Euro Surf 'n' Turf

You could traverse Europe by motorcoach and Eurail, but the sightseeing's better by board, bike, and boots.

Sep 12, 2001
Outside Magazine

Surfing in the Bay of Biscay, France
The southwestern corner of France has garnered renown for its chateaux, noble wines, phallic baguettes. But for surfers, this elbow in the Atlantic is most revered for wedging peaks, stand-up tubes, and, um, bronze bosoms. Get out of Paris by midnight with your board bag overloading a rental Renault, ply your eyelids with gas station-vending espresso, and you're surfing in Hossegor by 8 a.m.

From Soulac-sur-Mer to Saint-Jean-de-Luz near the Spanish border are nearly 50 surf spots. Known as Aquitaine, this 170-mile stretch along the Bay of Biscay is characterized by conifer forests and sea oat-reinforced dunes, as well as the thumby beach breaks that beckon surfers.
The three main wave magnets along this strand are Lacanau, Hossegor, and Biarritz. Each offers a distinct slice of French culture with a hint of Miki Dora attitude. Lacanau, northwest of Bordeaux, is best known among surfers for the Lacanau Pro, a surfing competition held here in late August that attracts pros from around the world. This normally sleepy hamlet goes Richter when all the heavies are in town. If you don't get too worked in the lineup, you can mosh till the wee hours with its throbbing discotheques.

Hossegor, 100 miles to the south, is where to go for power and tube time. It has a mellow, Cape Hatteras vibe and is known for the deep bathymetric trench of its coast that funnels in the swells. Eighteen miles farther down the coast, Biarritz blends Old World architecture and ambience with a new-world Euro surf scene. Grande Plage is where it all goes down and, for you loggers, serves up longboard-friendly surf.

While the Bay of Biscay gets year-round waves, late summer and early fall are peak season, when water temps reach the mid to upper 60s (a spring suit provides ample neoprene). Be aware that tidal swings can be severe—the surf can go from flat to firing in a matter of hours.

Filed To: Surfing, France