The 12 Best Waves in Spain | A Gallery
A dozen boxes to tick off your Spain surf trip bucket list, via the lens of Sr. Muñoz
A SPAIN IN THE ARSE
When we think of Spain, and surfing in Spain, we think of many things.
Upside down exclamation marks, for instance, and the way that, together with their upright brethren, they bookend a sentence as though it were an Adriano de Souza 8.5. Or the Spaniard’s sunny disposition, which clouds over somewhat in the line-up, where he’ll maybe scowl and hassle or maybe not but will definitely shout “¡Buena!" at the sight of every oncoming wave, possibly whilst wiggling furiously on a bodyboard. Or, if we are keen moviegoers, a bronzed Ray Winstone, with a stomach you could fry an egg on, lying poolside in orange speedos on a sunbed.
If we are the editor of Surf Europe, we think of a marvellous place to go for a poo. More than once has he made the trip across the French-Spanish border just to take an early-morning, open-air shite in his favourite San Sebastián carpark. Simply because it feels better there.
Spain's superiority in this department is a fact reflected in the vast store of Spanish expressions that rely on scatological imagery for their effect.
I shit in the milk!
I shit on your whore of a mother!
I shit on your dead relatives!
I shit on God!
All socially acceptable stock phrases, used variously to express anger, shock, injustice, or amazement. But Spain is also a marvellous place to go for a surf. Why not do both? Nobody’s stopping you. Here, in no particular order, are twelve of Spain's best waves, as chosen and photographed by Javi “Pacotwo" Muñoz, almost certainly one Spain’s twelve best surf photographers.
Because you’re within striking distance of Marbella, and in a region more commonly associated with flamenco dancers, bullfighters, pissed-up British tourists, and cockney villains on the run à la Ray Winstone in Sexy Beast, surfing in Andalucía can feel like something of a novelty.
And yet Andalucía retains a fair stretch of Atlantic-facing coastline, tucked away under Portugal and extending south towards the Straits of Gibraltar and Africa beneath it.
The Cape of Trafalgar and surrounding area is a fine place to engage in naval warfare, deposit a shipment of illegal goods, or, if you prefer, clock up some winter tunnel time at the exemplary beach break of El Palmar.
All over Spain, but above all in the Basque Country, it is obligatory to exclaim “¡Hostia!" upon witnessing anything vaguely rad, drawing out the first syllable in proportion to the radness.
Literally, it means “the body of Christ as manifested in a portion of sacramental bread".
It goes without saying that you can also shit on it if you like, as this chap is no doubt doing as he contemplates the burly walls of Orrua — or Roka Puta, as it becomes on bigger swells such as this one.
San Sebastián AKA Donosti’s premier surf spot used simply to be called Playa de Gros, after the local borough, and was by all accounts a delightful young beach break.
Then it got fingered by the espigón, a lengthy breakwater built alongside the river at the turn of the century. It’s not been its old self since: La Zurriola is ill-defined and uninspiring, and meanwhile the crowds have only gotten worse.
There are good days, however, and there was a handful of positively epic ones several years ago after a winter storm caused a breach of the breakwater. The water that funnelled through the opening deposited along the beach this bitchin’ left-hand sandbank.
Interestingly, Sagües carpark, the very carpark from which this photo was taken, is a top spot for a poo. Yes, that carpark!
The Canary Islands are renowned among surfers for challenging slabs breaking over shallow lava reef. Also, for the hospitable local folk and their impeccable line-up manners, both at home and abroad, but especially at home.
These two traits achieve their perfect synthesis on the north coast of Lanzarote in the form of El Quemao, whose reputation as the Canarian Pipe it would be a grave breach of surf-journalistic ethics not to mention.
In any case, that reputation isn't entirely unfounded. If you can pry a wave away from the clutches of said locals, you’re in for a jolly good barrelling.
Spain has a good line in high quality, low profile beach breaks of the hollow, peaky variety.
Which isn't to say this particular provider of dredging A-frames, located between Bilbao and Santander, has escaped the attention of the local Cantabrian posse. When El Brusco's firing, high quality, low profile ripper Michel Velasco is rarely not busy getting barrelled.
Moving slightly further west, the rugged and raw right-hander of Santa Marina breaks alongside the eponymous island in the mouth of the Santander estuary.
Maybe take epithets like “world-class" with a pinch of salt, but warnings like “chargers only" and “watch out for the rocks at low tide" deadly seriously.
Mun-da-ka -- three syllables that are liable to stir feelings of an almost religious intensity in the hearts of this transcendent left-hander’s many devotees. And indeed, when the swell and sand and stars are in alignment, it’s enough to make a hardened atheist believe for a second or two in the existence of God.
Even if only so that he can shit on Him.
How come goofyfoot heaven, he will say to himself, is full of so many knobheads?
Or perhaps filthy right-hand reef breaks are more your bag? La Gran Canaria is home to one of Europe’s filthiest, el Confital.
Downsides include definite stink-eye from the locals, the inevitable chorus of “¡Buena!" every time a wave passes through the line-up, and a decent chance of losing skin/brain cells/dignity on the perilous inside section. Upsides include an equally decent chance of getting barrelled off your hind-quarters.
The Iberian peninsula offers big wave enthusiasts numerous opportunities for life-affirming daredevilry, many of them in Euskal Herria. Meñakoz is in the classic big-wave paddle-in mould. Think deep water, 9ft+ boards, more raw Atlantic oomph than you bargained on, and a hungry pack of battle-scarred Basque dudes.
Think Natxo Gonzalez, legs coiled, rear hand tickling the outside rail, voluminous ball bag practically skimming the surface, as he cranks backhand off the bottom on his way to world domination.
The Canaries endured a disappointing 2016-17 season, failing to secure promotion to the Premier League despite the best efforts of Wesley Hoolahan (magnificent as always).
Hierro? You must mean Fernando Hierro, the Real Madrid and Spain legend, who spent a season at Bolton Wanderers at the end of his career? Whose only goal for that club came against the Canaries at Carrow Road, though couldn't prevent a 3-2 Norwich victory?
Oh, those Canaries. That Hierro.
Very well then. Fuerteventura, north coast. El Hierro seems to be the name preferred by the islanders themselves; visitors are maybe more likely to call it the Bubble. Others maintain that the left is el Hierro, the right the Bubble.
Either way there's a left and a right, both worthy of your consideration. On weekends it'll probably be Sergio Ramos'd, but the astute surf tripper may find a quiet midweek opening or two.
The westernmost of the mainland spots to make the cut, Doñinos hoovers up any Atlantic swell going, along with a high percentage of surfers in the surrounding area. And speaking of suction, low-tide barrels are not out of the question.
While it may get a tad busy, 2kms’ worth of shapely, sandy-bottomed peaks disperses the crowd a little — and in any case, you’re in Galicia, where there are quiet crannies aplenty. Evans has taken several poos in the region, and rates the experience highly.
Another way of shitting decisively on God is to eschew the ocean in favour of the man-made wave pool.
Steep, sucky take-off leads to cheeky barrel leads to supremely rippable wall at Spain’s — wait, the world’s — most productive fun factory. Oh sure Kelly’s cylindrical marvel achieves a closer approximation to the standard notion of surfing perfection, but it currently suffers from an agonisingly slow metabolism, the wait between perfect waves rumoured to be as long as 10 minutes.
Not so at Wavegarden’s latest creation, the Cove, which can generate a wave every 8 seconds. The only version in existence, for now, is at WG’s top secret test centre, somewhere in the Basque Country.