It's a sign of the times that seemingly all surf shops must now come equipped with a Slayer espresso machine operated by a pretentious barista. No longer contented to simply fondle a few handshapes and leave with bar of wax, surfers—particularly urban-based surfers—also need an exotically sourced pour-over from a third-wave coffee purveyor and a selection of artisanal baked goods, while they scope out new surf crafts. It's clear that the needs of surfers have evolved quite a bit since the post-war years of Kivlin, Quigg and company, content to eat canned meats and retire to improvisational thatched-roof shelters after hours of riding waves on the North Shore. Today, it seems that coast-adjacent, dense, urban areas best meet the needs of the contemporary surfer.
In the gig economy, cities—regional and global centers of industry, commerce, and culture—are where the jobs are. Modern cities have become walk-able, gastronomic and booze-centric, tolerant and progressive playgrounds for a Millennial generation primed to live and work in a more communal, stimulating environment. And when you stir in an accessible coastline and roughly a hundred days of ridable waves per year, a city can also provide a surfer a dynamic and balanced existence.
So in case you're considering a relocation opportunity, we pored over job statistics, surf reports, and city guides—taking into consideration surf proximity and quality, employment opportunities, and quality of life—to narrow down the world's best surf cities. The list we've assembled includes ten world centers, economic hubs revered for their cultural institutions where one can find a steady job and consistent-enough surf to satiate the most wave-obsessed among us. These are cities where, even if you're resigned to only surf with the weekend warrior crowd, you'll never be bored—provided you haven't handed over all your disposable income to some pretentious barista.
Next on the list…
With a mild climate, abundance of sunshine and central location among a 125-mile stretch of Europe's best surf, Bilbao is the Basque Country's largest and de facto surf city. With their golden sand, cliff-backed, beach breaks and penchant for nudity, the nearby beaches are a model of year-round consistency. Meanwhile, Mundaka—arguably one of the world's best lefts–is about an hour from the city center. Fall is when the Basque Country really turns on, but there are waves in Spring and Winter, as well. And in the Summer time, it's one of the few places in Europe that still gets surf. If you have a car, you'll have access to variety and substance via any direction. Pick one, and enjoy.
The Basque Country combines the highest gross salary and the shortest working hours in Spain, with one of the highest productivity rates and household net income. How’s that for a recruiting pitch aimed at surfers? Sounds chill, but with a population of one million and counting, the city of Bilbao is home to nearly half the economic activity of the Basque Country, and is one of the most competitive and innovative economic regions in the European Union. An industrial center, somewhat economically detached from the rest of Spain, Bilbao weathered the Great Recession much more successfully than many other major European cities. Home to BBVA, the city is a major financial center with a first-class commercial port. A firm grasp of Spanish and some expertise in financial services or technology are good starting points for employment here. But as a major tourist destination and cruise ship hub for Americans and Europeans, service industry jobs are not out of the question.
Quality of Life
Bibao is a deceptively modern city with one architectural foot in the future and one in the past. Among modern urban trappings like renowned cultural institutions (the Guggenheim Museum), public green spaces, and superlative bars and restaurants, you'll be inspired by the city's prime examples of gothic, neo-gothic and Art Deco architecture. If you need to escape Bilbao's quaint urbanity, there's the Rijoa wine region to the South, the Pyrenees to the East, and, best of all, waves everywhere.
Median Income: $42,000
Top Industries: Technology, Tourism, Financial Services, Construction
Median Home Price: $534/Sq. foot
Median Rental Price: $945/month for a 1BR in city center
Water Temperature Range: 53-70F
Surf Spots: Menakoz, Bakio, Mundaka