Coming from Southern California, we had pretty high standards when it came to looking for awesome waves to surf. After traveling through 15 countries on our road trip through Europe, these were our favorite surf destinations. Each one offers a unique experience both in the water and out. By far, our favorite area was the Basque region, but don’t let us deter you from experiencing the friendly line-ups in Ireland and Wales, nor the affordable party scene of Portugal. With the combination of waves and cultures, these are what we think are the best surf spots in Europe for all skill levels.
The Vibe: Croissants, waves, and rays all day. French surfing is one-of-a-kind. Combining great waves with the well-known culture of a small french town is one of the greatest settings for a surf trip. The French are sort of “too cool for school” on the beach and in the water, which makes it pretty chill and pleasant. I’m not saying to drop in on people, butttt…. they probably would be chill about that too. By the way, the French are incredibly nice and friendly people, exchanges of “bonjour” are common among everyone. Partake with a smile and you will be welcomed.
The Wave: The best feature of the region’s surf is the diversity between ten easily accessible miles of beach. Longboarder? No problem, surf La Sud. Barrels? Le Culs Nus will deliver such on good swells. Skate park waves? Gravarie is often fun and fast. This makes one of the best surf spots on the the Atlantic no matter your skill level.
The How To: There is also some diversity in lodging here. If your pretty adventurous and want to make it a cheap trip, go for one of the three Camper Stops. If you like the comfort of staying in a house, there are plenty of Airbnb’s ranging from beachfront to forest encompassed.
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The Vibe: Everyone surfs in Portugal and even more so in Peniche, the surf capital of Portugal. Every beach is packed and every point has at least one surfer. The good news is, because there are sooo many breaks in Peniche, the crowds rarely reach those of famous spots in Southern California or Hawaii. An interesting, and pretty funny, thing we noticed about Portuguese surfers is their unrelenting routine to warm up on the beach before paddling out — lunges, twists, fanny kickers, downward dog — we’ve seen it all. Don’t worry, you don’t have to participate in the ritual.
The Waves: This is definitely one of the best surf spots in Europe because of the diversity for beginners, intermediates, or pros. Given the unique geographical feature of Peniche, the miniature peninsula that juts out westward receiving all angles of swell, considerably improves your options of what kind of size and shape you want that day. There are beachbreaks, the most famous being Supertubos “the European Pipeline”, reefs, like Lagide (our favorite and the best surf spots for beginners) and the Factory. There are peaks everywhere, you will surely find something to suit your abilities. See all of them here.
The How To: Like everywhere else in Portugal, it’s really easy to free camp (Note: It is NOT technically legal). There are dirt parking lots everywhere along the coast and more times than not, people will not mind at all if people car camp there. I will warn you though, that at popular times of the year, the restaurants/bars party late into the night so don’t expect much sleep.
The Vibe: The Algarve Coast is probably the closest thing to surfing in Baja California without being in Baja. The whole coast is gorgeous, filled with jagged cliffs and protected coves.
The Waves: There are so many hidden coves and deserted peaks that you will even question if you can surf there. But the perks are that you get world class waves all to yourself. The most well-known breaks along this region are probably Sagres, AKA the edge of the World, or Praia do Amado an awesome beachfront free camping location and one of the best surf spots in Europe for beginners. Most of the surfers in the water are probably not locals as this is the largest tourist area in Portugal, besides Lisbon. This makes it a great surf spot in Europe for travelers and tourists. Somehow, even with the large population of surfers, only tourists really surf the Algarve making it a bit spooky to paddle out in some places.
The How To: This is probably the easiest place in the world to free camp (though it is not technically legal). Every single beach contains a perfect dirt parking lot overlooking the surf making it great to pull up for the night and walk out to surf in the morning.
Tip: The water temp in Europe, even in Portugal, can get pretty cold. We were there in October and needed our full wetsuits.
