Although surfing in Europe might not seem like the hottest plan to many, this continent has some of the best waves in the world. Its west coastline is full of breathtaking sites and adventures to remember. We already introduced you to Spain’s and Portugal’s surfing potential. This time, we’re taking you to amazing France and exciting Ireland, so prepare your surfboards and let’s ride!
Land of Wine, Cheese… and Surfing
We all know there is no need to convince anyone that traveling to France is a good idea. The fact that this is the most visited country in the world says it all. However, when it comes to surfing in Europe, some are not aware that the French coastline is hiding some of the hottest spots. Truth is many parts of French coast have consistent, quality waves during the whole year!
A Surfers’ Paradise
One of the most popular regions for surfers in France is French Basque country on the south. Only an hour’s drive from the border with Spain lays Biarritz, an impossibly lovely beach town that attracts classy crowds. It’s a major destination with riders coming from all over the world to experience its long rights and lefts. Le Grande Plage (map) is the main beach, and it’s a good spot to catch excellent waves of all kinds. However, heavy crowds are a regular thing here, especially during the summer, so be prepared for that. Plage de Marbella (map) and La Côtes des Basques (map) are also good for surfing in Europe but less crowded, so make sure you check them too.
But if you’re looking for some real big-wave riding in the Basque region, powerful right headed waves are waiting for you on the beaches of Guéthary. This is a charming town located a little over 10 km south of famous Biarritz. However, waves here are far from charming —they are brutal. Big swells of Plage de Parlementia (map), which can reach up to 7 m, will sweep you off of your feet. Literally.
North from the Basque country spreads the part of the French coastline known as The Silver Coast. It actually consists of the coasts of Landes and Gironde, which are both the largest departments of the Aquitaine region. Hossegor (map) in Landes is well-known for its massive waves and epic surfing. Some consider it to be one of the best surfing localities in the world. We’re talking fast, double overhead tubes here during winter months, so it’s for experts only. However, it gets milder during summer, so if you’re an intermediate, go for it in this period. La Gravière (map) is the most popular beach here, but because it offers such high-quality surfing, prepare for long lineups. There are, of course, numerous other surfing-friendly beaches in Landes, so explore the area and you’ll easily find what suits you best.
Gironde department is proud of having Lacanau (map), a widely-famous location for surfing in Europe, on its territory. This is probably the most consistent wave destination in France, so whenever you go, you won’t make a mistake. With fame, of course, come heavy crowds, especially in the summer months. However, as all possible kinds of waves can be found here, this is a great place to learn surfing. There are tons of surfing schools and places that are conveniently renting surfing gear. It’s a surfing spot worth adding to your bucket list.
Surfing in Brittany
North-west of France also has some great surfing opportunities waiting for you to discover them. For those of you who get easily annoyed by the crowds and long lineups, Brittany region is the place to escape them. Brittany is a hilly, north-western part of French land that juts out to the Atlantic and is exposed to strong winds. Its most westerly part, known as Finistère (map), has the best conditions for surfing in France.
In Finistère, you’ll find the true gem of French surfing coast —Plage de La Torche (map). It always has consistent waves and an awesome surfing experience to offer. Remember when we said you should go to Brittany to escape the crowds? Well, that’s not exactly the case here. La Torche is such a good beach break that it quickly became popular among surfers and tourists looking for adventure and relaxation. But it’s not too bad, you’ll have an awesome holiday anyways.
For something less busy, try Plage De La Palue (map) or Baie des Trépassés (map), north from La Torche. Plage De La Palue is a stunning long beach that catches top-notch waves all year round. Massive cliffs and beautiful sunsets make a perfect setting for an unforgettable surfing experience. Baie des Trépassés (“The Bay of the Dead” in free translation) is the most western beach of the whole Brittany area, only an hour’s drive away from La Torche. This location has a great variety of waves suitable for all levels of surfing. A side note/warning: this beach got its name from the fact that some of the coldest waters in the whole French coast are right here. Bringing your boots and gloves will be a smart move, especially in the winter months.
