Although France may be best known as a hub for extreme winter sports such as skiing and snowboarding, it’s also one of the best-surfing destinations in Europe. Let’s look at a few reasons why your next surfing destination should be France!
Surfing in France is ideal for beginner and seasoned surfers, as the conditions on offer cater to surfers of all abilities. An important consideration before visiting France is that the seasons play a major part in whether you can surf, therefore make sure you time your visit accordingly!
Because France has a large coastline bordering five seas (the Mediterranean, the North Sea, the Manche/the British Channel, and the Atlantic Ocean), there are various destinations to choose from. These will be explored along with some tips about surfing in France.
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What Do I Need To Know About Surfing In France?
As one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world, France is both accommodating and easy to navigate for international tourists; however, there are a few things to bear in mind if you decide to visit France for a surfing trip.
1. When Is The Best Time To Surf In France?
Due to the different climates in the North and South of France respectfully, France (as a whole) is considered an all-around surfing destination. However, the seasons dramatically affect the surf conditions.
Consequently, one must have an understanding of their surfing ability, their tolerance for poor weather, and their capacity for crowded beaches and surf when deciding which season would suit them best to visit France.
For beginners, it is advisable that surfers go during the summer or early autumn months (between May and August). This is when waves are at their smallest and slowest, while the water is at its warmest.
There is also more activity on the beaches during the warmer months, which means that not only are their people and lifeguards remaining vigilant on the beach should you need assistance, but there are also surf schools open from which to take lessons!
This also allows new or beginner surfers to hire equipment from surf shops that are prepped for the influx of tourists to France’s beaches, rather than having to bring your own equipment, which can be cumbersome and expensive.
In Southwestern France, water temperatures usually stand between 68F and 77F, which means that you can surf without a wetsuit on most days, while a 3/2mm wetsuit should be kept on hand for early morning or late afternoon sessions.
In Northern France, the water temperatures are generally colder at 60F and 68F, meaning that a 3/2mm wetsuit is needed in the summer months, while a 4/3mm wetsuit should be used in the autumn months.
While autumn and summer months may be better for beginner surfers due to smaller, consistent swells and warmer waters, more advanced surfers should opt to surf during the winter months.
Although the winter months can be very cold, often requiring a 5/4/3mm wetsuit with a hoodie, gloves, and booties to brave the icy temperatures, they produce substantially better surfing conditions for intermediate to advanced surfers.
Along with larger swells, surfing in the winter means more affordable rates for travel and accommodation, while also meaningless people in the sea, allowing for more space while surfing.
2. Is There A Surfing Culture In France?
Surfing is a popular past-time in France, as evidenced by a large surfing culture on the Southwest coast that caters to tourists and locals alike with surf lessons, surf shops, accommodation by the beach, and transportation of surfing equipment.
While the Northern coast caters less to tourists and promotes a local surfing culture of die-hard surf fans and intermediate riders, it is still indicative of a country that embraces the sport on both a casual and professional level.
As a result of this surfing culture, tourists are encouraged to be respectful toward the locals and to spend time getting to know the surf etiquette of each location, particularly in the event that a local has directed you to a lesser-known surf spot!
Therefore, always remember to be polite and friendly, as well as realistic about your surfing abilities so that you do not ruin the surf for other surfers by not adhering to surfing etiquette when out on the waves or by getting in their way.
However, most French surfers are known for their laid-back attitude and willingness to help, so make sure to brush up on some basic French before arriving and spending as much time with the locals as possible!
3. Are There Surf Camps In France?
Surfing camps are one of the best ways for new surfers to integrate themselves into a new surfing environment while also having the ease of lessons, guidance, accommodation, and equipment rental all in one place.
They are also a fantastic way to meet like-minded people, both locally and internationally, with which to spend time at the camp, out on the surf, or traveling around France!
France caters to the surfing market by allowing international travelers arriving in either Bordeaux or Paris to get to surf camps in a matter of hours via the TGV (France’s train system).
This is an affordable way for surfers to transport themselves and their equipment to specially catered surf camps. Whereby you can save even more money if you decide to book your tickets in advance outside of surfing season.
Where Are The Best Surf Spots In France?
Stretching over 2 120 miles, France’s coastline is host to hundreds of surf spots that cater to beginner, intermediate, and professional surfers.
While it is impossible to list all of them, especially since the locals keep many of the best surf spots a secret, let’s look at ten of the best and most well-known surf sports across France:
1. Biarritz, Pyrénées-Atlantiques, French Basque Country
Considered to be Europe’s surfing capital and the Pearl of the Basque Coast, Biarritz is a must-visit destination for all surfing fans.
While it is known for catering for experienced and professional surfers, as evidenced by the hosting of Roxy Pro in July and Quicksilver Maider Arosteguy in April, Biarritz is also an ideal surf spot for beginner surfers to hone their skills in the summer months.
With its winding cobble strips, extravagant vacation homes, exotic eateries, surf camps, surf shops, and the world-famous Biarritz Grande Plage beach, Biarritz has earned its status as one of the most popular coastal destinations in the world.