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The Vibe: The town of Llangennith consists of a pub, a surf shop, a camp store, and a mini restaurant . . . that’s it. It’s rural and off the beaten path making for an awesome adventure. To get there you will drive down a windy one-lane road, tall grasses blinding your view of the horizon — be ready to brake for oncoming cars. When you get to the beach, you’ll be stoked to find a whole community of adventurers, campers, and surfers. Llangenith is unique because other than the microscopic town, it’s just one big grassy lawn that is a campground. The vibe is super friendly as you pick your pitch and walk over the large sand dunes to the beach. You can also hike south along the ridge and you will be rewarded with fantastic views (also a great spot for a morning surf check). Hike along the ridge to Rhossili and have lunch or check out the surf shop. Kids will love playing and rolling down the huge sand dunes that precede the ocean.
The Waves: While the waves may not be world class, they are still fun and is great for beginners. You can surf anywhere from Llangennith Beach (in front of the campground), to Rhossili Bay, to Worm’s Head (accessible by boat or a long paddle).
The How To: The campground definitely provides a perfect opportunity as a camper, however, there is lodging in the nearby town of Rhossli. I’d suggest seizing the opportunity for comfortable camping and good vibes — the campground has dishwashing stations, warm showers, a playground, a small restaurant, and a camp store. If this is roughing it for you, then I’m telling you it’s worth it. Rhossili is nice, but the atmosphere just isn’t the same.
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The Vibe: Not only among the best surf spots in Europe, but also a stunning destiantion in itself. This wide region is a hidden gem in itself. Asturias, “The Green Coast”, is the land of apples and trees. North Spain contains incomparable beauty and one-of-a-kind experiences such as walking the Camino de Santiago to go surf a secret cove, or parking on an empty green cliff filled with forests to wake up on an empty break. While you may be thinking, this sounds very similar to Portugal, I can tell you that there is a significant difference in the look and feel. The foremost difference is that Northern Spain is probably one of the most mountainous and forest lush regions on Earth, comparable to the mountains of the Pyrenees and the forests of Washington, while the coast of Portugal has a similar ecosystem to that of Southern California. I can’t even begin to describe the full beauty of the region. The second difference is the population of surfers. As I mentioned before, a huge percentage of the population in Portugal surfs, but on the other hand, there are few Spanish surfers in comparison to the population. Therefore the lineups are commonly empty. When you do come across a small lineup, the people are friendly, but the locals seem to act as if surfing is a secret. If the waves are flat, trek into the mountains of the Picos de Europa.
The Waves: Like Algarve, there are dozens of hidden coves that can be surfed in seclusion. There are some more famous breaks that I’d recommend you check out. For instance, Rodiles, known as Europe’s second longest left, is a great wave in a stunning destination. Nestled between two mountains and a river mouth, this left can be world class at times. It’s fast and fun and peels across the bay, it’s also easily accessible and a great free camping spot (though there are no amenities whatsoever). Celorio was the most uniquely Asturian experience we had. You park in the deserted town of Celorio and follow the seashell symbols of the Camino de Santiago until you reach a staircase that winds down the cliffside into a cove. The wave isn’t amazing but the experience was. The path is paved with cobblestones and glowing green trees. There are tons of other breaks and towns to check out like Gijon and Ribadesella, see them all here.
The How To: While you definitely can free camp through the area, most beaches don’t have amenities like bathrooms or showers. If you’re adventurous, definitely go for it and wake up to great waves every morning. Airbnb might be good if you don’t feel up to rugged camping. There are a bunch of coastal villages that you could stay in and walk or drive to beaches.
The Vibe: Galicia is even more rural than Asturias. Imagine Costa Rican jungle mixed with cold Oregon forests. It seems deserted on the beaches which is a perk for free campers.
The Wave: Once again there are so many waves in Galicia. View the full list here. We personally loved Praia de Traba and could camp there for days. The famous break in the most northwest corner Pantin I’d say is worth stopping at though we didn’t make it there.
