Although new age destinations like Indonesia, Fiji, and Central America often top the list when it comes to overseas surf trips, the Old Continent has no shortage of world-class waves set against a thriving social scene and wide diversity of cultures and historical landscapes. While boat charters might be all the rage these days, the European road trip is as vital as it’s ever been, with hundreds of quality setups, delicious wines and food, and throngs of hot locals with exotic accents. Check out this first installment in a two-part feature listing the top 10 best surf spots in Europe.
1) Hossegor, France: The sand bars of Hossegor—including crown jewel La Graviere—are among the best in the world, producing challenging but epic sand-bottom barrel that fire consistently throughout the north hemisphere autumn. With a thriving nightlife, a diversity of other waves in the vicinity, and the annual Quiksilver Pro France, Hossegor might just be ground zero for European surfing.
2) Mundaka, Spain: Arguably the best lefthand rivermouth in existence, Mundaka is a heavy, fickle, crowded barrel that drains for hundreds of meters on the rare occasion that it actually breaks. Previously a stop on the world tour, Mundaka was eventually dropped due to a severely limited swell window (the wave requires a substantial swell, and even then only breaks for a few hours each day under very specific tidal conditions). But don’t let this absence from surfing’s biggest stage deter you—Mundaka is still one of the best waves in Spain, Europe, and the world.
3) Coxos, Portugal: It has been said that this reef/point is Europe’s best righthander, and if top to bottom barrels factor into your criteria, then this is probably true. Coxos is a difficult wave to surf in its own right, and the crowds and localism only serve to compound the fact. Still, if you can manage to sneak a set from the crowds, you just might score the barrel of your life.
4) Aileen’s, Ireland: A recent addition to the Irish stable of waves, Aileen’s has sprung into the public eye after a number of noteworthy sessions cemented it’s reputation as a legitimate heavy water destination. A big wave bombie that doubles up into an angry, square slab, Aileen’s breaks in frigid water and allows for 12+ (Hawaiian) paddle-in barrels—for those with the gumption and skill to take a crack at it. And although Ireland’s weather is not known for its hospitality, the locals are said to be some of the friendliest and most welcoming in the world—at least as far as crazy hell chargers go.
5) Porthleven, UK: England’s best-known (and perhaps best) wave, this righthand-dominant reef peak features a heart-in-your-mouth drop to draining barrel, making it a popular destination for both local and traveling pros and bodyboarders. Consistently the most competitive lineup in the UK, Porthleven is not for the faint of heart or short of skill.