"Call it ‘grand cru’, call it what you want, but if you’re sitting in your dark home you can take it for granted that there’s barrels unloading on this exquisitely sandy, hollow coast…” - The expert view on Aquitaine by The Stormrider Guide Europe
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10% off tuition and equipment hire for Alternative Aquitaine clients at Surf Seignosse Paradise surf school in Hossegor
"If there's a surf area in Europe that needs no introduction, its Aquitaine...this 160km long ruler-straight beach constitutes the largest potential stretch of unridden summer barrels in the entire continent…” The Stormrider Guide Europe
The Côte d’Argent provides ample opportunity for regaling vital Point Break quotes.
This is the surfing capital of Europe and has been ever since a Californian holidaying in Biarritz in 1950 decided the waves were so good he’d have his board sent over.
Here's 5 good reasons to choose Aquitaine for your surf holiday:
With surf stretching all the way from Soulac-sur-Mer (north west of Bordeaux) to Hendaye-Plage on the Spanish border, you have an incredible choice of waves and beaches. Pick from the fashionable beaches in the heart of Biarritz, the sometimes terrifying but consistently strong breaks around Hossegor (regarded as the best spot in Europe), or the countless other breaks along the coast. The beauty of the Côte d'Argent is that you can pretty much find your own spot any day.
If it's monster waves you're after, there's a place on the Big Wave circuit, close to the Spanish border. In 2003, the Sunday Times told of how two Frenchmen surfed a 66-ft wave (the height of a six-storey building) at Belharra Reef, two miles from St-Jean-de-Luz in the French Basque Country. ‘Big-Wave’ surfing is by no means exclusive to the Hawaiian Islands.
If Big Wave surfing doesn’t take your fancy, you can still choose between Malibu (traditional) surfing, longboard and body-boarding. Plus there’s also the opportunity ofwakeboarding (waterskiing on a board similar to a snowboard) or kite-surfing.
Novices or those less-experienced can make use of the countless surf-schools for lessons, or just to discuss conditions. You need to know where is safe to surf, and what times of day are most suitable (usually determined by the height of the tide). Be sure to observe local rules, particularly flags denoting swimming areas, or dangerous currents.
With nearly 200 miles of quality surf, from Soulac at the Pointe de Grave to Hendaye on the border of Spain, we are not going to list all the surf breaks along this wonderful coastine.
In 2015, the French Surf Federation (Fédération Française de Surf) launched a new scheme encouraging surfing towns to apply for a star-rating and the label of “Ville du Surf”. The ratings take into account how welcoming the towns are to surfers, including the number of surf schools, facilities available (parking, showers etc) and the promotion of surfing events in the area.
Biarritz and Lacanau have been awarded a 2 star rating, and Seignosse has a 1 star rating (out of a maximum of 3). Applications are open again for 2016, and we’re interested to see which other resorts join the scheme.
Great news for us and for our surf-enthusiast clients: a simple way to find suitable and welcoming surf resorts, many of which happen to be on the Aquitaine coast!
West of Bordeaux, Lacanau is the best-known surf location on the Gironde coast and has been hosting professional contests since 1979. Surf is consistently good here.
Lacanau is just one spot in the middle of a long sandy beach, stretching for nearly 100km, blessed with quality surf right the way along. All these waves are beach breaks – meaning waves that break over sand (rather than over rocks or reef), and they break throughout the day. Its proximity to Bordeaux makes it a very popular spot, and you can check the surf from the car park.
The huge lakes at Lacanau also provide great opportunities for other watersports, including Lacanau Kite-surfing and Lacanau Wake-boarding.
If rip currents were not enough, on this coastline surfers should also look out for scores of naturists peppered along the beaches.
We also recommend any of the following beaches, listed from north to south as you travel down the coast. All of these waves break over sand, throughout the day.
Soulac-sur-Mer by the Gironde river is a good option when everywhere else is closed out. Good for beginners as the tide starts coming in. Soulac is also very popular for skim-boarding, land-yachting, and sport-kiting.
Le Gurp (near Soulac-sur-Mer) is a good choice when it’s too wild everywhere else. A good spot for beginners as the tide starts coming in, with a surf school right by this beach.