The How To: This is probably the next best thing to the Algarve as far as a free camper’s paradise. You can pull up at any beach you want and you might not meet a single person in your whole time there. It’s even more ruggedly beautiful than anywhere else on this list and it shows in the roads. Note that it will take you a long time to get everywhere in the region due to windy slow roads. But the views and the solitude are completely worth it.
The Vibe: Like the other regions of Northern Spain, Basque, which is practically its own country, is a destination of its own. The Basque region nearly matches the beauty of Asturias. The nature is gorgeous, but it’s no secret that the Basque region is known for its amazing foods and delicacies. Enjoy walking the cobblestone streets, ordering pintxos at the bars, and waking to stunning beaches and great waves! The best example being San Sebastian. Surf shops line the boardwalk, waves peel through the bay, and people stroll through the alleys of the city.
The Wave: The most famous break in Basque is probably Mundaka, the left-hand barrel and the longest left in Europe, accessed by staircases into the harbor in the small village of Mundaka. Not only is the wave great, but the town is amazing and it’s one of the best surf spots in Europe for intermediates. It’s secluded but not deserted. There are great Pintxos bars and beautiful little hikes in the area. It’s surrounded by mountains and forest. Take note that Mundaka, often times, doesn’t break on low swell and/or a high tide. Whether there are waves or not, though, make the stop in this beautiful town. Another cool break is Zurriola a peaky beach break directly in front of San Sebastian. Despite the fact that this isn’t the best wave in Basque, the experience is still pretty cool how one second you’ll be in the cobblestoned streets of Europe, then the next on the white sand beach with crystal clear water. Need more waves to surf in Spain? Check out this blog The 12 Best Waves in Spain.
The How To: Like France, this region of Spain has a lot of “camper stops,” which are basically cheap campgrounds, that can be very helpful if you want to travel cheaply and camp. It also makes it nice because you can pull up at the less well-known breaks and just spend the night there. However, if you want to spend more time in the towns to experience the uniquely Basque vibe, then it will be difficult in a camper. If that is what you’re looking for then I’d recommend staying in an inn or Airbnb in a town.
The Vibe: Even though the line-up was deserted when we were here, don’t let that fool you into thinking surfing isn’t a thing all the way up in the North Sea. As secluded and raw as Norway is, you can tell surfing is popular here by the fact that the only surf shop in the area is included in the street sign which tells you how to get to nearby towns and points of interest. The surf shop is more like a cottage than a surf shop and we hear that when the swell is right it becomes a busy store.
The Waves: The surf here can be anywhere from inexistent to firing. Therefore its’ one of the best surf spots in Europe for beginners, for intermediates, and at times pros. This happens in most places but it’s much more extreme here. When we were there it was barely 1-2 feet. However, at times it can become an epic barreling wave.
The How To: This surf destination can’t be reached by public transit and requires a long drive from anywhere. There are small towns and villages nearby for food and a place to stay, as well as nearby campgrounds.
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The Vibe: If you are looking for a surfing vibe, head north to Sligo where it feels like a small Southern California surf town. There is a cool little community of surfers that all hang out to check the surf in the morning. Don’t worry too much about localism here, some people even urged us to go on their waves.
The Waves: The first day we were there we surfed Easky and it was absolutely epic as the wave pitches up over the reef. There are two sections of reef, one that provides a right and the other, a left. Both are great and it just depends on the swell direction. View the surf conditions in the area here. This is a very good surf spot in Europe due to its consistency and will be great for intermediate surfers.
The How To: We stayed in the small town of Ballina and enjoyed the campground and food. This area doesn’t have the surf vibe, but was close enough to drive to the surf. If you are looking for great food and culturer stay in Ballina, if not, camp out on the coast.
Related Blog: Surfing the best left handers in the world
Did we miss something? Comment your favorite place to surf in europe or any question you have!
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