From the high latitude Scandinavian outposts preferred by bearded rubber fetishists. To Macaronesian Atlantic isle beauties and much on the Continental mainland between, Europe has an embarrassment of riches in terms of the variety and quality of its surf.
Sure, some zones can be pretty crowded. And yeah, your chances of snaffling a legit set wave off the pack in certain lineups may be slimmer than those for a #PeoplesVote… But now’s not the time to let statistical reality stand in the way of your dreams.
No matter how many of these you’ve managed to tick off up until today, there’s always tomorrow. After that, things become less certain.
Mundaka, Basque Country
Folk have forgone career opportunities and relationships to launch long haul surf safaris only to get less tubed than they would have in an afternoon at Mundaka.
Folk have risked tropical malaise, mutiny, bankruptcy and a multitude of other ills to seek out and surf waves of much lesser quality than those found at the entrance of the Urdaibai Estuary at Mundaka at low tide, some 25 mins from Bilbao Airport.
An absolute screaming freight train tube when it’s on, Mundaka really is life-changingly good. The flipside is it’s almost certainly the most crowded spot on this list, and getting worse.
“Thurso East presents a legit, classy wave that you don’t need to be an under the lip takeoff wizard to enjoy”
The wave is superb, crowds generally mellow, water always frigid, while in stark contrast to the general beauty of the Scottish Highlands, Thurso itself is one of the more bleak surf towns in the known universe.
A long old drive up means most recreational waveriders from England’s major surfing hubs, aside from the NE, tend to invest in trips equatorward, rather than poleward, for obvious reasons. The result is that despite everyone knowing how good it is for decades, your chances of a respectable wave count are strong.
With other nearby surf highlights ranging from the slabby and hollow to the super slabby and ridiculously shallow, Thurso East presents a legit, classy wave that you don’t need to be an under the lip takeoff wizard to enjoy.
As well as getting tubed, you’ve a canny decent chance of bumping into Ian Battrick, hanging upside down in a disused barn.
“Hazards include getting more pebbles up your balloon knot than seems physiologically possible”
La Graviere, France
Hossegor’s premiere tube thump, La Grav presents the most straightforward check/paddle out offering of any surf spot… from which point things can get slightly trickier.
Breaking really close to shore and delightfully trunkable for a few months, the random nature of opportunity means you’ve a reasonable bet of a bomb just by getting in the mixer. On the other hand, it’s essentially a glorified closeout, particularly to mere mortals, and hazards include getting more pebbles up your balloon knot than seems physiologically possible – as well as an excellent chance of getting faded by a Czech with a hurricane-proof stance.
On crowded days, the La Grav surf experience will either be infuriating / exquisite depending on where the peaks present, and whether or not you get your bottom turn in before the lip lands.
You’ll either emerge a legit tunnel lord henceforth existing on a high plane of shred consciousness, or curse the Duke for having the audacity to spread his cursed act upon humanity.
A beauty of a reef point, and the jewel in Ericeira’s crown, arguably Europe’s finest surf town for quality and variety of break. What it boasts in attractiveness, it lacks in comfort; sharp, urchin covered rocks are everywhere, and whether you opt for a timely jump in straight out the front, walk down the end and paddle through the channel, or even down from the top of the point, watch your step.
The locals, while reasonably tolerant-ish, aren’t exactly putting flower leis over the wing mirrors of visiting surfers’ hire cars, and while the recent surf camp explosion has had less impact on spots like Coxos than the more forgiving waves, tread lightly.
More reef than point, the wave itself is almost like a collection of joined up right hand peaks than a true point, and when it gets bigger, it gets deceptively powerful.
When Jah designed Cornwall, after first meticulously perfecting the Port Eliot Festival, the precise ratio of meat chunk to root veg to be encased in heavy pastry and Cornish wrestling (alas having to rush Newquay Airport as a consequence), he also prudently placed her finest reefbreak all the way down the end, testing the commitment of the visiting surfer to pursue the peninsula to its conclusion.
