Charly Martin, Asturias. Photo: Alex Laurel
The Kingdom of Spain is denied an appreciable west coast by its neighbour Portugal. Thus coastal Spain is either the north-facing Biscay coast in the north, or the Med coasts of the east and south, or the surf battered lava strewn coasts of the Canary Islands, down near the tropics off NW Africa.
So while most of the rest of the world thinks of Spain as a hot place where flamenco dancers and bull fighters drink sangria in ancient plazas flanked by ancient churches built in the Moorish style, for most surfers, huddled in campers vans watching the sets break in a tidal grey sea between the action of the windscreen wipers, the north coast reality is a much different affair.
While the Med coasts can get surf from time to time, as can the Andalusia coast near Cadiz, essentially the peninsula shred is either Biscay or a wee bit of west facing Galicia. The Biscay coast is home to the best lefts in Europe and probably the best rivermouth wave anywhere, Mundaka, as well as a number of reefs of mixed quality, and mostly so-so beachbreaks. Meanwhile, the Canaries are home to countless world-class reefs that will challenge even the raddest of tube fiends, but lots of howling wind.
(Book a surf trip to Spain here)
Spaniards are generally louder and more optimistic than their French neighbours, and more prone to saying ‘yes’ than ‘no’. They also like to drink and stay up late, but rarely fight like the Brits.
They are particularly fond of oily, salty food, smoking, hamburgers that are red in the middle, packets of really salty sunflower seeds, cocaine and prostitutes. Surfers love VW transporters, and bright, baggy boardshorts and massive skate shoes a la 2001. Police are authoritarian and at times brutal, nightclub doormen generally small, often even likeable.
As a general rule, the Spanish have a wholesome, agreeable world-view of passive optimism, although are prone to littering.
Surf culture is alive and kicking mostly in the NE, less so as you progress west towards Finisterre. The Basque Country has produced most pros of note with the exceptions of Jonathan Gonzalez, Pablo Gutierrez and Gony Zubizarreta. While Jony is considered one of Europe’s finest ever exponents of shred, Spanish surfing has as yet failed to ‘do a Barcelona’ and churn out legions of small, improbably talented skill wizards to take on the world, perhaps due to the fact that bodyboarding is still considered socially acceptable, even amongst adult males.
The principal reason you need to do a surf trip to Spain before you die however, has nothing to do with any of the above. It is simply due the life-enriching significance of staying up all night revelling in some kind of coastal public fiesta that has been running yearly for centuries, executing or at least attempting some kind of heavy petting manoeuvre against the stone wall of medieval fortification, before paddling out at a lacklustre yet accommodating beachie, feeling like the best you could ever hope to be.