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The Basque Country, as well as having an unrivalled coastline stretching along more than 200 kilometres, is a major surfing centre and a European and world benchmark for this sport. This is due, above all, to the quality of its waves, where the left wave of Mundaka is particularly noteworthy.
The waves and beach conditions vary depending on the area. However, the Biscay coastline and those of Gipuzkoa and Lapurdi, offer magnificent beaches suitable for this sport.
Throughout the year, these beaches are the scene of various events and championships for the various surfing circuits. But it is in summer when surfers from all over the world come to have fun with their boards from sunrise to sunset. And sometimes, even by moonlight.
The Basque coast is the perfect destination for a surfing holiday that combines waves, culture, nature and gastronomy.
The origins of surfing in the Basque Country
With two surfboards and a book by a Hawaiian photographer as his luggage, Ignacio Arana returned to his birthplace in 1912 after having spent several years as the Spanish consul to the Hawaiian Islands. During the Civil War his boards were destroyed, but the book, The Surfriders Of Hawaii, was unharmed. This is the first publication that provides a date for the beginning of the link between surfing and the Basque Country.
Other sources date back to the mid-20th century when the first French surfers began to explore the Basque coast. Their proximity to France meant that they were the first to attract surfers and obtain equipment, which paved the way for surfing on beaches such as Zurriola in San Sebastian.
Mundaka (37km from Bilbao)
The jewel in Europe’s crown. The small town of Mundaka, nestled in the natural biosphere of Urdaibai, has become something of an icon in the world of surfing. Its magnificent left wave is considered the best in Europe and one of the ten most important in the world. It is said that its perfection is due to a consistent sand bar that provides long, tubular waves, reaching up to five metres in height. Thanks to these outstanding waves, Mundaka has hosted the highest category world championship for an entire decade.
However, it is in the winter months when the potential for surfing increases to over 50% and, specifically, it is in January when these waves are abundant and surfing days can reach 62%. Some specialists suggest that the fact that it is so limited is what makes it unique and special; because when the ideal conditions of sea, wind and tides come together, even if it lasts only 3 hours, it is a breathtaking experience.
Source: Flickr (Surfglassy)
Sopelana (17km from Bilbao)
Located in the Uribe Kosta area, Sopelana is a town near Bilbao where surfing is a popular activity all year round. In addition to offering unparalleled views from the cliff tops, it has large and beautiful beaches that are perfect for lovers of this sport.
Locals say that the first surfer to be seen in this Biscayan town was in about 1964. The most popular beach for enjoying the waves nowadays is the one known as La Salvaje or Barinatxe, a 752-metre-long sandy beach situated in the towns of Getxo and Sopelana.
Although the vast majority of the seabed on this beach is sandy, it also has a rocky area on the right known as “La Triangular”. As for the waves, they are known for their high peaks and are therefore ideal for both beginners and those in training.
Barrika (21km from Bilbao)
Meñakoz is located in Barrika, next door to Sopelana. Its beach is barely 400 metres long, but its wave is one of the most internationally famous waves in the Basque Country. It is a long right wave that breaks on a rocky bottom just in front of the cliffs, a break that is only suitable for surfers in good condition and with experience.
Bakio (28km from Bilbao)
As its name indicates, it is the beach found in the town of Bakio, known for being one of the most consistent beaches on the Basque coast for surfing. The waves are of good quality but, as with all sandy beaches, they are heavily dependent on the state of the seabed. A good left can break at the end of the beach and a fast right with a good tube. It is one of the best options for summer surfing.
San Sebastián (98km from Bilbao)
In the capital of Gipuzkoa, the best known beach is La Zurriola, which is famous for its intense waves that last all year round. With waves that break right and left indiscriminately, it is one of the best beaches for surfing in the Basque Country. As it is situated in an urban area, it is one of the most sought-after beaches for both swimmers and surfers.
Zarautz (85km from Bilbao)
When we talk about Zarautz, we are referring to the leading surfing town in Gipuzkoa and the origin of great surfers such as Aritz Aranburu. It has one of the largest beaches in the Basque Country and its swell is mainly centred on waves that are perpendicular to the coastline. Although atmospheric conditions can have an unfavourable effect, the waves usually go in fairly regular patterns and are known as right waves.
Source: Flickr (Javier Lastras)
Zumaia (77km from Bilbao)
Right next to Zarautz we find the town of Zumaia, which is home to Itzurun beach, a 270-metre stretch of sand surrounded by beautiful cliffs. A beach with good waves and sand bars which, together with the rocky formations of the beach, produce consistent waves with hollow sections.
Biarritz (148km from Bilbao)
It is said that Biarritz Beach was the place that first introduced surfing to Europe in the 1950s.
It was the American, Peter Viertel, who rode the waves in 1957, which, due to their symmetry and perfection, have been referred to as “Les Rouleaux”.
Source: Flickr (Pierre (Rennes))