There’s more to Europe than medieval castles and fine French wines and cheeses. The various coastlines of the European states have a wide-ranging selection of surf opportunities. Be it arctic offshores in Norway, unridden reefs in Ireland or a long point in Spain or Portugal the traveling surfer will not leave disappointed. Between the Northwest Atlantic and the Mediterranean Sea surf runs pretty consistent through most of the year, but as any surfer worth his salt knows winter is always a little better. But even if the surf does drop for a day or two there’s plenty to occupy the flat time. Cafes, museums, galleries and historical sites are all worth a visit too. Of course if it gets really flat there’s always the discos, parties and nightlife that are available for thosewilling to risk a sleepless night and aching head. Europe is a great place for the road bound surfer and one of the safer places out there these days. Surfer Magazine’s Travel Report has an in-depth collection for most popular European surfing destinations with detailed surf maps.
NORTHER IRELAND SURF OVERVIEW
This region has to rate as one of the best areas in Europe. Most of the weather in this region is effected by areas of low pressure that form on the far side of the Atlantic and swing in towards Ireland before sweeping away to the north over Scandanavia. The swells that push down from these lows combine with the prevailing southerly winds to produce powerful surf along the north-facing coastline. The best months are undoubtedly April/May and September/October, when the mild weather of spring and autumn blend with the waxing and waning winter swells. Outside these periods, you have either cold winter water, with huge, often uncontrollable swells, or long flat periods during the warm summer months. If you look out for lows of less than 986 millibars in the middle of the Atlantic, you can be sure of some swell appearingon the beach within 48 hours. There are still many areas of uncharted surf in this region and a gap in the surf spots on the map does not necessarily indicate a lack of breaks. Surf communities are gathered around Sligo, Donegal Town, and Coleraine, and you hassle the locals at your own peril. If you keep a low profile at the beginning, you will find them only too happy to swap stories and you’ll probably end up getting guided tours of the local surfing and drinking spots.
SOUTHWEST FRANCE SURF OVERVIEW
France is divided into three distinct surf regions: The Mediterranean with occasionnal winter swells, the NW Atlantic with less swell exposure and colder weather, and the SW, referring to the Aquitaine region. Aquitaine’s stretch of coast stands out as France’s best surf. A vast under sea canyon off shore funnels the swell into the wide, right-angled V formed by France and Spain. The result can be surf of great speed and power. This set up also helps to explain why the surf in NW France has less impact and consistency. Most swells are generated by low-pressure systems travelling from NE of Canada, Groenland, Iceland, Scotland and Scandinavia during summer and lower latitude tracks in winter may bring cold storms ashore. The beach breaks north of Anglet work best on small to medium swell and the southern reefs in Cote Basque are best with bigger swell of fall or winter. The Basque Coast was the cradle of French surfing in 1956 when Peter Viertel went to Biarritz to shoot the movie “The sun also rises.” Amazed by the waves, he had his surfboard sent and shared it with the locals. Then there were the de Rosnaybrothers and George Hennebutte, who later invented the leash but never patented it. La Barre, in the Adour rivermouth, got pretty famous amongst surf travelers until 1971 when it was destroyed by the jetty construction. Until the WorldAmateur Championships at Hossegor in 1980, surfing in France remained a marginal sport. Then came the professionnal contests first in Lacanau and then Hossegor and Biarritz, with a big boom in the surf industry in 1985 with magazine, surfwear and mass media. Now, there are about 25,000 surfers spread out all overthe country, but mainly concentrated in Aquitaine.