Imagine riding wild waves with the wind in your hair while the sun is kissing your skin… in Europe? You might be thinking “no way!”, but it’s actually more than possible. Although Europe is probably not the first thing that comes to mind when you think about surfing, its west coast offers great spots for wave-riding comparable to other world-famous surfing destinations. Combine that with stunning beaches, towns packed with culture and diversity, and you have the perfect summer vacation. So if you’re tired of just visiting aquariums, let us help you discover the best surfing destinations in Europe and let the adventure begin.
Portugal: Europe’s Surfing Capital
Let’s start our journey from the south of Europe’s west coastline. Portugal’s surfing scene is undoubtedly a world-class one, with surfing spots for all levels of experience. Besides surfing, Portugal is popular for its fabulous beaches, fantastic food, rich history, captivating culture and friendly people. Obvious conclusion: Portugal is a fantastic choice you can’t miss, no matter if you’re a surfer or not.
Peniche and Ericeira
In case you’re a surfing-lover heading to Portugal, your first destination should be Peniche (map), a beautiful beach city sticking out into the Atlantic Ocean. It’s conveniently located an hour and a half drive north from Lisbon (around 100 km), or two and a half hours drive south of Porto (around 260 km). Peniche’s most popular surfing beach is definitely Supertubos Beach (Medão Grande beach (map)), a legendary sandy beach with impressive pipeline waves. Only advanced surfers take the courage to rock the amazing waves of Supertubos, but watching them perform is also an exciting experience. Almost every surfing beach in Peniche gets crowded because of their immense beauty, so be prepared for that.
Now, when it comes to the best surfing in Europe, the first association for many is the region of Ericeira. There are only five World Surfing Reserves on the whole planet, and this is one of them, making it the only one in Europe. Only 30km north from Lisbon, Ericeira offers some of the best surfing experiences you’ll ever have, no matter where you traveled before. Really, rocking the waves on this location is as good as surfing can get. Two most popular surfing beaches in this region are Coxos (map) and Ribeira d’Illhas (map). Both are fabulous, with right-headed waves suitable for intermediate and advanced surfers. Portugal itself is often referred to as “Europe’s surfing capital” and it’s largely thanks to Ericeira. Its crystal clear waters make it a definite must if you want to experience the finest surfing in Europe.
Surfing Hotspots in the Southern and Northern Coast
Moving to the very south of Portugal, Algarve region is another sweet spot for surfers of all kinds. The whole region is gorgeous and it’s a perfect location for your summer holiday. A small, laid-back village of Sagres (map), located in southern Algarve, is known as “The End of the World” because that’s exactly the feeling it’ll create in you. Isolated and secluded, it can be difficult to reach without a car, but if you’re driving, it’s a must. Both lefts and rights with different levels of difficulties can be found here, making it a highly popular surfing spot year after year.
Now, 25 km north from Sagres you’ll find Praia do Amado (map), a 1 km long sand stretch perfect for surfing beginners, but also for those who just want to relax and soak up the sun. If you want more advanced waves, you can find them 30 km north from Amado beach, on Praia da Arrifana (map). This is a secluded, quiet beach with rough waves perfect for those looking for a challenge. But if even that doesn’t satisfy your surfing appetite, Praia do Norte (map) in Nazaré, 65 km from Peniche, certainly will. Its often gigantic, raging waves are hard to tame. This is the spot where the famous surfer Garret McNamara caught a 30m wave in 2013 and smashed his previous record of riding a 24m wave —made on this exact same spot in 2011.
Portugal has, for many, the most consistent waves in Europe, but the best time to go is in Spring (March – May) and Fall (September – November). Summer gets crowded and waves are lower, while Winter is rough, wet and stormy.
Big Olas in Spain!
When it comes to surfing in Europe, Spain is definitely among the most amazing destinations for it. The northern part of the country offers something for everyone, from daredevils to newbies. Stunning nature, charming locals, mouthwatering food and superb nightlife will be, admit it, more than a nice addition to your surfing holiday.
The World-Famous Waves of the Basque Region
Spain’s Basque region attracts millions seeking for something unique and inspiring. It abounds with culture, tradition and beautiful scenery, making it a haven for foodies and surfers. San Sebastian (map), a little sophisticated town in this region, is proud of having La Zurriola (map), a lively picturesque beach ideal for surfing rookies. If you want a quality beach break with more serious waves, head 20 km to the west. You will find Zarautz (map), a nice surfing beach with left-breaking waves suitable for intermediate surfers. This is a perfect base for your surfing holiday because many great surfing places are easily reachable from here. One of those places is Roca Puta (map), a beach which name (“Slut Rock” in free translation) is as extreme as its waves. Conquering the powerful right-hand waves which are breaking in the shallow water dangerously close to the rocks is a challenging task even for the bravest ones. Some claim it’s the best wave in the world, but we are leaving that to you to decide… if you dare.
Only an hour’s drive from Zarautz is a real surfing gem offering the best wave in Spain and possibly Europe. The place is called Mundaka (map) and it’s internationally famous for its epic surfing scene. Its beach holds the title of the longest in Europe. Fast, hollow waves are truly magnificent here, but be careful —this is definitely no place for beginners. If you’re not confident about your surfing skills, enjoy the spectacle from the harbor walls, which offer the perfect view of the bay. After you get tired of all the action, go relax in the town of Mundaka, which is so charming you’ll fall in love with it. Tourists, of course, discovered this little gem, so the beach and the town can get packed.
Moving from Basque to the west, Asturias country also offers awesome waves. Playa de Rodiles (map) in Asturias’s province Villaviciosa is the second longest left in Europe. Nested between two mountains, it offers stunning scenery for the amazing wave-riding experience. Waves can reach over 3 m here so they’re also only for more experienced surfers. Although the weather in Spain is nice and dry during the whole year, the best time for surfing is between October and April, with perfect conditions for surfing. If you prefer larger waves, winter temperatures go between 8°C and 13°C, so it’s not too bad. Have a great time!
Spain and Portugal are amazingly beautiful countries that should, undoubtedly, be on everyone’s bucket lists. If you’re a surfing enthusiast, even better! Combining wave-rocking with sightseeing and exploring Europe’s culture and history is a delightful way to spend your holiday. If you’re craving for more, check out the second part of this guide to discover some awesome places for surfing in France and Ireland.
Have you ever experienced surfing in Spain or Portugal? How did you like it? Which spots for surfing in Europe can you recommend? Tell us your adventures down below in the comment section!