka has been at the core of European surfing for the last four decades. It is considered the best left-hander on the continent, and it’s quite possibly the best rivermouth wave in the world too.

In the Basque Country, Zarautz is the surf capital of Spain and the most popular beginner surf beach in the country. It is also one of the world’s best all-around beaches, offering waves for both beginners and advanced surfers.

» Join a surf camp in Zarautz.

Nearby, San Sebastian is Spain’s culinary capital. Add to that a buzzing nightlife and quality surf, and there you have it – one of the world’s best surf towns! La Zurriola Beach is only a short walk from town, and has gentle beginner waves.

surfing-cantabria-spain

Image credit: Escuela Cantabra De Surf Quicksilver Roxy

Cantabria is home to some of the best surf spots in Europe. Here, Playa de Somo is one of the longest beach breaks in the country and one of the best places to learn to surf in Spain

Asturias is dotted with beach breaks for all levels, the most famous being Playa de Rodiles, a left-hand hollow wave for more experienced surfers.

With beaches facing every direction, Galicia is a swell magnet. It is home to Pantin, a super-consistent beach break that hosts the annual Pantin Classic Galicia Pro, the oldest Spanish surfing championship and the second oldest in Europe.

For more on the waves, read our guide to the best surf spots in Spain.

 

Southern Spain

surf-el-palmar-cadiz-spain

Andalusia is famous for its strong winds and is more popular for kitesurfing. It is here that you’ll find Tarifa, the most renowned kitesurfing destination in Europe. Andalusia does offer some surfing opportunities as well, but not as reliable and of a lower quality than the ones found on the northern coast.

Check out the best kitesurfing destinations in Spain.

Near El Palmar, Cádiz is the best surfing destination in southern Spain. This long beach is dotted with a variety of waves for all levels to enjoy.

 

How to budget your surf trip to Spain

Compared to other Western European countries, Spain is an inexpensive country. You’ll find good accommodation, excellent food, surf schools, surf camps, and surf shops – everything you need for a successful surf trip.

 

Surf camps

surf-camp-spain

Image credit: Bio Surf Camp

Surf camps are quite common in Spain, and are one of the most budget-friendly options. You’ll have accommodation, surf lessons or guidance, transfer to the surf spots, and surfing equipment all in one. Plus, you’ll get to hang out with fellow surfers.

If you opt for a budget surf camp in Spain, you can pay as little as €36 per day.

 

Accommodation

Even in the major cities, you can find a bed in a shared dorm starting at €15 per night. In a budget hotel, double rooms start at €50 per night.

You can also find surfer friendly accommodation in Spain.

 

Food & drinks

spain-food

Spanish dishes are prepared with the utmost of care, so don’t be surprised if this is reflected in the price.  

In both northern and southern Spain, you can have a meal in an inexpensive restaurant for €5-€12. You’ll find tapas between €2-€5, which can be eaten either as a snack or as a meal.

To save money, opt for the menu of the day – menu del dia. Most restaurants in Spain offer this option during lunchtime – three fixed courses for about €7-€9. Menu del dia is a part of Spanish culture. For visitors, it’s a great way to taste traditional Spanish food without spending much.

Expect to spend an average of €20 per day on meals in Spain.

The average price for a local beer (cerveza) at a bar is €2.00. You can get one for €0.33-€1.00 in a supermarket.

 

What to eat & drink in Spain

tapas-spain

Image credit: San Sebastian Surf Camp

Food and wine are an integral part of Spain, and no Spanish surf trip would be complete without experiencing the mouthful of flavors that characterize the nation. The cuisine is famous for its world-class seafood and for using fresh and seasonal ingredients that are always cooked with love and care.

Visiting Spain without eating tapas is like going to France without eating croissants.

Tapas are not just one type of food. These appetizers, or snacks, come in many different forms. Spaniards eat at any time of the day (or night), anywhere. Some restaurants serve them as appetizers. In Andalusia, for example, some bars offer free tapas with every drink. However, in regions like the Basque Country, they usually come with a price tag.

