As a landlocked surfer in Germany you always think about Where do I have the next chance to jump in the water?. Sometimes I also tend to think first of far and expensive destinations. Mostly that’s not necessary, though. If you are ok with wearing a wetsuit, some world-class surf spots are in driving distance. Here we go – Surfing in North Spain!
The following article tackles the spots where I surfed most in our time in France and Spain. After Mexico and Nicaragua in the first quarter of the year, we wanted to see more from Europe. A plane is fast and convenient but we wanted to see the landscape shaping while on the road, so we decided for our first camper trip. In this case, a “Ford Transit Westfalia” from 1988 – two years older than I am.
Tip #1: If you plan a camper trip, make sure the van is running and you have everything you need with you. Sounds self-explanatory but because of missing papers (German TÜV) we lost four days.
We left Germany after buying a second-hand board (BIC egg shape 7.0) in Karlsruhe, continued driving towards Dijon (where the delicious mustard is made). On the second day, we made our way through France, slept one more night and reached Seignosse, France. The surf here was brilliant the first day and made us eager for loads of waves in the next 14 days.
Tip #2: On a long drive listening to audio books is perfect. Time flies by and you don’t get tired easily.
After a second, choppy-water day, we left France and fell in love with the north of Spain ¡Hola, San Vicente de la Barquera!
Staying in San Vicente de la Barquera and around
San Vicente is located pretty much perfect for surfing. Two surf spots (Playa de Merón and Gerra) are little protected and tend to get a bigger surf. Oyambre, which is a couple of kilometres east, hill up and hill down, is more protected due to a peninsula and better to surf when Merón and Gerra get too big, which can happen in fall not too rarely.
We stayed at “Camping El Rosal” just a kilometre outside the city and found ourselves camping in mid of trees, surrounded by mountains and tideway’s. After setting up our campsite we started to enjoy the camper life and felt increasingly comfortable with the few things we had with us.
Tip #3: Wild camping is illegal but a lot of people do it without any trouble. If you do, clean up your stuff! Please.
Surfing in North Spain – Surf spots
There are countless surf spots from the France border to Galicia (Northwest Spain) but the following will focus on the three we surfed. There will be a follow up article once we can share more info.
Merón and Gerra are located just in front of “Camping El Rosal”, which was one of the reasons why we chose the nice little camping area. In our time being in Cantabria, the surf was normally cleaner at Merón, so we spent most of the time here. The beach break has nothing you really need to be aware of. You don’t need to worry about reef or rocks in the water, it’s all sandy, which also makes it safe and fun for beginners.
At beach breaks – as you might know – the location where the waves break can vary, as the sand banks beneath the water moves. So, it is wise to observe the ocean before hopping in. Through this you can see where to position yourself best. Significantly easier than sitting on your surf board
Tip #4: Make use of the beautiful dunes. Use them as a lookout to see where to position later in the line-up.
Playa de Merón
At Playa de Merón there are a couple of waves breaking, so have a look which one you prefer to surf. The good thing about more than one wave is, it doesn’t get crowded easily at Playa de Merón. I personally surfed a right quite often as it was clean and it felt a bit more powerful than the left.
In general I must say that the waves haven’t been that powerful as in Nicaragua, Mexico or Sri Lanka. But still powerful enough! So, for me personally, pretty perfect as the wipe outs haven’t been scary and being stuck in the inside section didn’t suck as bad.
Just a few hundred meters down the beach you will find Gerra (never try to pronounce, when you speak to a local, almost impossible to do so correctly). Here at Gerra are no rocks as well, at least I didn’t see any.
If there is west swell Oyambre is always a bit smaller as the wave needs to go around the peninsula first. What’s great at Oyambre, waves tend to come in much more organized and rides can be up to 500 feet long.
Summing things up, there are two surf spots at your doorstep if you stay in the area around “Camping El Rosal” or any other hostel near San Vicente de la Barquera. f the surf condition change to something more scary, you can hop in the car and go to the more protected spot Oyambre.
