In 2016, while I was in San Sebastián in northern Spain, I realised I wanted to become a surf writer. Which is why I spent six months travelling around Spain and Portugal in an old campervan to find the best surf spots on the Iberian peninsula – from the untamed shores of northern Spain to Portugal’s sunny southern beaches. Here in Europe’s far west, things are wild and rugged – and that includes the seas. Time stands more or less still and the views haven’t changed in 50 years.
Great surf spots here are almost uncountable, but here are five you shouldn’t miss.
1. Playa de Merón, Playa de Gerra and Oyambre, Cantabria, SPAIN
There’s not one but three gorgeous spots found at surf town San Vicente de la Barquera. Merón flows into Gerra beach, and together they border a small peninsula with Oyambre around the corner. If there’s an onshore wind at Merón and Gerra, there’s a good chance conditions will be offshore at Oyambre. This variety – as well as the green hills, campervans and cows – helps to explain why San Vicente is a surfers’ paradise.
2. Razo, Galicia, Spain
As you drive down from the mountains, Razo pulls you in with breathtaking views of the long, curved beach. It’s one of the most popular surf spots in northern Galicia, and comes with a family-friendly promenade, surf schools and beach bars. Park at the northern end and take the path that leads straight to the best waves.
3. Praia do Amado, Algarve, Portugal
The Algarve coastline has its resorts and family beaches – but it also has a wild side, with hiking trails that lead down to the sea. Once you’re on Praia do Amado, you’ll be greeted by golden sand and those year-round wild Atlantic breaks. There are surf schools for beginners and boards for rent, lots of places to eat and a coffee truck that’s been run for the past 25 years by a beach bum called Acildo. If you like campervans, Amado is where they migrate for the summer.
4. Porto das Barcas, Alentejo, Portugal
This is a fantastic break in the fishing port of Vila Nova de Milfontes. Picture this: not a cloud in the sky, the sun is going down and the sea is tinted pink. You surf until the sun has disappeared, then warm up with dinner on the quay. This spot is not for beginners: it has a rocky entrance and a long paddle out.
5. Zurriola, San Sebastián, Spain
How many cities are right on top of a surf spot? San Sebastián is one of the few, making it easy to surf in the morning and explore the city in the afternoon. Come summer there are so many boards in the sea you can almost walk on the water.