Brilliant beach breaks, big-wave tow reefs, rocky outcrops; France has it all. If you are a UK surfer, the land of strong cheese and cheap wine is just an inexpensive flight away. Some of the most amazing, and therefore most crowded, waves are located in the South West, which my friends and I have been exploring for the past few summers. We have discovered a few great places to surf and holiday, and learnt some helpful hints along the way that I am going to share with you.
The Aquitaine region is very consistent, especially during the winter months. September and October can be the optimum time to visit, as the powerful hurricane swells and huge low pressures track across the Atlantic serving up long range, heaving beach break waves. France is plagued by west/north west dominant winds, yet these two months often see a calmer, easterly dominating wind which can light up the entire coastline. This stretch of beach, known as the Cote d’ Argent, is the longest in Europe, boasting over 140miles of golden sand. So yes, as you’re probably thinking, it’s completely open to exploration. Tops spots include:
Hossegor is one of the most renowned surfing breaks in Europe. Therefore, it is generally packed out with travelling surfers; chilling, partying and packing out the line-ups. There are many world-class beach breaks here that are more suited to the intermediate-advanced surfer.
La Graviere is the most famed French break. Although a beach break, it offers up many dredging rights that will give you lots of tube-time in the right conditions. Timed wrong, and you will get a heavy close-out on your head and stumble up the beach with a broken ego, so be careful!
Hossegor is a great place to hang out. There are many Bristish tourists here so English is widely spoken. Optimum wind conditions are from the east. Surfing at dawn is generally the quietest. The town is expensive so shop at the Municipal supermarket and camp at the Municipal campground. In big surfing conditions a number of pro surfers flock to the area so keep your cameras at the ready.
Lacanau Ocean (Gironde)
To the north of Hossegor lies Lacanau Ocean. This is a super-cool surf town, offering up an excellent wave which is more beginner friendly than La Graviere.
This place can get busy during the summer months (especially during Sooruz Lacanau Pro) this is an excellent place to go camping, partying and get some lovely beach-break waves.
There are many different surf spots that litter the area. Obviously, those in front of the promenade are the busiest — but not always the best.
If you are prepared to walk 15 minutes to the north or south from the town centre, you will be rewarded with excellent waves with no one about. Be sure to pack some water and sunscreen as there is very little shade and it can get very hot during the summer months. Camping at Le Grand Pins is excellent. There is great night life with the majority of visitors heading to Mojo’s or Bat Café, both of which run into the early hours. When there is no surf Lacanua Lake is a great place to visit.
Northern France contrasts against the South West. The surf scene here is much less developed, it offers less consistent surf yet a more varied coastline. Again, open to exploration — there are many hidden gems that can reap you the session of your life if found under the right conditions. Unfortunately, the water is colder and the coast has a huge tidal range, which can make the majority of the breaks very temperamental. Top spots include;
This is probably one of Brittany’s more consistent spots, this break offers a few different set-ups. A short, fast right can wedge up but quickly flattens out as it hits ‘La Ascenseur’ (the Lift), a rip which can transport the intermediate surfer back out in to the line-up.
On the other side there is a left hander which is fast and fun. This area is an excellent base point for your travels to Brittany’s beautiful coastline. There are many class breaks both to the north and south that will be less populated than the main break at La Torche.
Take a phrase book, despite neighbouring England, the French have little time for those that assume everyone speaks English, although around the Hossegor/Biarittz region they probably do!
Watch out for the long, cross-shore drift that will pull you out of position when there’s any size. Shop and camp at the Municipal – this is generally the cheapest. Enjoy free tasters at weekly markets. Red wine does not improve your surfing! Fly to Bordeaux (to the north) or Biaritzz (to the south) with Ryanair or Easy Jet.