So, if you stay somewhere around San Vicente you will find a surf spot close by.
Note: Speaking of cars – You better rent one, if you didn’t arrive with it. The area is rural and getting from A to B with busses will be tedious.
Where to stay in North Spain?
As mentioned we decided for parking our motorhome directly at Playa de Méron but we also got other recommendations. If you want to stay in a surf hostel rather than on a campsite, you should consider the Elementsurf Surfhouse, which is run by a German. The food here is supposed to be really good and the team would be able to spread a good mood – is there anything more important? Here you can also rent bikes, to explore the beautiful scenery with Pyrenees in the background, play table-tennis and other games.
What we have also got recommended a handful time is the “legendary” Liquid Surfhouse in Langre. This hostel is more suited for more “party-savvy” surfers but supposed to be very cool.
How to get to North Spain?
We decided for driving but you can fly to Santander as well. From many cities in Europe it is ridiculously cheap to Santander. From several airports from Germany you can get a return flight for less than $50.
Driving was a lot of fun, but it was a lot further than we expected. If you decide to drive, bring time and patience with you.
Tip #5: If you pass by Luxembourg, fuel your car here!
How to save tolls?
This really depends on your time and the car you drive. With our old camper, it would have been hard to pass the mountains and the fuel would have been more expensive than saving 10 bucks from tolls. The best advice we can give you is it check with Google Maps (use the option “avoid tolls”) and double check if the free streets go straight to through the mountains. If so, the money in tolls is invested wisely. In France, you can save a lot of money comparing on Google Maps as the toll-free streets often go in parallel to the expensive highways.
Tip #6: Depending on your starting point a good route might be: Paris – Orleans – Tours – Poitiers – Angloueme – Bordeaux – Biarritz – Bilbao
Essential Questions for Surfing in North Spain
While surfing and especially on a surf trip with a camper you do not need a lot of stuff – luckily. But some questions are essential to answer.
When is the best time to go to Cantabria?
Not intentionally we chose the perfect time – September. The waves are supposed to be the best of the year, the summer-vacation-crowd left, the weather is still nice and the water not too cold. We arrived on Sept 20th, and we felt the season was almost over but we still had awesome weather and great waves. If we come in 2018 again, we might come a couple of days earlier. But September it is (for surfing).
Tip #7: San Vicente is magical for photographers as well. Don’t miss the breath-taking sunrises, sitting in the dunes with a freshly brewed coffee.
Do I need a wetsuit in North Spain?
Yip, you do! At least in 90% of the cases. As a handy overview, we translated a table from Surfnomade so that you can choose the best wetsuit for Cantabria.
After some evaluation, I decided for 3/2 Ripcurl Dawnpatrol, which I am super happy with. For me, the best wetsuit I ever wore, but before that I just had those always-to-big-and-smelly rental wetsuits. With your own wetsuit, putting it on is not a torture anymore and it almost starts to get enjoyable. Almost. Despite that, the Ripcurl could dry a little faster.
Tip #8: Bring a clothes hanger and put the wetsuit on it as you would do it with trousers.
What’s the best wetsuit for Surfing in North Spain?
In my time researching I was undecided between a 3/2 and a 4/3. After putting a lot of research in water temperatures in the different areas, we bundled the information for you in the following table:
|April - June||Juli - September||October - December||January - March|
|Seignosse / Hossegor||3/2 Fullsuit||3/2 Fullsuit or Shorty||3/2 Fullsuit||brrr|
|San Vicente de la Barquera||3/2 Fullsuit||Shorty or 3/2 Fullsuit||3/2 Fullsuit||brrr|
|Galicia||4/3 Fullsuit||3/2 Fullsuit||4/3 Fullsuit||brrr, Sri Lanka perhaps?|
As mentioned above we drove with an old camper to North Spain. A separated blog post on that will soon share tips and tricks for your trip. Stay tuned!