Top 5 surfing destinations in Europe for the summer.

Itching for some excitement during these mundane winter months? Wondering where your next adventure lies? Whether you’re an avid surfer or looking for a new passion, you’ll be rushing to find your next (or first) wave after we unveil some of the world’s most breathtaking and athletic coastal destinations. So without further ado, here’s some of Europe’s top surfing spots that you must visit this summer.

Surfing along Portugal’s Atlantic coast.

- © PIXEL to the PEOPLE / Shutterstock

1. Hossegor, France

Ready to embark on a French surfing experience? You may not know this, but the southwest coast of France is flooded with surfers all year round. Not only are the beaches breathtaking, but the Atlantic waves are prime for great surfing conditions. Amongst the whole strip, lies a surfing hub: Hossegor. It accommodates several large beaches, such as La Sud, La Nord, but those specifically dedicated to surfing are La Graviere, Les Culs Nuls, and La Centrale. There are also more experienced beaches a tad out of the way, called Les Estagnots in Seignosse - where pros gravitate to in order to get that extra edge. 

When it comes to the best time of year to surf, May and June are known for exciting spring tides, when the water is warmer and, most importantly, still has good waves. However, the months most enjoyed by surfers are post-summer festivities, from September to October as this means that the water is still warm and when the waves start to pick up in size again - and no more tourists to crowd the waters! This is specifically when Hossegor hosts its annual World Surfing League Quik Pro France Competition in October. Past October, from November to April, the waters tend to get too rough - but hosts barrels which is a must-do every season for an average experienced surfer. So if you’re brave enough to stay on for this, we highly recommend you do! 

Lone surfer, Hossegor.

- © LMspencer / Shutterstock

2. Nazare, Portugal

Once remembered as a quaint fishing village, Nazare has become a rushing destination for tourists to witness amazing surfing from world renowned legends on the life-threatening, sometimes 100 feet (30 metres) tall waves. Indeed, the 16th century Fort of Sao Miguel Arcanjo is the ideal perspective to watch and document such amazing performances. 

Many professionals from all over the world have decided to settle in the area in the hope of catching a 30 metre wave, up until now the world-renowned McNamara was able to surf a 78 foot (or 24 metre) wave in 2011, awarding him a Guinness World Record. Following this, Nazare had become home to the World Surf League’s Nazare Big Wave Challenge and Tow Challenge. These competitions are usually held within the months of October to March, as these attract the biggest waves out of year - as well as over 335,000 visitors coming to attend! 

Surfer catching a large wave in Nazare, Portugal.

- © R.M. Nunes / Shutterstock

But how does a wave attain such heights, you may ask? Researchers say that the largest waves usually come from coastal areas (typically islands) where the shore is segmented in two very strict zones: from very shallow to very deep over a short distance. In Nazare’s case, its coastal undersea hosts a vast canyon (about three times the depth of the Grand Canyon) close to 5 kilometres deep! This is located specifically at Praia do Norte, where these large waves recur. 

3. Lofoten, Norway

Ever heard of Arctic Surfing? Well you’re hearing it here first. It may not seem all that appealing, but studies have shown that this form of surfing boosts your adrenaline and serotonin levels all the while participating in a full body outdoor workout! This is exercised at a Norwegian island in Lofoten, where air temperatures descend to 5 or 6 degrees celsius and water temperatures are around 4 or 5 degrees celsius. Indeed, given it is located in the north Arctic Circle and that snow and ice are primarily present on the grounds (or in water), wetsuits must be around 6 millimetres thick and gloves and booties around 7 millimetres thick are mandatory. 

Why are waves good for surfing here? This is simply due to regular storms in the Norwegian sea, therefore systematically hitting the coast and generating more powerful and optimal surfing waves. The best time to try this out is anytime between Autumn and Spring, especially September through April for a better chance to catch taller waves. To learn more about this, visit Lofoten’s official website

Arctic surfer in Lofoten, Norway.

- © Feel good studio / Shutterstock

4. Mullaghmore, Ireland

Now let's get to the more niche locations for surfing in Europe. You may not have known that Ireland is considered one of the best big wave attractions in the world, notably in Mullaghmore in County Sligo. Also known as the “The Hedd” reef break on the northwestern coast of Ireland, Mullaghmore is for expert only surfing activity due to the intensity of its waves that can go up to more than 60 feet (or 18 metres) in height. 

The left hander barrels, in addition to being massive in size, are also considered heavy in weight so increasingly difficult to navigate on a board and especially dangerous if handled poorly. Unsurprisingly, the local surfing community and schools have been taught to build their body strength considerably in order to handle such Baltic currents. More recently, this prime wave location has been named for several Billabong XXL Wave of the Year nominations, attracting more worldwide professionals, such as Andrew Cotton and Benjamin Sanchez to name a few. 

Big wave surfing in Mullaghmore, Ireland.

- © Gary McCall / Shutterstock

5. Thurso, Scotland

Last but not least, the future mecca for cold water surfing in Europe: Thurso, in the North East of Scotland. This is the up and coming surfer destination often visited by local and national surfer champions who have become notorious notably through the development of the North Shore Surf Club

As briefly mentioned before, cold water surfing is an increasingly popular sport with many benefits. The reason that these waters get colder than the norm is due to the icy stream from Flow County into the River Thurso. It is the second closest destination to the Arctic Circle (after Lofoten) mentioned in this article and is notorious for its long and fast breaking waves which are consistent during medium to high tide. The average height of these waves is around 3-6 metres and are best enjoyed between October and April

Wave in Thurso, Scotland.

- © GUS TAYLOR / Shutterstock

Editor’s note

All locations mentioned above, although most intense in autumn, winter or spring for experienced surfers, are most enjoyable for beginners during the summer. An all the more ideal activity to do in the heat and sun!

by Lena COLLINS
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