These days, the extra driving distance is little deterrent to the hoards, and modern forecasts generally mean contemporary crowds. A run of decent swell in early 2018 generated more ‘content’ than the collective body of pictorial/videographic work in the town’s history, and despite the general Bank Holiday traffic jam vibe to the Levvy surfing experience, her quality endures, undiminished.
A powerful, at times spiteful wave that can inflict damage to board and body, Supertubos is essentially another glorified closeout like Graviere, only with less attractive water colour. Thing is, it holds really solid swells, has some protection from N winds, and can serve up absolute screamers for surfers willing and able to get on the front foot and drive.
In terms of municipal architecture, Peniche is no Obidos, but with the region’s ‘always offshore somewhere’ claim, which is nearly kinda true, makes a visit to the town a must, and by extension, a session at her best wave even more so.
If you happen to be in town when the WSL stars duke it out in the season’s penultimate event, you’ll take heart in noticing how much of a cruel mistress the ocean can be to even the shiniest of surf stars, an outrageous 25 minute rip snuffing out a World Title campaign without prejudice.
You see, she hates us all, equally.
Punta Lobos, Canary Islands
Lobos isn’t the best wave in the Canary Islands. It isn’t even the best wave on (off) Fuerte. It’s not the most tubing or powerful wave in the archipelago, but it certainly is one of the most ripable and fun to the citizen surfer.
The best part? No real issues with locals. An uninhabited island nature reserve, any of the identity politics that you might encounter in this part of the world, maybe from vociferous members of the prone surfing community, are not really an issue here. Hassles can go down anywhere of course, but you’re much less likely to be told not to film/breathe here, for example, than at other spots nearby.
You need to get a taxi boat over, allowing you to indulge in what’s still one of surfing’s great simple pleasures; flopping carelessly over the bow, and directly into a shimmering blue lineup.
“When the Continent is overrun by winter weather beasts making landfall, North Africa lights up with ruler edged lines and true thigh burning rides”
While we’re fully aware that Morocco isn’t in fact in Europe, for the purposes of this article, a Moroccan surf trip comes under the auspices of a Euro surf mission. We’re talking the same deep North Atlantic lows that make her fire, so what’s a little hop across the Gibraltar straits between friends, anyway?
The right points in the Taghazout region of Morocco come in to their own in the biggest, unruliest Atlantic storms of all, when the Continent is overrun by winter weather beasts making landfall, the balmier climes of North Africa light up with ruler edged lines and true thigh burning rides.
Despite being close to home and familiar, it’s still exotic. With goats up trees, camels with attitudes and hooded djellaba selfies, you’ll know you’re relatively far away from your home break, and you’ll be glad.
The Severn Bore, England
When incoming spring tides meet the outgoing riverine flow in the upper tidal reaches of estuaries like the Severn in Gloucestershire, there can only be one winner – shred. While there are many other river bores across the world, none have the bucolic rural charm, the pubs, the icy mud… the general madcap antics of England’s Severn Bore.
With a legit scene of locals lead by Steve ‘The Wizard’ King, owner of the record breaking bore ride, and regular visits from British pros and ams alike, there are also all kinds of decent sections and shoulders presenting themselves in different spots along the river.
WL Editor Luke Gartside reckons “There’s a lot more to the Severn Bore than a little line of white water with 50 guys riding shoulder to shoulder”. And by that he didn’t mean 150 guys riding shoulder to shoulder.
Ireland has consistently been making headlines across the surfosphere for the last decade or so, notably for giant, heaving caverns at spots like Aileens, Riley’s or Mullaghmore.
The thing is, while XXL swell chaser stuntmen may come to the fore on those handful of huge, perfect days, the reality of the appeal of the Emerald Isle for most surfers is those sweet, bit overhead perfect days at the various spots around Bundoran.
Sure, there are better waves around, you’ll find gapier kegs, longer rides, more powerful sets. But to sum of the accessible beauty of the Irish surfing experience, the just-like-home-but-better vibes, you’ll not need to look much further than Bundoran.
Cover photo: @lugarts