As a popular summer destination for tourists due to its beaches and warm climate, Spain remains one of Europe’s best destinations for those looking for a coastal holiday. Needless to say, surfing is a large part of this experience. Let’s find out why.
With a coastline exceeding 4 000 miles and flanked by the Atlantic Ocean to the North and the Mediterranean Sea to the South, Spain boasts a variety of surf conditions that appeal to beginner, intermediate, and experienced surfers, which is rivaled by very few European countries.
As a result of Spain’s variety, it can be a bit difficult for international tourists to decide which areas of Spain’s coastline to visit relative to their own experience, as well as what to expect when surfing in Spain. Let’s explore these concerns now:
What Do I Need To Know About Surfing In Spain?
As one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world, Spain 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 Spain for a surfing trip.
1. When Is The Best Time To Surf In Spain?
Spain is renowned for its diverse topography across its coastline, which includes sweeping golden-sand beaches, rocky cliff faces, as well as access to the Canary Islands; as a result of this diversity, the swell at each surf spot varies considerably.
Therefore, while Spain is considered an all-around holiday and surfing destination as a result of its mild climate, different seasons can significantly alter the ocean swell meaning that the different ocean temperaments appeal to surfers of varying experiences throughout the year.
During the summer between June and October, the swells average three to four feet in height. Meanwhile, the winter months between September and April produce more powerful but consistent waves averaging five and six feet in height.
In this regard, Spain would be seen to mirror other European countries such as France and Portugal that identify summer as having calmer waves that are easier for beginner surfers to ride, while winter produces larger waves for experienced surfers.
Consequently, each season needs to be seen with regard to the area where you want to surf, as this will determine the water conditions and temperatures that require different preparation:
- Autumn: Northern Spain is considered the best area to visit during winter, as it produces consistent swells suitable for intermediate surfers and challenging enough for beginner surfers. Water temperatures average 60F, meaning that a 2/3mm wetsuit is needed,
- Spring: Although similar to autumn, spring can bring with it unpredictable wind patterns. Water temperatures remain consistent, but the added wind will mean that a 2/3mm wetsuit is non-negotiable.
- Winter: The Northern Spain waters can drop to below 50F, with Southern Spain being a bit warmer at mid 50F. While winter conditions may produce heavy tubing and constant swells, these should only be attempted by experienced surfers with a 4/3mm wetsuit, hoodie, booties, and gloves.
- Summer: Both Northern and Southern Spain warm up considerably in the summer months. This allows for pleasant water temperatures that allow for short wetsuits in the North and regular shorts in the South. The swell is much smaller and calmer, making it appealing for beginner surfers and bathers.
In conclusion, you should plan your surfing trip according to your experience level and your preferred climate/surfing conditions.
Take note that summer may result in busier beaches and higher costs, while winter can prove a cheaper but more advanced option more akin to serious surfers than casual hobbyists.
2. Is There A Surfing Culture In Spain?
Following the sport’s introduction across the country in the 1960s, surfing has remained one of Spain’s favorite past times and continues to contribute to Spain’s growing surfing culture and recognition as a top surfing destination globally.
While the sport initially met hurdles in growth, the establishment of a Spanish surfboard factory in the 1970s (Santa Maria Surfboards) and the launch of surf magazine Tres60 in the 1980s helped the sport to grow exponentially in the 1990s.
Having played host to international professional surfing competitions, which in turn helped to promote Spanish surfers such as Aritz Aranburu & Gony Zubizarreta globally, it would appear the popularity of surfing in Spain is on an upward trajectory.
Although this passion for surfing has translated to some instances of negative localism in some areas (although this is standard practice in most tourist destinations), Spanish surfers are more than accommodating to those that abide by wave etiquette.
Just remember to always remain polite and friendly while respecting the spaces of other surfers when visiting Spain, and it is more than likely that many a local will treat you to a secluded surfing spot or popular hangout!
3. Are There Surf Camps In Spain?
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 Spain! (Bear in mind that most camps in Northern Spain close over winter).
Spanish surf camps also often have programs aimed at children and teenagers that run anywhere between three days up to two weeks. These camps focus on practical surfing lessons and important theories, such as reading tides, wind, waves, etc.
In conclusion, surf camps can prove a fun, safe, and affordable method for the whole family to centralize their surfing trip while not having to worry about accommodation, where to find surf spots, where to get surf lessons, or where to find equipment rentals.
Which Are The Best Surf Spots In Spain?
Stretching over 3 000 miles, Spain’s coastline is host to hundreds of surf spots that cater to beginner, intermediate, and professional surfers.
While it isn’t possible to list them all, especially since the locals keep many of the best surf spots a secret, let’s look at eight of the best and most well-known surf spots across Spain:
Mundaka, a medieval village situated in the Basque county of Northern Spain, is generally considered Spain’s best and most popular surfing destination, having played host to various international professional surfing events and tournaments.
