Cited as the birthplace of European surf scene back in the 1950s, the popularity of surfing holidays in France have skyrocketed in recent decades. But what are the best French surf spots?
The west coast of France absorbs monstrous winter swells that roll in from the Arctic and is home to some very fine waves. Year round there is good swell formed by low pressure from the north. So in a way, bad weather in the UK leads to the best French surf spots having good conditions – how unfair is that!
France is the world’s most visited country with a whopping 80 million visits a year. Luckily most of these visitors are not surfers, meaning there is plenty of surf to go around. But France is a great place to visit for many other reasons, all of which help to make surfing holidays in France even better.
From the UK France is very easy to get to, is pretty easy to reach from anywhere in Europe and with many international airports can be reached directly from almost anywhere in the world. As a country it is exciting to explore, but more importantly France is packed with challenges for surfers at all levels.
But France is a large country, so if you’re planning packing your board for a Gallic road trip where should you go? Well to help you decide, working from north to south here are 10 of the best French surf spots. Bon Voyage!
Brittany is the northwest corner of France that hangs over the Bay of Biscay. When powerful autumn and winter swells arrive this peninsula is the first section of France to greet them.
Pointe de la Torche to the south is the rocky headland extremity of this beach break. Inside it a sandbar throws a consistent long left and a shorter, punchier right.
Both waves occasionally hollow out with an outgoing tide and favorable conditions. The place gets crowded in the late summer but the vibe is peaceful. Spring and autumn storms with howling winds will destroy these waves so check the weather before making a road trip.
The obvious holy grail of surfing holidays in France. Located right where the coastline begins to bend towards the border of Spain, Hossegor’s beaches are perfectly set up to receive the mighty northwest swells that light up France on the global surf radar.
The waves are hollow and heavy and often shorebreak in not more than a few feet of water. Expect to get grinded into the sand if you can’t manage to kick out of a tube. The Quicksilver Pro WSL event is held here every year for good reason – this is the best beach break in Europe.
Keep an eye on the dramatic tidal swings here as a good peak in the morning will evaporate by midday.
At the heart of Hossegor’s beachfront promenade, Graviere embodies the best looking, yet meanest beach break you can fathom. Still able to hold shape in up to double-overhead surf, the gaping barrels here are perfection.
But fumble the takeoff or fail to gain enough speed to emerge and pay the price. Leaving an extra board in the car is wise here as you might leave the water with half of what entered with. One of the best surf spots in France for more experienced surfers.
Just across the harbor to the south of Hossegor are some excellent beach breaks that are lesser known to the international crowd but insanely popular with the local surf rats. Le Piste is easy to recognize due to the massive WWII concrete bunkers that jut out of the water in perilous fashion.
The barrels here can give Hossegor a run for their money and the consequences are just as devastating. Beware of the drop-ins and the concrete chunks you can’t see on the surface – you’ll definitely notice them after getting thrown down by the lip.
Home to the Lacanau Pro, the beaches directly east of Bordeaux form a vertical string of pristine, golden sand coastline. The shores are exposed to an annual onslaught of swell in autumn and all sorts of sandy peaks come to life after laying dormant for much of the summer.
The shape can get quite good, throwing makeable barrels at its best, but when solid overhead swells hit Lacanau you’ll be hard-pressed to find a wave that isn’t a giant close out. Regardless, it’s one of the best French surf spots and a great place to start your surfing holidays in France.
A phantom of its former self. Once an iconic French wave in the 60s, it was the product of a sandbank directly at the mouth of the Adour River. Construction of the harbor breakwater has all but destroyed the wave and now directs sand south towards Cavaliers.
A massive swell and deep low tide can still bring La Barre to life, however. It takes a paddle to reach, but catch a rare wave here and time-travel back in time to the glory days of the 70s when it was one of the best French surf spots.
Just south of the river Adour you’ll find a stretch of darker sand divided by numerous rocky jetties. Sand and sediment from the river mouth gets pushed into these compartments and form notably decent peaks.
Lefts and rights are plentiful – as are the locals who might flash you a mean-mug as you paddle out. Pick a less perfect peak to start and at gradually make your way over to the better waves.
Located directly west of the one the largest cities of France, Bayonne, Anglet is the former stomping ground of 80s great Tom Curren. A consistent beach break that proves more wind resistant than places like Hossegor and Le Piste, Anglet boasts numerous peaks that are well canvassed by frothing locals.
Pick out one that doesn’t look like a neoprene porcupine and start there. Waves can grow to decent size and still maintain shape. Anglet is a must visit during surfing holidays to France.
Not one of the best French surf spots if you’re looking to get noticed throwing airs to pick up a sponsor. But the juxtaposition of a medieval castle and perfect little longboard peelers is worth a mention on this list.
There’s plenty of folks and discussion in the lineup – a great way to polish your broken French surf-speak with some of the locals. Don’t expect Hossegor barrels, but Biarritz provides a laid back wave for a longboarder searching for a particular French vibe making it a great sport for surfing holidays in France.
Close to the Spanish border, Guethary is France’s last chance at causing the traveling surfer pause before heading to roaring lefts at Mundaka. The waves at Guethary break hundreds of metres out to sea so be sure to stretch your shoulders before paddling out.
It gets big on those solid winter swells, rising to more than double-overhead. There’s not much tube riding, but bring a 7-foot gun and be prepared to draw out your lines. Favored by salty ex-pats, locals here will let you in. Just don’t make a mockery of their generosity.
We hope you found our guide to the best French surf spots useful and entertaining. If you are planning surfing holidays in France be sure to check out our surf discounts as you could save a fortune.