‘Through the Keyhole,’ is a Wavelength series that casts a light on the magic of surf in a particular country or destination. Told through the intrepid eyes of a local, the series paints a rich picture that transports you into the unique charm of each place. First up, saw us exploring Sweden through the eyes of freesurfer and cold water fiend, Tim Latte.
Next up we shine a light on the rugged and wild beauty of Northern Spain’s Galicia, as told through the eyes of legendary pro surfer Gony Zubizarreta. Argentinian-born but Galicia-raised, Gony Zubizarreta has been exploring the never-ending possibilities of Galicia for nearly 30 years. As he tells us from his Ericeira home base where he is still busy competing and managing his brand Jam Traction, Galicia’s profound magic, barrels, and quaint authenticity make it a place where you can find true solitude and nature at its most wild.
Images: Pablo Martinez
The Only Surfer In Town
I consider myself from Galicia because the first memories I have are from here. It was amazing to grow up there next to the beach. We first lived near the town of Vigo, on a little island that was close to the shore. We had two private beaches and a forest to play in.
I started skateboarding and surfing when I was seven, just following my dad who did both. When I was nine we moved off the islands to Patos, a walk away from the best beach break in the Vigo area. This was 1994 or ’95 and I was the only one from my school, heck the whole town, that surfed.
These days it’s full of surf schools and everyone surfs which is epic, but it was pretty special back then. I was lucky to start surfing when I was a kid as not many people had that opportunity in Galicia.
“We had two private beaches and a forest to play in.”
Raw Beauty… Great Waves
Galicia is still super wild. It’s full of secret beaches and you can get lost and always find some amazing little town that you’ve never been to, with amazing, cheap food, and nice, humble, authentic people. Even if you live or grew up there, it is possible to discover a place that you’ve never been to. It could be a forest, river, waterfall, or a little hidden gem of a town.
In winter, you have the south of Galicia where I grew up in the Vigo area, which has great waves as it protected. So when the big storms come and you get more south winds, it is often offshore. There’s a fun point break, and when Portugal gets huge and out of control and stormy, it’s really fun.
With less swell, you can go a little bit up north. You can always go and surf alone. In summer, the beaches around Pantín are often offshore, and the water is super clear. There are some beautiful beaches, waterfalls and the environment is relatively untouched.
In the north of Galicia, the Lugo area is also protected and so great in the winter for surfing. However, you gotta go low-key and can’t arrive and surf all the spots. As anywhere you need to respect the locals and earn your place in the lineup.
“It’s full of secret beaches and you can get lost and always find some amazing little town that you’ve never been to, with amazing, cheap food, and nice, humble, authentic people.”
Escape The Crowds
If you live more in the middle of Galicia between Corona and Vigo, often you will be looking for people to surf with. When I was a kid, without the internet it was all about driving and searching for waves in that stretch. It was a pretty exciting time to be exploring the coast.
There are also always great places to eat. What I miss is the really good seafood. The calamari and the octopus are amazing. They also have really good soups and amazing tortillas. Galicia has a unique cuisine, and I miss how they do all the food there.
I still have the same friends from when I was a kid that I surf with. When I go back, the days have the same rhythm. I wake up early and if the waves aren’t good in Patos, we’d drive north or south. We spend the whole day out, surf a few times, then have lunch in a traditional little restaurant, and then surf again. We have good friends all over the coast, so we usually call them and surf with the locals.
And yet, there are still places and waves to discover. Two years ago, I went back to a town that I hadn’t been to since I was 12. My friend was from there and as his family worked in the lighthouses we could sleep in the lighthouse. It was crazy to wake up in the lighthouse, open the windows, and see the cliffs and the beach and the birds and this epic righthand point. It felt like nothing had changed in 20 years. It was magical.
“If you live more in the middle of Galicia between Corona and Vigo, often you will be looking for people to surf with.”
It’s just a 4/3 full wetsuit and booties in the winter. And that’s it. With Galicia, the gulf current just misses the coast. That means the water temperature in summer and winter is quite similar. It can be really, really warm outside in summer, and then you go to water, and it’s freezing. So even in summer, you use a full-length wetsuit. The advantage is that the cold water keeps the crowds down in summer.
Find Your Own Path
In Vigo, there are these beautiful islands called The Cies. The two are connected by a beach break. You access them by boat and do a day trip, or you can even sleep there in summer. It’s a national park, with no cars, and the camping is incredible. The sand is super white and the water is so, so clear.
Further north it’s worth checking the amazing cliffs, near the remote town of Costa da Morte. There are also great waves; wedges, barreling waves in the clearest of water. There are amazing waterfalls too, just a 30-minute drive inland located in beautiful forests.
It’s worth stopping in the little towns. Santiago is a must-see with its beautiful cathedral. I’d advise you to just get lost and find your own path. Just go with the flow and explore all the fishing towns, you can’t go wrong in Galicia.
“There are also great waves; wedges, barreling waves in the clearest of water.”