Montalivet-les-Bains has a beach popular with naturists, and offers floodlit night-surfing in the summer, as well as a good choice of nightclubs. You can check out the quality of the waves from the car park.
Hourtin-Plage is popular, but can become crowded. If so, look for quieter spots up and down the beach, by following the mountain-bike paths through the forests.
Carcans-Plage offers a quieter alternative to Lacanau, and many would argue that the waves here are better.
Between Lacanau and Arcachon is La Jenny. You can get to this break by turning off the D3 at Lauros, north of the nudist camp entrance, then take the long walk from the car park. We’ve listed it here in case you find the other beaches too busy (or in case you fancy naked surfing, of course). Then head south for le Porge and Grand Crohotand the exquisitely-named la Vache Morte.
The bay of Arcachon gives light relief from the surf – a calm inlet with the picturesque seaside town ofArcachon, and the exclusive Cap Ferret. This is France’s oyster-growing capital. Great for food lovers and shoppers. Of note here is Europe’s tallest sand dune – Pyla – which gives great views of the coast and the bay.
There is good surfing along the Atlantic side of the peninsula of Cap Ferret, but watch out for the powerful currents – especially when the tide is going out. Recommended breaks are at Cap Ferret, Le Truc Vert and Le Petit Train.
La Cote Landaise
The best-known surf spot on the whole coast, in fact in Europe, is Hossegor. At Hossegor the swell is aided by the presence of the Fosse de Capbreton, a deep underwater canyon located 2km offshore.
Hossegor breaks to look out for include Les Estagnots, Les Culs Nuls (“The Bare Bums” – Hossegor’s naturist beach) the mighty La Gravière(for tube-riding) and L’Epi Nord. The last two are strictly for those who know what they’re doing, which rules us out. It goes without saying to be mindful of strong currents. Being such a renowned location, Hossegor can get busy, so be prepared to wait your turn.
But Hossegor is one spot amongst many, all offering amazing beach breaks right the way along the Côte Landaise, from Biscarrosse Plage (just south of Arcachon) all the way to Labenne andOndres just to the north of Bayonne. You will find surf along this coast at all times of the day and all of the waves break over sand.
Travelling south, down the coast from Arcachon,Biscarrosse Plage is great but can be busy. South of Biscarrosse Plage is a military zone, where access is strictly forbidden.
Mimizan Plage is the next available spot and is much quieter than Biscarrosse. There are several spots between Mimizan Plage and Moliets, including Contis-Plage, Cap de l’Homy, and naturists’ favourite St-Girons Plage.
Moliets-Plage is a great spot. If you fancy it, you can actually paddle down the Huchet river from Leon lake, ending up at the best break around.
Vieux-Boucau and Port Albret are both very convenient from the D652 coastal road.
In Capbreton, access the beach between the jetties. With smaller swell than Hossegor, this is better for beginners, but gets very crowded when Hossegor is too big. South of Capbreton, ‘La Piste’ offers very fast breaks which are often tubing, with surfers understandably protective of their waves.
Towards Biarritz, Labenne-Ocean and Ondres Plage are good breaks close the N10 (major road), which are seldom crowded. Tarnos Plage is industrial, but has good tubing lefts. Respect the gnarly locals.
The Basque coast offers more variety of waves, with coves, rocky reefs, and beaches pointing in numerous different directions. At the heart of the Côte Basque is Biarritz, the glamorous birthplace of French surfing.
Approaching Biarritz from the north, just south of the River Ardour, don’t bother with La Barre, as it suffers from low water quality. The barrels of Les Cavaliers are said to rival those of Hossegor. It can get crowded, but is usually bigger than Anglet.
Les Plages d’Anglet provide plenty of sand break options which work at all times, so keep walking until you find your ideal spot. If busy, look forPlage de L’Ocean and Plage de la Madrague (close to Chiberta), which are a longer walk from the car park. Plage des Sables d’Or and Plage du VVF are sand beach breaks accessible form the car park at Chambre d’Armour, scenically situated near the light house. The waves here provide good long rides, and are visible from the road so attract a lot of people, but there’s plenty of room for everyone.
