If you’re looking for the best surfing spots Europe has a lot to offer, particularly if you are just starting out with surfing. Europe contains many beaches which are far more beginner-friendly than the famous hotspots in Hawaii or Bali.
Though tropical beaches do often boast the largest swells, Europe has something else: Tranquillity and diversity. In addition to the various types of waves you will find at Europe’s many surfing beaches, you will often be able to experience the joy of peace and quiet; many of the best surfing spots Europe provides are “hidden gems” which remain largely unknown to all save their loyal devotees.
Some of the best surfing spots Europe has to offer include:
1. Biarritz, France
Biarritz, located on the south-west coast of France, is renowned for its laid-back vibe that perfectly blends modern surfer culture with French living. Biarritz also boasts a long history when it comes to the tradition of surfing in Europe: Peter Viertel, an American scriptwriter and avid surfer, made surfing at Biarritz famous during the 1950s. Biarritz contains a surf school, Hastea Surf School, which can provide lessons to beginners.
2. Newgale, Wales
If Biarritz is a bit too busy for you, Newgale, nestled in the heart of Pembrokeshire, is sure to satisfy. This beach, located inside the only coastal national park in Britain, offers both stunning natural beauty and the promise of two full miles of unspoiled, often sparsely populated, sandy shore. Beginners will delight in the space to practice paddling before progressing on to more impressive swells (and if you’re in need of lessons, the nearby New Surf Shop is known for providing amateur surfers with assistance.)
3. Belhaven Bay, Scotland
Scotland is famous for its stunning coastal landscapes, so it’s little surprise that Belhaven Bay—found just an hour away from Edinburgh by car—is one of the UK’s most beloved and scenic surfing spots. Belhaven Bay is home to a quaint small village where surfers can head to warm up after a day in the chilly water and shallow, easy-to-handle beaches ideal for first-time surfers. If you venture up to Belhaven Bay between the months of March and November, you can also solicit lessons from the local Coast to Coast surf school.
4. Saltburn-On-Sea, North Yorkshire
Another of the best surfing spots Europe has to offer is right here in the UK: Saltburn-on-Sea, located on the north-east coast of England, is considered one of “the” places to be for European surfers—and beginners are perfectly welcome thanks to the shallow, easy waters that exist just off Saltburn’s pier.
Saltburn-on-Sea also has one of the most well-established surfing schools in the UK; the Saltburn Surf School has been providing lessons to beginner surfers since 1983, and today, the school is the only one on the East Coast approved by Surfing Great Britain.
5. San Sebastian, Spain
If the chilly waters of the UK are a bit too much for you, you can head down to San Sebastian in Spain, where the water is warm and the nightlife is reputed to be even warmer, with numerous bars and hotspots creating the atmosphere of a permanent beach party. For those serious about learning how to surf during their holiday, there is also the Pukas Surf school.
6. Lagos, Portugal
Lagos has it all for the beginner looking to truly escape to a southern climate: Located on the southern tip of Portugal, Lagos is known for its gentle waves and endless sunshine. You will also enjoy dramatic cliff views and the historic appeal of the walled “Old Town”, which will allow you to step back in time even as you enjoy the thoroughly modern pursuit of surfing. For lessons, check out FilSurf.
7. Portrush, Northern Ireland
Though the shores of Northern Ireland are often cold and rainy, Portrush should not be overlooked: This Irish surfing mecca offers a diverse range of waves from the very easy to the truly challenging, making it the perfect place to “level up” your surfing skills gradually. Portrush also contains the Quiksilver accredited Troggs Surf School, located conveniently at East Strand.
8. Watergate Bay, Newquay
Though some may feel that Cornwall’s beaches have become too crowded in recent decades, Watergate Bay is still well worth checking out, and not just because it is typically less busy than many of its contemporaries. This beach, which faces the open Atlantic Ocean, boasts stunning cliffs and clear shimmering aqua waters—a bit of tropical paradise right here in the UK. Watergate Bay also provides a range of different waves to try out.