The 200-kilometre-long Basque coastline is dotted with small ports, bays and estuaries that are blessed by the god of waves. Throughout the year, several major surfing competitions and events are held in the Basque Country, and in summer, surfers from all over the world come with their boards to spend all day, and sometimes nights, in the water having fun.
One of Europe’s – and the world’s – greatest surfing beaches is located on the coast of Bizkaia. Mundaka is located in the middle of the Urdaibai Biosphere Reserve. Connected by narrow-gauge rail and a regular, 30-minute bus service from Bilbao, the small pirate haven is known by surfers all over the world for its famous left-hand wave, which is considered the best in Europe and ranks among the top ten in the world. In Mundaka, long, six-metre high tubes are quite common. The wave has been recognized publicly as a ‘natural, recreational, socioeconomic and cultural resource and patrimony’ by the local authorities. The barrels, which are known to reach 400 metres in length, roll in more frequently in January and February but are still quite common in September. Surfers from across the Atlantic and as far as the antipodes come for these waves.
Close to Mundaka, on the far side of San Juan de Gaztelugatxe, is the seaside resort of Bakio, another favourite among the surfing and bodyboarding community. Apart from its stunning beach and surroundings, one of the great advantages of Bakio is that there are waves – left and right-handers of between half a metre and two metres high – all year round.
Once you leave Urdaibai and enter Uribe Kosta, make sure to head for Sopela. It takes under half an hour to get there by metro from the centre of Bilbao, which explains why you often see groups of young people walking around the city with surfboards under their arms. Sopela features three attractive beaches, Atxabiribil, Barinatxe and Arrietara, set against a backdrop of cliffs.
Popular with surfers since the first one arrived, the 800-metre-long Barinatxe Beach stretches as far as Getxo. The rocky-bottomed beaches of Atxabiribil and Arrietara can rarely be surfed once the waves get over two metres. There are lots of cool bars with music, beer, and atmosphere in the area. And it’s a great place to watch the sunset.
Meñakoz is located in the neighbouring municipality of Barrika. Adrenaline junkies are attracted like magnets to the giant rollers on this beach, just like the ones on nearby Punta Galea. Only suitable for fit, expert surfers, these waves are at their wildest from October to January when an international big wave competition takes place.
In Getxo, a town located at the mouth of the estuary and connected to Bilbao by metro, people surf off Ereaga and Arrigunaga. However, the best surfing beach in this area is Gorrondatxe. This beautifully appointed beach is known for right-handers of up to three metres.
Zarautz is the Gipuzkoa’s main surfing town. Its two-kilometre beach, the longest in the Basque Country, is known for right-handed waves that come in predictable sequences, attracting throngs of surfers all year round. During the summer months, a restricted surfing area is cordoned off on the beach. Zarautz hosts a series of prestigious competitions every summer, mainly in September. A southerly wind is what to look for if you are thinking of hitting Zarautz with your board.
If you are an experienced surfer and not averse to a challenge, there are some great waves at Izuztarri, located halfway along the coast between Zarautz to Getaria. In the nearby town of Zumaia, the beach of Irutzun offers metre-high waves all year round. On Playa Gris or Planeitxa, a perilous beach accessible on foot from Zumaia, there are swells of over six metres that break on the rocks. Definitely not suitable for amateurs.
San Sebastian’s Playa de la Zurriola is an urban beach in one of Europe’s most beautiful cities. It’s the perfect place to start surfing and discovering the good life, which in this city, is guaranteed.