Biarritz Grande Plage in the centre of town has to be done if you’re visiting these parts. Obviously it can get busy, and there is a section reserved for bathers. Do not ride at high tide. Your best bet might be evening or early morning. Still in Biarritz,Côte des Basques is the birthplace of surfing in France, and is good for longboards. Best at low tide. Further South on the beach (away from the lighthouse) the wave breaks over flat rock beds.
As you head south out of Biarritz, Ilbarritz works at all tides, but watch out for the rocky reef below.
Heading south along the coast towards the Spanish border: Bidart central beach can be good at all tides, again watch out for rocks
Guéthary is worth visiting for the village and the harbour alone. The surf breaks over flat rocks, and works at all tides. Tends to be popular with longboarders and can be busy. Immediately south of Guéthary harbour, Les Alcyons has a heavy current and should be avoided unless you know what you’re doing. Doesn’t work at high tide.
Local contributor Jean-Marc Takaki told us:
Guethary is a soft Waikiki like longboard spot when it's head high. When it gets double overhead and over it's a big wave spot that holds big swells, and those who surf it use 8 foot guns, and the crowd thin out dramatically. The Surf Session Big Wave Challenge is held there when the swell is 15 foot hawaiian. Les Alcyons works best at mid high tide and the current is not any more dangerous or stronger than it is on the other side of the channel at Parlmentia (Guethary). However there are boils and rocks underneath so les Alcyons can be scary. The current though runs away from the peak so the risk of getting caught in the wrong spot is tiny compare to Parlmentia where the current runs towards the impact zone... so getting caught and worked at Parlementia is guaranteed however experienced you are... it is in that sense like Sunset Beach. Parlmentia (Bidart) is also the old timers and pioneers favorite spot, more so than "la cote des basques". It has a rich surfing history, and Mickey Doora spent the last few years of his life in the village.
In the bay of St Jean de Luz itself, the waves have got to be big to get into the harour where they break over the beaches of Ciboure and Socoa. The breaks here are to the north of the town -Erromardie and Lafitenia.
Right on the border of Spain, Hendaye Plage is a beach break smaller than elsewhere – so well suited for beginners. The width of the break offers a choice of peaks, the best being that near the casino. Beginners should head to the north end of the beach.
Of course the surf doesn’t stop at Hendaye. The breaks continue along the Bay of Biscay coastline into northern Spain passing San Sebastien, Bilbao and Santander. Mundaka is the pick.
New for 2017 - 10% off tuition and equipment hire for Alternative Aquitaine clients at Surf Seignosse Paradise surf school in Hossegor
Surf Schools are a great way to introduce you to the Atlantic waves. Even if you know what you’re doing they still provide invaluable advice about local conditions and breaks.
Expect to be able to hire equipment from the local surf school, which can be picked to suit your experience and size.
2-hour lessons are the norm, expect to pay around 30 EUR, and don’t worry if you’re amongst a group – it’s fun to share the experience. Usually the price will include equipment.
Many clubs even offer ‘tandem surfing’ with the teacher joining you on your board until you get the hang of it. Check the standard of the instructor’s English before booking and also look out for FFS accreditation.
The following Surf Schools have been used by past clients and in some cases we know the people who run these surf schools.
(Says Julian Elliott 2011 & 2013: the instructor is a local lad, but speaks fluent English and has a great attitude. Nothing was too much trouble. If the surf / tides were not good at a certain time of day, he made sure he got the lessons done at an alternative time. We arrived on a Sunday; and the first lesson was then scheduled for 7pm on that evening (not many surf schools would do that in France). One day where the conditions were quite flat he took the boys paddle boarding later in the day to make up for the shorter surf lesson in the morning.
Surf Seignosse Paradise - based at Estagnots, very professional, new & good quality equipment. Natural Surf Lodge (contact Claire) - lovely, family-friendly surf school, special rates for AA clients
At this popular destination, our principal lead is Ecole de surf du Golf - contact Camille.
Over the years, guests have also used the following surf schools, so plenty to choose from and research:
Moliets et Maa Surf Shop & School
Zen Surf School
Messanges Surf School
TripAdvisor's Top 3 Surf Schools are #1 Boardingmania Surf Camp & Surf School, #2 Authentique-Ecole de Surf and #3 Kiwadu Surf School
Surf Univers - contact Josef and Carole - has been recommended by the owner of one of our properties