The best surf spots in Europe
When you think of surfing, you would be forgiven for immediately conjuring up images of palm trees, hula skirts and the white sand beaches of Hawaii. And given that the sport became known in the West following Captain Cook’s voyage to Hawaii in the eighteenth century, such an image is intrinsically linked to the idea of riding the waves.
However, following the boom in surfing that has occurred in Europe since the 1950s, surfers have gone on to discover many locations on the continent that can rival the Aloha State for thrills.
In the United Kingdom, Cornwall was one of the first areas to really establish itself as a surfing destination in Europe, and it remains a key hub of the sport today. On the north coast of the county, Perranporth offers long, clean rides, while Sennen has a range of waves, from six-footers when the wind is right, to smaller, rougher rides traversing a sandbar. On the southern coast, Whitsand bay has a number of coves making it a suitable destination for all levels of surfers.
At the other end of the British Isles, Thurso is the most northerly town in Scotland. While the waters may be colder than their Cornish counterparts, the beaches are similarly golden – particularly at Melvich and Torrisdale – while the right-hand reef wave referred to as Thurso East is a truly great ride.
Heading into even smaller latitudes, the southern tip of the Svalbard Archipelago in Norway markets itself as the most northerly surfing location in the world. While North Atlantic swells begin to form here, the surf can be patchy and is only feasible in the summer months between June and August. Even then, don’t forget you are surfing in the Arctic Ocean and it’s going to be cold. Dry suits and titanium vests are essential kit for a ride here.
Portugal’s Algarve is a much warmer location for European surfers to explore. This southern portion of Portugal benefits from two coastlines – that to the west gets big waves rolling in off the Atlantic, while the southern coast has more manageable waves for beginner and intermediates to navigate.
In the Mediterranean, the Italian islands of Sicily and Sardinia boast the best waves. Capannone and Mondello offer good right and left breaks in Sicily, while Buggerru and Li Putzi in Sardinia have challenging rides for the experienced surfer to try.