While the public perception of surfing in Europe was once limited to the beach breaks of France and the endless rivermouth barrels of Mundaka, improved wetsuits, a newfound taste for big waves, and a recently added pro tour event in Portugal have seen our horizons expand exponentially. No longer limited to the temperate weather of autumn, Europe is now an all-season surf destination, with various regions pumping during different seasons and under different swell conditions. Best of all, Europe has a little of everything on offer, from rippable points and beach breaks to dredging slabs and monster big wave spots. No matter your style or skill level, there is something for everyone in the European lineup—and more than you can ever see on shore.
1) Supertubos, Portugal: As if one epic stretch of beach break isn’t enough (see Part 1: Hossegor, France), Europe actually has another equally perfect set of sandbars in Peniche, Portugal. Consistent and hollow enough to warrant an annual stop on the ASP world tour, this temperate surf haven continues to pump for months after the pros leave town. With a vibrant culture, a local population that literally loves surfing (and surfers), and a number of other excellent waves in the region, the stretch of sand called Supertubos is easily one of the best surf destinations in Europe.
2) Thurso East, Scotland: Scotland’s best (and best-known) wave, Thurso East is a long righthander breaking over a mossy slab of reef at the mouth of a river. A long workable wall on an east swell and a draining 100-meter barrel when the swell goes west, Thurso has been compared to a cold water Nias, and has hosted numerous surf contests over the years, including the Cold Water Classic (which should give you an idea of the local weather conditions).
3) El Quemao, Canary Islands: The Atlantic’s answer to Pipeline (actually called “The Pipeline of the Canaries” by many), this heavy lefthander on Lanzarote has a gnarly reputation for angry localism and a volcanic reef that qualifies as dangerous on just about anyone’s scale (people have died there!). Many find it worth the risks, however, as El Quemao is arguably Europe’s heaviest paddleable barrel, handling in excess of 10 foot (on the Hawaiian scale). The water in the Canaries is relatively warm, and there are a host of other danger waves nearby, which means that for hellmen and barrel fiends it doesn’t get much better than the Islas Canarias.
4) Praia del Norte, Portugal: Rocketing into public consciousness over the past two seasons (which have seen this peaky beach break come into its own as potentially the world’s biggest wave), Praia del Norte in Nazare is a lot like your local beach break on a good day—except 10 times bigger. Long interval swells are focused and magnified by an offshore canyon that also serves to create peaks that wedge together into record-setting mountains. Virtually unknown a few short years ago, Nazare is now on every big wave swell chaser’s radar, especially after Shane Dorian’s groundbreaking 2013 session that saw the break graduate from a tow-only wave to one that is very definitely paddleable.
5) Anchor Point, Morocco: Technically not part of Europe but close enough to make the list, Morocco is a colorful country in northern Africa separated from Spain by the narrow Straits of Gibraltar. Taghazoute is the center of surfing in Morocco, with a number of epic righthand points on offer, but the marquee wave is undoubtedly Anchor Point, with long, hollow walls that seem to run forever. Although the area can get crowded, the lineup is far from busy once the swell gets above six foot—and in Morocco, the only thing more common than righthand points is pumping swells.