Forget the reef breaks and huge waves of Europe’s famous breaks, here are ten spots perfectly suited to catching the surfing bug. They all offer the perfect mix of learner-friendly waves, a great range of beginner surf schools and plenty of sun. A single week in any of these locations and we can guarantee you’ll be hooked on surfing.
1) Cotillo, Fuerteventura
On the north-west coast of Fuerteventura, near the small whitewashed town of Cotillo, there’s a beachbreak which offers the most forgiving waves for beginners, with blue waters and random peaks that are rarely crowded.
The other waves on the island are mostly located on the dirt road that goes from Cotillo to the capital of Corralejo. Most of these are fairly intense, scary reef breaks and best to be avoided. One exception however is the break called Germans, named after the German surf schools there.
It is a reef, but it offers long forgiving waves. If you’re looking for a bit of excitement, or have mastered the beachbreaks of Cotillo, this is the place to test your mettle.
More info at Star Surf Camps
2) Zauratz, Spain
Located 15 miles west of San Sebastian in the Spanish Basque country, Zarautz offers the beginner surfer the perfect mix of fun beachbreak waves, a lively party-mad beach town and load of accommodation options set up for surfers.
The Zarautz Surf Camp, which lies a short walk from both the waves and the town’s bars, is one of the more popular choices. The beach attracts swell from all directions and importantly handles most tides, allowing for more time in the water.
Summer is the best time to learn, as the mix of warm water, long sunny days and smaller waves will see you progressing far quicker. Autumn is better suited to those surfers that can handle the strong Atlantic swells and colder waters that also come with offshore breezes.
More info at Good People Surf
3) Biarritz, France
While France’s Hossegor is known as the Surf Capital of Europe, the waves tend to break with too much force and unpredictability to be helpful to the beginner surfer. The city of Biarritz though, only 20 miles to the south, offers a much more gentle surf experience.
It was here at the Cote de Basques, where the first waves were ridden in France back in 1956 and its protected location offers great longboarding waves on the low tide. In town itself, the Grande Plage offers more challenging waves, and the crowds to go with it. On the north-side the Anglet stretch of beach is more open to the heavier swells.
Biarritz, while still very much a surf town, does also offer an unusual mix of historic grandeur and luxury chic. Learn to surf by day, quaff high quality red in cool wine bars in the evening. What more do you need?
More info at Biarritz Paradise Surf School
4) Lahinch, Ireland
Located in County Clare on the west coast of Ireland, Lahinch is a proper surf town with waves of every size, shape and quality all available within a short drive. In the town itself, the beach located next to the river offers great learning waves, with the tapered sandbanks resulting in slower, rolling waves.
There are plenty of surf schools that lie within a pebble's throw of the beach, all offering expertise and the kit you need to advance.
If you start to feel adventurous, by driving the coastal road south of Lahinch there are a variety of reefbreaks that offer great introductions to better and longer waves. In summer Lahinch becomes a hive of new surfer froth, the pubs packed with surf stoked punters of all ages. It’s never exactly warm, but what it lacks in warmth is made up for in Irish generosity and a friendly surf vibe.
More info at Ben's Surf Clinic
5) Sagres, Portugal
Portugal’s Algarve offers one of winter’s best surfing retreats and the perfect place to shimmy yourself along surfing’s learning curve. Located at the bottom corner of Portugal the access to different-angled coasts means that there are nearly always excellent surfing conditions, whatever the weather.
The swell “wraps" around this corner, otherwise known as the Cabo de São Vicente, producing relatively gentle waves in the bays between Sagres and Lagos, which are ideal for the less experienced. Constant sunshine and consistent water temperatures add to the variety and class of the waves, and have made it a surfing haven with dozens of surf camps and schools operating out of Sagres alone.
While winter is incredibly consistent, both spring and autumn also provide great waves and even more sun. Oh and as the name suggests this is the home of the famous Portuguese beer, which tastes even better after a day in the Algarve’s azure seas.
More info at Sagres Surf Camp
6) Taghazout, Morocco
Yes, we are aware that Morocco is located in Africa, and not Europe, but such is its proximity and European surfing heritage, not to mention low-cost airline accessibility, it demands inclusion.
While more and more waves are being discovered in the country, it is still hard to go past the waves around the town of Taghazout for sheer bang for your beginner bucks. First surfed in the 1960s, Taghazout's main attraction is its sliding scale of waves. Start on the slow rollers of the main beach just to the south of town, graduate up to the hazy point break of Hash Point directly out the front and once confident the fabled pointbreaks of Anchor and Killers await.
Again surfing is a mainstay of this part of the world, with surf camps and surf schools set up for every surfing level and every request.
More info at Surf Maroc
Only 60 minutes drive north of Lisbon, Ericeira is a thriving city surf town that offers every type of wave for every type of surfer. Courtesy of the annual World Surf League competition and the humungous waves of Nazare, Portugal is increasingly pushing itself as a surfing powerhouse.
However, it’s not all 100-feet death drops or hard breaking waves like Supertubes. Ericeira, while hosting famous waves like Coxos and The Cave, also has fun wally pointbreaks that are great for beginners and loads of uncrowded beachbreaks for learners.
All the camp grounds are set up to attract surfers, while dedicated surf camps also take all the guess and hard work out of surfing. Out of the water the local marisqueiras or seafood restaurants provide incredible fresh food for the pre or post surf fuel. The attractions of Lisbon are a bus ride away, as are the hills and castles of Sintra.
More info at Ericeiria surf house
8) Newquay, U.K
The spiritual home of surfing in the UK boasts a series of beaches and coves that for the most part, and especially in summer and spring offer gently rolling beachbreaks. Fistral Beach is the hub, a short walk from the town which boasts almost as many surf schools and surf shops as it does pubs and pastie shops.
The tides and currents can sometimes make life difficult for beginners, but that’s where the surf guides and schools become so valuable. This is a place that lives and breathes surfing and it’s impossible not to get swept up in the sheer enthusiasm, be it from surf stoked groms, newby vacationers or grizzled veterans.
Take your pick from surf-friendly B & Bs, backpackers', or beachside apartments and make sure you have a beer at Fistral’s iconic Headland Hotel after a good surf session.
More info at Quiksilver Surf School
9) Easkey, Ireland
The beautiful village of Easkey, along the Atlantic coast of County Sligo, is recognised internationally as one of the most popular surfing destinations in Ireland. And with good reason.
The prevailing southwesterly winds are offshore, meaning cleaner waves. While the town is famous for two waves imaginatively titled Easkey Right (near the rivermouth) and Easkey Left (by the castle), these are best left 'til experience is gained on the tamer beachbreaks though.
Easkey has been the hub of surfing in Ireland since the 1970s, and most of its tourism is derived from those wanting to frolic in its (we’ll be truthful here) frigid waters. There are established surf schools and dedicated surf accommodation and surfing here comes with none of the local aggression that can occur in some other parts of the surfing world. Of course, the quality of the Guinness is a given.
More info at Easkey Bed & Breakfast
10) Famara, Lanzarote
Don’t be put off by Lanzarote’s reputation for heavy waves and even weightier locals. While the island in the Canary Islands has been dubbed “The Hawaii of Europe" it's possible to find great smaller user-friendly waves and so take advantage of the winter sun and clean waters.
The beach of Famara is probably your best bet, as it boasts some of the most consistent surf conditions anywhere in the Atlantic. Its four mile stretch of sandy beach provides plenty of space and picks up every possible North Atlantic swell. In terms of the sheer amount of time you're able to spend in the ocean, it's hard to go past Famara.
More info at Lanza Surf
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