DETERMINING EUROPE'S TRUE SURF CAPITAL: HOSSEGOR vs ERICEIRA
Europe's two most notable surf towns have both got a huge amount going for them, but which is better?
Isn’t about time the European Union big wigs stopped faffing about with trifling matters such as the Eurozone collapse and instead put their mind to more important matters? Say the formal allocation an official European Surf Capital for example. If such a process were to happen it would be a fair bet to say that the only two surf towns in with a chance would be Hossegor and Ericeira.
Now clearly if the EU was running such a bid process, an organising committee of around 1000 staff would need to be convened for a four year long gravy train bidding process, where free wetsuits and gold encrusted surfboards would be exchanged for valuable surf capital votes.
Surf Europe though, for once, decided to approach the debate with a far more rigorous and even handed approach by simply asking an impartial (dare we say ignorant) non-European to take a look at the two surf city’s claim for capital status.
Both have good cases, having played, and still playing, an integral and fundamental part in the European surf scene. On the historical angle both areas were surfed properly for the first time back in the ‘70s, but truly cemented their surf credentials in the 1980s, when a mix of local pioneers and traveling expats knew they had found waves that were truly special.
This discovery transformed both the fishing and agriculture villages into bonafide surf towns. The surf industry and surfing based tourism quickly became central, if not totally crucial to their economies.
First Rip Curl then Quiksilver based themselves in and around Hossegor in the ‘80s and their success meant all the other major surfbrands followed. There was 20 year period of incredible expansion, and even today, despite the global financial crisis, the industry is the area’s biggest employer.
Similarly surfing has provided a huge economic impact on Ericeira. Only last year it was declared a World Surfing Reserve, with a member of the Portuguese National Assembly stating, “The surf industry here represents a significant portion of national employment and revenue, from the production and exportation of products such as surfboards, clothing, and accessories, to the service and tourism industry including hotels, restaurants, and surf schools."
Mind you some would say a surf capital should be judged not on its contribution to GDP, but by the amount of barrels it churns out. Once again it’s a difficult decision. Ericeira boasts seven world class breaks including the European jewel that is Coxos and slabs like Pedra Branca, The Cave and Crazy Left. Hossegor in response can boast the world famous sandbazzas of La Graviere and La Piste, the big wave spot of La Nord, plus its myriad of ever changing banks. Personally, I think the slightly warmer water and the consistency of Ericeira’s reefs might just shade Hossegor’s sand based treats, but I know there’s plenty of Frenchman who would poke me in the eye with a burning stick in disagreement.
Both towns have also been responsible for a conveyer belt of Europe’s finest surfers, Tiago Pires obviously flying the flag loudest and proudest for Ericeira and Miky Picon and Jeremy Flores leading the charge for Hossegor.
At the end of the day both towns boast a unique set of surfing characteristics, a mix of world class waves, a local public that embraces all things surfing and a future surely as steeped in stoke as its past. Now sure my arse is now rife with splinters from sitting on the surf capital fence, but who am I to judge anyway?
I do know that when Australia couldn’t decide between the competing claims for Sydney and Melbourne to be the nation’s capital, they decided to build a new one, Canberra, excatly halfway between the two. If we take this approach, and why not, I pronounce the new surf capital... Salamanca.
- Ben Mondy