Whether you’re a novice or seasoned surfer, Europe offers an invigorating array of possibilities – from gently curling breakers to huge walls of glassy Atlantic waves.
You can’t beat the feeling of achievement when you finally manage to get up on your board and cut your way across the waves. And if you’re some way off becoming a surfing superstar, that’s ok: practising is just as much fun, and these are our favourite spots to try.
Praia de Alagoa, Porto da Cruz, Madeira
The beautiful island of Madeira, surrounded by the pounding Atlantic swell, is a surfer’s hotspot. Try the remote beach of Praia de Alagoa. Generally the beaches on the North of the Island get the most consistent exposure to the North Atlantic waves but the beaches around Porto da Cruz are particularly special as they’re the only with volcanic black sand and surfable waves. Alagoa itself is a small bay that’s protected from some of the huge waves so is perfect for beginners. There’s also plenty of surf schools nearby so you can rent a board and have a few hours of lessons to get yourself (or family members) going. For more experienced surfers head to the beach at Ribeira da Janela for six foot breakers. There’s a reason why some international surfers call Madeira the “Hawaii of the Atlantic”.
Praia do Guincho, Cascais, Portugal
Located on the western edge of the Serra de Sintra National Park, the beach at Guincho delivers ideal conditions for practiced surfers with the backdrop of dramatic dunes and coastal forest. Guincho is known for its 6-10 foot waves generated by the direction of the tides and high wind levels. Because of this it’s also a great spot for other watersports like windsurfing and kite surfing all of which can hired locally. The beach was famously featured in the James Bond movie “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service”. Check out a live stream of the beach here.
Foz do Lizandro, Ericeira, Portugal
If you travel about an hour north from Guincho up the coast you’ll discover the gorgeous historic fishing town of Ericeira and Foz do Lizandro beach. This area is one of only eight World Surf Reserves – only the second ever to be created. The coastline of Ericeira is studded with secluded bays and sandy beaches making it a surfer’s paradise, and was favoured by members of the Portuguese royal family and aristocrats who built holiday homes there. You’ll find a rich diversity of waves here with varying degrees of difficulty; for beginners and moderate level surfers we’d recommend Foz do Lizandro because the sandbar created by the river mouth that joins the sea here generates some fun three foot waves. It’s not too crowded either so gives you chance to practice. If you’re looking for something a little more advanced then head to Ribeira D’Ilhas which currently hosts the Quicksilver Pro Portugal contest each year.
Mundaka, Basque coast, Spain
This beach really needs no introduction and arguably has the best river mouth wave in the world. A long sandbank creates some of the longest left hand waves you’ll ever find, with rides of 200-300 meters possible! It’s so unique that the estuary is now UNESCO protected. The breakers can reach up to a whopping 12 foot in height and form beautiful hollow cylinders, but make sure you surf whilst the tide is incoming because the outgoing riptides can be quite strong. This beach is certainly not for beginners and as such Mundaka has been part of many World Championship Tours, with plenty of legendary surfers making their mark here. So if you want to follow in the wake of the greats, this is the place to do it and you’ll often find the area full of pro surfers.
Playa de la Zurriola, San Sebastian, Spain
If you’re looking for more of an all-round surfing holiday packed with good food, authentic culture, nightlife and of course a spectacular beach, then you have to head for San Sebastian. Locally known as “Zurri”, this beach is situated between Mount Ulia and the river Urumea, next door to the world renowned Concha Bay. You’ll find fun for all levels here with a specially designated surf zone in the summer and consistent two-to-four foot waves. Bodyboarders are also welcome to gently ride the waves alongside swimmers, perfect if you’re holidaying with kids or teens. There’s a local surf club and four surf schools where you can rent boards and get some training too, so it’s an ideal choice if it’s your first time at a group surfing holiday.
Grande Plage, Biarritz, France
Team England pulled out all the stops in the ISA World Surfing Games 2017 at this very beach. There was a standout finish from Cornwall’s Ellie Turner making the quarter finals and the men’s team made it to round four. Head Coach Dave Renaud said “Our team’s performance has been outstanding; both in and out of the water our team have done our country proud. World surfing now knows that English surfing is a force to be reckoned with”. The team stayed at our very own Le Ruisseau just 15 minutes from the beach. “We loved it,” Dave says. “The pools were well used as part of recovery and to relax between the day’s competitions!” The beach itself is the most popular in Biarritz and receives five to seven-foot waves that under the right conditions form great hollow barrels.
La Centrale, Lacanau, France
This beautiful 10 mile of beach has been home to international surfing competitions for nearly 40 years and it’s not hard to see why. It caters for all abilities with waves ranging from two to eight-foot depending on where you choose to surf, and Lacanau itself is a charming seaside town with colourful architecture and lively bars. If you head just beyond the northernmost groyne you’ll often catch good waves and further up still towards La Nord there are some long right waves where you can ride 100-150 metres all the way to the beach. Head here in mid-August to watch the Lacanau Pro Contest where the best surfers from around the world come to show off their skills.
Poetto Beach, Cagliari, Sardinia
Last but not least is another less well-known beach in the south of Sardinia, and for those who think there’s no good surf to be had in the Mediterranean – think again. This 3.7 mile beach is where all the locals come to sunbathe and unwind in picture perfect surroundings. Catch waves up to a moderate six foot in height and admire views of the Sella del Diavolo hills as you cruise back towards the beach. If you come here during the summer months you should also be able to spot pink flamingo flying around! The waves are generally less powerful compared to the Atlantic but the water is warmer, so if a relaxing style of surfing is more your thing then here’s well worth a visit.