Spanish staple foods you have to try during your surf trip:

  • Pintxos – traditional Basque tapas consisting of omelet, seafood, cheese, baby eel, and charcuterie stacked atop small slices of bread, held together with toothpicks.
  • Paella – the ultra-famous Spanish rice dish.
  • Patatas Bravas – the most popular tapa in Spain consists of chunks of fried potatoes sprinkled with different sauces.
  • Tortilla Española – or Spanish omelet, is a famous tapa traditionally made with eggs, potatoes, and onions. Sometimes, other ingredients are added too.
  • Spanish chorizo – fermented, cured pork sausage.
  • Gambas al Ajillo – garlic shrimp that can be served either as a tapa or as a main dish, very popular in southern Spain.
  • Gazpacho – a staple of Andalusian cuisine, gazpacho is a traditional tomatoes soup, served cold, and is the perfect summer dish. It’s made with ripe tomatoes, cucumber, onion, garlic, olive oil, vinegar, and salt.
  • Jamón Ibérico – Iberian dry cured ham.
  • Pisto – the Spanish version of ratatouille.
  • Churros – cylindrical ropes of fried dough, usually eaten as a snack or desert.
  • Pimiento de Padrón – aka Padrón peppers, is a popular tapa served in most bars and restaurants in Spain, consisting of small green peppers fried in olive oil and sprinkled with sea salt.
  • Grilled fish by the beach

spanish-cuisine

Image credit: Polarity

While Spain’s cuisine revolves around meat products, you will find vegetarian/vegan restaurants in the main cities. There are quite a few vegan dishes that are just as traditional as chorizo, like the above-mentioned gazpacho, pisto, and Pimiento de Padrón. You can also try tostada con tomate (bread with puréed ripe tomato) and pimientos asados (roasted bell peppers), both of which are very popular tapas, or paella de verduras (rice and vegetable dish) and the many delicious vegan salads. 

If you’re staying at a surf camp that also offers meals, make sure you let your hosts know about your dietary requirements.

Spain has the highest number of bars per inhabitant in the European Union. During your surf trip, make sure you taste the famous wines and rum cocktails. Let us not forget the most popular drink in Spain – sangria – served at any bar and restaurant in the country. And of course, a cold cerveza after a surf session is a must!

 

More useful Spain travel tips

surf-spain

Getting there: Most surf spots are within quick and easy reach from international and domestic airports.

In northern Spain, you can fly into Bilbao (BIO), San Sebastian (EAS), Santander (SDR), Santiago de Compostela (SCQ), or Asturias (OVD).

In southern Spain, you can fly into Málaga (AGP), Jerez (XRY), or Seville SVQ). 

Many surf camps also include airport transfer, so check with your hosts to see if they can arrange that for you.

surf-holiday-spain

Image credit: San Sebastian Surf Camp

Getting around: Spain’s high-speed trains – AVE – operated by RENFE, the national railway company, are a great way to travel through the country, especially if you wish to visit other places during your surf trip. But keep in mind that tickets should be booked in advance for the best rates. Booking last minute can be quite expensive.

Regular trains are slower and cheaper. In northern Spain, the FEVE railway system connects the main cities. 

If you’re not traveling in a van or personal car, the cheapest way to get around Spain is by bus or ridesharing. Once you reach your destination, you can rent a bike.

Settle into the Spanish culture and lifestyle. At least for a while.

During summer, most surf towns host cultural, music, and surf festivals. If you travel to the Basque Country, set aside some time to visit Bilbao and the famous Guggenheim Museum.

Embrace the siestas, another integral part of Spanish culture. Especially during summer months, when the weather can get quite hot, everything closes down in the afternoons, around 2pm, for 2-3 hours.

Take this opportunity to enjoy have a well-deserved break. Maybe even a quick nap.

San Sebastian is renowned for its pintxos, considered “the best tapas in the world”.

Spaniards like to stay up late. Everything might close down in the afternoon, but they also stay open much later. So don’t be surprised if most bars stay open until the break of dawn, which can ruin many early-morning surf sessions.

*Cover image credit: La Madrilena de Surf


Increase your wave count on an intermediate surf camp in Spain!

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