You can catch good waves and have a great time surfing on the French coastline all year round. During summer there are more crowds and waves are a little calmer compared to Spring and Fall seasons. Winters are rough and cold, especially in Brittany region, and waves can become extreme in some parts. It’s all the matter of your preferences and the kind of experience you’re seeking.
Last stop: the land of the Shamrock
We left the sweet treat to real daredevils for the end. North-West of Ireland has, hands-down, the best waves for those who want to experience some extreme surfing. By extreme, we mean some monster waves and cold waters, so it’s serious. Spots for beginners and intermediates are also widely available here, so there is something for everyone’s taste.
Surfing with European Style
When it comes to the best surfing in Ireland, the first destination that many would immediately recommend is Bundoran town (map) in Donegal County. Bundoran is a widely popular beach break destination thanks to its consistently great surfing all year round and top-notch surf schools, but also for its beautiful sandy beaches and lively atmosphere. The most popular surfing spot you will find in Bundoran is, of course, its main beach: The Peak. This is a world-famous place thanks to the incredible quality of the waves and beautiful surroundings. Expect milder rights and high-performance lefts, be careful with rocks and rips here, and have fun!
If you want peace and quiet, The Peak is not the right choice, but nearby Tullan Stand (map) definitely is. Tullan Strand has one of the most consistent waves in Ireland and is incredibly picturesque, with long starches of golden sand and stunning nature. Surfing schools can also be found here, so if you’re a beginner, you’ll be able to brush your surfing skills in peace.
But if you’re in a search for wild waves, head to the north of Donegal County. Beaches of this region are exposed to strong winds and often have raging waves waiting for you to conquer them. Bloody Foreland (map), Dunfanaghy Beach (map) and Fanad Head (map) are just a small bite of the exciting north surfing coast. If you’re in Ireland by car, which we strongly recommend, drive along the north coast and discover secret spots to put your surfing board on; it will be an adventure to remember.
A Surfing Gem
South of Donegal County, Sligo hides many terrific surfing spots worth your attention. A lovely coastal town of Strandhill (map) offers fantastic surfing opportunities on its main beach. Strandhill is a touristy little spot full of pubs, cafes, restaurants, surfing schools and friendly people, so it’s a great destination for your surfing holiday in Ireland. Famous Easkey reef (map) is 40 minutes driving from there, where you can enjoy both lefts and rights. This is an amazing spot for surfers of all types; Irish Surfing Association wouldn’t pick this location as its base for nothing.
Recently, many extreme surfers discovered Mullaghmore reef (map) and are left jaw-dropped by its impressive waves. Mullaghmore is a big-wave destination located 35km north from Strandhill or 15km south of Bundoran. Only the bravest dare to ride Mullaghmore’s long and fast left-handers, which can reach over 15m in height. If you’re not the expert, taste the action by watching the spectacle from the high cliff overlooking the ocean. In any case, excitement and adventure are guaranteed.
Ireland is very changeable when it comes to weather. Summers can be surprisingly warm on some days, but also strangely cold on others, with inconsistent waves. The safest period to ensure great surfing experience in Ireland is fall season (September and October), when water is still not freezing and there are good chances you’ll catch higher waves. However, if you’re looking for extreme big-wave surfing and you’re not afraid of freezing waters then winter is your best bet. Winter temperatures are usually between 0ºC and 5ºC, with occasional below-zero-drops, so full winter surfing gear is a must. Be sure to obey the rules and take safety measures, and enjoy!
Aaand we’ve come to an end. As you can see, Europe is amazing for surf lovers! We barely scratched the surface when it comes to world-class surfing in Europe by introducing some superb spots in Portugal, Spain, French, and Ireland. There are so many other great places to be found on the Old Country’s west coast, so now it’s your turn.
Have you ever surfed in Europe? What is your favorite destination for riding waves? Tell us about your surfing experiences. We are thrilled to read you in the comments.