Spain has long been famous for its beautiful calm Mediterranean beaches, one of the main reason why it is the number one location for Europeans to spend their summer vacation. Yet to a surfer, it is vastly different country. Take a trip up north, far from the tranquil Med of the South, and you will find 500 miles of coastline brimming with some of the best waves on the planet.
1. Mundaka, Basque country (Euskadi)
Situated in a small, sleepy, medieval village in the Basque country of northern Spain, it sits on a wide rivermouth with a picturesque 11th century church overlooking the take off point.
The town’s history dates back over a thousand years. It was previously a fishing town but has recently become a small seaside resort town, more a place for locals to come and enjoy the beach rather than overseas tourists. When winter comes, these sunseekers are replaced by surfers as it turns into Spain’s best surf spot and arguably the world’s best rivermouth wave.
The wave has been host to many surf contests and was on the World Tour for a number of years. It can be fickle, but when it is firing it is an epic wave that can last up to 300 meters and hold size of up to 12 feet. On its day, Mundaka resembles a natural wave park, sending set after set of barreling wave into the rivermouth. Nothing man could create could compete with this.
2. Menakoz, Basque country (Euskadi)
25km West of Mundaka lies Menakoz beach. This grey stoney beach sits at the base of cliffs that separate it from the more “beginner friendly” beach break Sopelana.
Located just on the outskirts of Bilbao city, the region’s capital, it is one of the most popular surf areas in Spain thanks to the variety of beaches nearby. Sopalena itself is a mini surf town, with a few nice cafés and bars for those looking for some après surf.
Menakoz is truly world class and it gets BIG. It doesn’t really start breaking until it gets past 10 feet. The rocks on the beach turn razor sharp in the water making it pretty treacherous. The main feature of the wave is its massive, super-fast vertical drop. You will wipe out, and wipe out big–just don’t get caught inside because you will definitely face a few hold downs.
3. Isla de Santa Marina
An uninhabited island that sits just off the coast, in Cantabria, Northern Spain. Between the island and the mainland is one of Spain’s best righthand reefbreaks. Like Mundaka, it is fickle and tends to work for a few days and then it likes to take a break before it starts firing again. It works best between November and April, on a N/NW swell. Starting at head high, it can work at up to 12 feet and create long, rewarding barrels.
The wave is just across from the region’s capital city Santander, and the nearby popular surf town of Somo which has one of Spain’s longest beach breaks, perfect for learners and intermediates.
4. Roka Puta
Big wave right hander near Zarautz town, Spain’s surf capital and where surfing first really took off in Spain in the 1960s. It is in the heartland of the Basque country, surrounded by picturesque hills on either side. The Basque people can be traced back over thousands of years, and have developed their own one of a kind language that doesn’t have any resemblance to any other European language.
Roka Puta or Roca Puta is a winter only, big wave spot. It needs a large clean swell to work and breaks in shallow water close to the rocks.
The town’s beach is almost 2.5 kms long and remains one of Spain’s best all around surf beaches. It might not have the long barrels of Mundaka or the heavy drop of Menakoz, but it has plenty of high performance peaks and year round consistency, particularly from October to April.
Nearby Zarautz is a great place to base yourself to surf and explore the region. It has a long 2.5km beach break, one of Spain’s best all around surf beaches and where many of Spain’s top surfers honed their skills. A kilometer long promenade full of cafés, bars, restaurants, and surf shops runs the length of the beach. Spain’s culinary capital, San Sebastian, is only 20 minutes away, and the waves of Mundaka and Sopalena just one hour in a car.
5. El Brusco
El Brusco is one of the best beach breaks in Spain, similar to its Portuguese cousin Supertubos, but handles less size. It can produce epic left and right barrels and, like most of Northern Spain, works best from October to April.
El Brusco is located in Noja in Cantabria, Northern Spain. It’s a lively summer resort, but in winter becomes a ghost town. This does not mean the wave is quiet, however, as it is a very popular spot for locals; perfect for intermediates and pros. It’s a very picturesque, hidden beach.
Spain is home to many hidden gems and secret spots as well as more well known surf breaks. You could replace one or two of the above with Rodiles, Pantin and Punta Galea but it is all a matter of opinion as always with surf. I did not include Spain’s Canary Islands, as they deserve a full section to themselves, nor did any of the waves down on the south west coast of Spain make the cut, largely due to their inconsistency despite having many great surf breaks.