Surfing may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think about the Bordeaux region of France, but contrary to popular belief, there is a thriving surf community along the coast. The Cote d’Argent is over 200km long, making it Europe’s longest beach with a ton of surfing opportunities along the way.
France has some of the best surfing beaches in the world, in fact the Atlantic coast is a surfer’s paradise with surfing spots ranging from gentle to championship level waves. Surfing fans even like to refer to the big Bordeaux beaches as “The Big Board Eau” or “The Big Board Water.” There’s bigger board water here than you ever thought possible!
If you are flying into the country, the south west regions of France can easily be reached if you fly through Bordeaux (Bordeaux-Merignac Airport) or Biarritz (Biarritz – Anglet – Bayonne Airport). If you are coming from Paris, the coast is a short 6-7 hour drive away from the city. If you do decide to drive, the roads are well-maintained but the tolls on larger roads can get expensive quickly. Another option to get to Bordeaux from Paris is to take the TGV which will get you to the coast in 3 hours.
As is to be expected, the local language is French. But unlike other parts of the country, most people in Bordeaux will be able to speak English fairly well—especially younger people who have been taught the basics in school. It’s always best to start a conversation in their language to show them that you are trying to relate to them, even if what you say isn’t perfect French. Being polite and friendly will get you much farther than assuming someone can speak English and not trying to make it easier for them.
Summer is a popular time to head to the beaches, but as you may guess, it is also the most crowded time to try and find a spot to settle in to. Try heading to Bordeaux at the end of summer and beginning of autumn as it the best time of the year to go: the water is still warm, the waves are good, the crowds are gone and the temperature is still warm. If you want to try surfing in other seasons, be sure to prepare accordingly with a 4/3 wetsuit for spring/late autumn and a 5/4 wetsuit with cap and gloves for winter surfing.
If you are comfortable with camping, that will be your cheapest option. Campsites start at 8 euros a night and the sites are generally good quality with solid maintenance. Food is reasonably priced in the area and if you want to try local wines, you’ll be pleased with their high quality and low cost.
The Lancanau-Ocean area is known for its consistently massive waves. It attracts pro surfers who come to its banks every year in August to compete in the “Sooruz Lancanau Pro” competition. It’s an impressive competition to watch, but if you aren’t there in August, you’ll get to dip your toes in the water as well and see how you fare in the crashing waves of this area of Bordeaux.
If you like longboarding, then Biarritz is the right beach for you. Another crowded beach in the summer, longboarders flock to Biarritz because the waves don’t break too quickly. This is a more expensive option for a surfing holiday because of the surrounding city, but if you can snag a reservation for a campsite, you should be able to stay here and stay within budget.
You’ll find plenty of campsites at this beach, along with a lot of newer surfers trying to practice and improve their skills. They choose this beach because it has one of the best beach breaks in the world, especially at Hossegor. These breaks are what set this beach apart because it also attracts pros to its shores, especially during the annual ASP content which is held at Les Estagnots. When summertime hits there will be a lot of people in the water, and if you’re respectful of them, they’ll let you do your own thing without dropping in. Beyond the waves, the nightlife options are great and if you are there around September, there’s a good chance you’ll meet a couple of the pros out on the town.
Beginners and experts alike flock to these beaches for wave after perfect wave. Pick your favourite stretch of sand and settle in for quality breaks that are perfect for beginners but offer a challenge to more experienced surfing thrill seekers. Pack your things, grab an adventure travel insurance plan from Cover-More, and embark on a memorable surfing holiday in France.
Image courtesy of Flickr user Stephane.