2. Hossegor, Landes, Nouvelle-Aquitaine
In contrast to the popularity and glamour of Biarritz is Hossegor, a small surf town found down La Côte d’Argent (the Silver Coast).
While it is best known for its rougher, more challenging waves aimed at intermediate and experienced surfers (La Nord and La Gravière), there is, fortunately, some easier surf that accommodates beginner surfers in the summer and autumn months.
Le Sud is a beginner-friendly swell that provides smaller, calmer waves—allowing new surfers to partake in rudderless surf for the better part of four months during autumn when the water temperatures are a comfortable 68F to 77F.
It must be borne in mind that shifting sandbars will change the surf conditions throughout the day. Therefore, surfers new to the area should seek the assistance and guidance of local surfers to time their surf to their ability.
3. Lacanau, Gironde, Nouvelle-Aquitaine
Situated in the center of the France Atlantic coastline near Bordeaux, Lacanau is well-known for its powerful beach breaks, which play host to the Lacanau Pro.
While Lacanau may be better suited for seasoned surfers, the summer months do provide smaller, calmer swells akin to other parts of France, as well as the ease of transport from Bordeaux to nearby surf camps.
Known for its swell consistency and expansive golden beaches, Lacanau is an ideal destination for both casual and serious surfers to enjoy in equal measure.
4. Seignosse, Landes, Nouvelle-Aquitaine
Situated near the aforementioned Hossegor and Biarritz, Seignosse is known for striking a balance between these two surfing destinations, as a popular tourist destination as well as displaying consistent swells.
Les Casernes and Les Estagnots present easy, simple to surf waves during the summer months at low tide, while the autumn months play host to professional tournaments such as Quicksilver Pro France and the World Surf League at the more challenging Les Bourdaines.
Outside of surfing, Seignosse is known for its cuisine, architectural heritage, and a pine forest that covers most of the town, allowing for similar summer activities such as hiking or cycling.
5. Mimizan, Landes, Nouvelle-Aquitaine
In a similar vicinity to Seignosse is the Silver Coast town of Mimizan.
The most popular spot begins the 10km stretch of beach known as Mimizan Plage, which is known for its four beach breaks to cater to all levels of surfers, namely La Garluche, Goëlands, Mouettes, and Plage Sud.
While Mimizan does have swells that appeal to experienced surfers, its main draw is its beginner-friendly conditions in the summer months that allow for gentle white water waves in the morning and slightly larger green waves further out.
With nearby surf camps, a laidback attitude, and smaller crowds during the summer months, Mimizan is considered to be one of the top destinations in France for beginner surfers to hone their skills in a safe and comfortable environment.
6. Moliets, Landes, Nouvelle-Aquitaine
As the final destination on this list found in Landes, Moliets is a popular beach resort which attracts both local and international tourists throughout the summer months.
Moliets Plage is the most popular golden-sand beach destination known for its many surf camps, tourist accommodation, and campsites, all of which speak to Moliets’ laid-back atmosphere.
Known for its shifting sandbanks and vibrant nightlife, Moliets promises to be an unpredictable and exciting destination for those seeking hours in the surf and on the town!
7. La Torche, Finistère, Brittany
Shifting focus to Northern France, and the only Finistère destination on this list is Pointe de la Torche at the southern end of the Bay of Audierne.
Pointe de la Torche is unique in terms of its white-sand beaches and its beginner-friendly swells in an area typically known for rougher swells intended for more advanced surfers.
While Pointe de la Torche remains an ideal Northern destination for beginner surfers, just bear in mind that weekends in the summer months often result in packed beaches.
Subsequently, very early morning surf sessions or weekday sessions are advisable.
8. Hendaye, Pyrénées-Atlantiques, French Basque Country
Turning our attention away from the North and down into the southernmost part of France is Hendaye.
While most of French Basque Country is known for its larger rougher swells, Hendaye bucks this trend with year-round gentle waves for beginners (although the winter months do produce larger waves aimed at intermediate surfers).
Consequently, Hendaye is the perfect destination for the whole family and those looking to learn similar outdoor water activities in a safe and secure environment.
9. Guéthary, Pyrénées-Atlantiques, French Basque Country
Unlike Hendaye, Guéthary is better known as an example of French Basque Country’s rougher swells that cater to more experienced and professional surfers. The winter months produce world-class, large waves ideal for advanced surfing.
The two best destinations for experienced surfers are Parlementia and Les Alcyons, which need to be enjoyed with caution, given their strong tides, long paddles, and powerful waves.
10. Belharra Reef, Saint-Jean-de-Luz, Northern Basque Country
Finalizing the list is Belharra Reef, easily one of the best surfing spots for advanced surfers and big-wave surfers.
While it may be a beautiful destination for dives during light swells, heavy swells can produce enormous waves upward of 65-feet; thus making Belharra Reef the exclusive surfing domain of professional tow-in surfers.
For beginner surfers, the town of Saint-Jean-de-Luz offers various activities outside of watching big-wave surfers ride colossal waves, including but not limited to luxury hotels, casinos, and numerous cultural events in the calendar year.
With its varied coastlines and seasonal swell conditions, France deserves its position as one of Europe’s best-surfing destinations and is a must-visit for beginner, intermediate, and advanced surfers alike!