Although consistency is considered an issue with the swell at Mundaka, waves have been known to ride for 300 meters to a height of over 12 feet when the swell is at its best for intermediate and advanced surfers.
Many consider October to February to be the best time to visit Mundaka, with the winter months in December and January said to have produced the most consistent waves.
With some of the best lefts in the world and hollowed, consistent tube waves, Mundaka remains a perfect destination for both intermediate and advanced surfers.
Although beginner surfers are also welcome to a town with surfing as a focal point, meaning there are other outdoor coastal activities to enjoy as well as surf schools to help, beginners adapt to rougher swells than what they may be used to.
Zarautz Beach is situated on the edge of Northern Spain’s Bay of Biscay near the Basque town of the same name.
While Basque is known for its various surfing town, Zarautz is in contention as being crowned the very best.
The reason being is that Zarautz as the host of international surfing tournaments and events embodies the laid-back spirit of surfing while also providing vital facilities such as lifeguards, surf schools, showers, toilets, etc.
All of which can be found along its famous promenade that extends across the largest beachfront in the Basque Country.
With easy, beginner waves close to the shore, complimented by larger waves for advanced surfers at the back of the swell, Zarautz remains a firm favorite for beginner to intermediate surfers between October to April.
Razo beach, which covers the entire coastline of the municipality of Carballo, is renowned for its many sandbanks that produce A-frame waves that are ideal for surfers of every experience level.
Along with the wide-open spaces, general lack of crowds, and consistent waves even during small swells are the myriad of surf schools and surf camps that provide surf coaching and training, regardless of one’s experience.
As a result of favorable conditions between November and April, along with support structures such as reliable, affordable accommodation, Razo is considered one of the best surfing spots in Spain for beginner surfers.
4. La Zurriola
Returning to Basque Country is the half-moon beach of La Zurriola. Just a mere step from San Sebastian, La Zurriola, is one of the area’s lesser-known beaches, meaning that it has all the charms of San Sebastian’s best beaches, without the enormous crowds.
While that’s not to say the beach doesn’t get crowded during the surf season between September to December, there is still a noticeable difference compared to its contemporaries, making it a preferable choice for surfers who want to avoid bathers.
With waves that break right and left (although left breaks are considered better), La Zurriola has a good swell for intermediate to advanced surfers.
While the beachfront amenities improve the surfing experience for those looking to get in and out of the waves without any hassles.
Although Basque Country is known for its sandy, accessible beaches for tourists and surfers of all walks of life, Meñakoz, north of the city of Bilbao, provides an altogether different experience.
With hazards such as razor-sharp rocks, strong rip tides, and two-wave hold down, Meñakoz has earned a fearsome reputation as having Europe’s biggest waves, with swells producing powerful right-hand waves in excess of 19 feet!
As a result of these conditions, while the stony beach may be worth a visit to see these waves in action, the act of surfing these waves should be left to very experienced or professional surfers.
Any surfer attempting these waves should do so with the assistance of locals to advise them, as well as the presence of other surfers or lifeguard professionals for safety reasons.
Located in the province of Biscay, Sopelana is known for a consistent beach break which over the years has provided a level of consistency that has helped to nurture and develop some of Spain’s most well-known international surfers.
Due to its mix of sand, rock, and swells across the breadth of the beach, Sopelana adds a level of variety that is suitable to all surfers all year round (although October to April is considered the best time to visit).
Just bear in mind that Sopelana is one of Spain’s most popular tourist destinations, meaning that you should schedule your visit outside of busy tourist seasons, or you should opt to have a surf session in the early mornings or late afternoons.
7. Playa De Somo
Situated in the Municipality of Ribamontán al Mar in Northern Cantabria, Playa De Somo is one of Spain’s most famous beaches, while also being closely situated to the regional capital of Santander.
Although perhaps better known to tourists for its world-class facilities, various coastal activities, and vibrant nightlife, Playa De Somo is renowned by surf schools for its swells that cater to beginners and intermediate surfers.
Although its 8kms of left and right breaks may not pose a challenge to more advanced surfers, it is considered by many to have some of the most consistent waves in Spain.
8. Playa de Rodiles
Finalizing our list is Playa de Rodiles, situated near the town of Villaviciosa in the Asturias region.
Considered by some to be Mundaka’s little sister, Playa de Rodiles is known for world-class river mouth left-handers akin to Mundaka’s swell (albeit a little shorter).
Although the best time to visit is between November to April, Playa de Rodiles’ appeal as a local favorite means that you should get to know the local surfers to determine the best times to surf while not being hassled by bathers.
Take note further that while the swell may be gentle, Playa de Rodiles is known for a strong rip current. As such, surfing should be reserved for intermediate to advanced surfers, with bodies on hand to mitigate any dangers arising.
With its varied coastlines and seasonal swell conditions, Spain deserves its position as one of Europe’s best-surfing destinations and is a must-visit for beginner, intermediate, and advanced surfers alike!