Spain’s coverage in the media has been largely limited to its crown jewel Mundaka, but those who have taken the time to explore this culturally rich corner of Europe know that the country is holding much more than the world’s best river mouth. Spain’s various regions are as unique in their waves as they are in their geography and culture, and many of them are quite uncrowded. For those who can see beyond the Mundaka hype, Spain has a lot to offer. And for those who can’t—well, one wave at the storied river mouth makes the trip worth it anyway.
The Surf: River mouths, beach breaks, points, reefs, even slabs—Spain has no shortage of waves, and in general is an intermediate to advanced destination.
Five Waves Worth Surfing:
- Mundaka: Everyone has seen the contest footage from Mundaka’s years on tour, so everyone knows how good it gets, but what many don’t know is that this endless lefthand barrel only works a few hours per day at low tide—and that’s assuming there is swell in the water.
- Bakio: A beach break neighboring Mundaka, Bakio is where you will surf when the world-class river mouth you came for isn’t breaking—which will be most of the time.
- Galicia: A region in northern Spain with a ton of waves but very little press, Galicia has dozens of uncrowded points and beach breaks—and recent information has been leaked about a number of powerful slabs as well.
- Menakoz: Spain isn’t known as a big wave destination, but that may soon be changing. Menakoz is one of many potentially XXL spots in Spain—a powerful righthander breaking similar to Sunset Beach in Hawaii.
- Rodiles: One of Spain’s most popular and populated spots, on its day, Rodiles has been likened to a smaller, shorter Mundaka.
The Water: Average quality and moderate surface temps make Spain’s water somewhat run-of-the-mill—although underdeveloped areas will be a bit cleaner, and northern regions such as Galicia somewhat colder. Water temps in Mundaka range from 54 to 72 F (12 to 22 C), but the wave won’t be breaking during the warmest months.
The Season: Fall (September through November) is prime time for Spain, with consistent swells and good weather. Winter (December through February) can be massive, stormy and cold, but with a good wetsuit, a big wave gun and some local knowledge, the season has a lot to offer. The weather suffers in spring (March through May), but swells are still consistent, while summer (June through August) is warm and sunny, but lacking in swell—although there will be more surf in Spain during this “offseason” than anywhere else in Western Europe.
The Vibe: Big name spots like Mundaka and Rodiles are very crowded whenever they get good, and the locals aren’t afraid to put you in your place. Elsewhere, you are as likely to surf alone as not.
Things To Do: Spain has a lot to offer in terms of culture and scenery, from the streets of Barcelona to the hills of Andalusia and mountains of Galicia. For the spiritually minded, the trail to Santiago de Compostela (also called the Way of St. James) is a famous pilgrimage route described in Paolo Coelho’s book The Pilgrimage.
Where To Stay: If you are coming for Mundaka (as many are), you can stay in town, or just as easily stay across the border in France. Other areas are less prepared for the tourist onslaught, but hostels and hotels still abound.
What To Bring: A shortboard and a step-up. A 3mm wetsuit for fall and a 4/3 for winter. A taste for wine and pastoral landscapes.
Getting There: With any number of regional airports, ferries from the UK and a short 45-minute drive from Biarritz to the France/Spain border, your options are pretty extensive. Madrid and Barcelona are the main international gateways into the country. Under the Schengen Agreement, citizens of many countries do not require an entry visa. Airport codes: MAD (Madrid) and BCN (Barcelona).