The Ultimate Guide to Surfing in Spain

by Surf Atlas

Surfing in Spain makes the most of the country’s coastline on the wild Atlantic Ocean. But there are also breaks to be had on the Med in the home of flamenco and tapas.

Surfing in Spain

Surfing in Spain at a glance

The good:

  • Such variety – barrels, beach breaks, A-frames!
  • Good protection from onshore winds on the Bay of Biscay
  • Mega fun surf towns like San Sebastian

The bad:

  • Flat summers
  • Localism
  • Busy line-ups in some places (San Sebastian especially)

What will I find in this guide to surfing in Spain

An introduction to surfing in Spain

Arrrrrrriiibbbba. Welcome to Spain, the land of twisting flamenco dancers, tomato-throwing villagers, and some of the most epic surf in Europe. Despite being better known for its gold-sanded holiday beaches on the Med, this great chunk of Iberia also comes with a whopping 4,000km of coastline, and lots of it on the same Bay of Biscay that fires up world-class La Graviere in France.

Something is simply amiss if it isn’t owed a place among the surf giants of Europe. The mainstay locations begin under the gaze of the Pyrenees mountains, where San Sebastian has the crowded peaks of beginner-fav Zurriola. From there, you’ve got endless rivermouths, beaches and point breaks to contend with as you run along the Atlantic. We’re talking Spain’s surf country par excellence: Asturias, the Pais Vasco, Galicia.

Generally speaking, you get a bit more shelter around these Spanish hotspots than on the exposed French west coast. However, variety is very much the keyword. A tapas menu of breaks unfolds, ranging from slabby estuary breaks for pros to barrelling beach breaks. Highlights include the Mundaka tube and fast lefts at Rodiles, nalong with uncrowded Razo for beginners and intermediates. Add in a few surf spots on the Spanish Med and around Cadiz by the Portuguese border and you get just a glimpse of the possibilities.

We might use affiliate links in this post. Basically, you click em’ and we get a little something from your booking or purchase. They help us keep offering more and more in-depth surf guides to awesome places all around the globe. So, thanks for that!

This is part of our larger guide to European surf. Check that out for info on way more surf destinations across the continent, from France to Portugal and beyond.

The top surf regions in Spain

Most of the regions with great Spanish surf are to be found on the north and the west coasts of the country. The reason? They get swells of the Atlantic Ocean and don’t rely on the fickle currents or winter storm systems of the Med. They’re basically the only places you need to know about if you’re serious about a surfing trip to Spain!

Asturias

Asturias

Centred on the salt-washed maritime city of Gijón, this largely untouched region of northern Spain has waves coming out of its proverbial ears. Yep, the Asturias surf includes some of the most iconic breaks in the country. They include the left at the mouth of the river in Playa de Rodiles – fast and hollow – and the open, exposed beachies of Xago – usually busy but very reliable.

Check out our complete guide to Asturias surfing right now!

Galicia

Galicia

Lush and green, Galicia is tucked into the very north-western edge of Spain. Fiercely independent, the place takes a lot from its near Portuguese neighbour, albeit with a bit of ruggedness thrown in for good measure. Spots like Patos sum it up, what with their shapely reef breaks that can get hollow when it gets high. Little port city Ferrol is a surf hub for the area. It’s got one foot on the waves of Razo good when it’s five foot plus and another on the mellow beach breaks of Sabon. Extra pluses: Small crowds and gorgeous scenery.

Check out our ultimate guide to Galicia surf today

Pais Vasco

Pais Vasco

You probably know the Pais Vasco as the Basque Country. It’s the land that bridges the gap between northern parts of Spain and the French coast, which begins with the small surf town of Hendaye. The region is a stunner, and it’s a corker for surfers. Yes, it’s getting busier year on year and you’ll rarely be alone on beaches like Zurriola in San Sebastian. However, you get the bonus of buzzy surf hostels in amazing cities, along with legendary breaks like Mundaka. Swells are better September-March.

We’ve got a complete guide to the surfing in Pais Vasco

Cantabria

Cantabria

Cantabria is a seriously spectacular corner of Spain. The region runs from the edges of Bilbao to the mighty spires of the Picos de Europa (prepare to gasp at those!). It’s coastline faces north-east and then north-west, which means it picks up a variety of swell directions and can even work on those key summer westerlies past Santander. What’s more, the cliffs drop away a little here. That leaving the Cantabrian coast more exposed but also lined with soft-sanded beach breaks like Playa de Berria.

Tempted? Check out our full guide to the surf in Cantabria

Canary Islands

Canaries

We think the Canaries are such an awesome surf mecca and so different to mainland Spain that we’ve given them their very own guide. Head there to read all about the raw and rugged landscapes of Lanzarote – the so-called Hawaii of Europe – and check out the array of breaks that dots the southern and northern shores of Tenerife.

Head over to our guide to surfing the Canary Islands right now

The top surf spots in Spain

Spain has more surf spots up its sleeve than you can poke a plate of paella at. From chilled beginner spots where sheltered breaks roll into the Basque Country to gnarly rivermouth barrels that are hailed as some of the finest lefts on planet Earth, the country has oodles…

San Sebastian

San Sebastian waves from above

San Sebastian surf is super fun. There’s no two ways about it. Funnily enough, we don’t think that’s actually down to the quality of the waves. It’s mainly about the vibe. The city has taken on the mantle of Spain’s surf capital and it’s got some seriously fantastic surf camps and surf schools to show for it! The focal point is La Zurriola, a pretty easy beach break with crumbly lefts and rights. You can also hit the point at Ondarreta for something more challenging.

Read our full guide to surfing in San Sebastian right now

Santander

Santander

Santander surf really revolves around the beach break at El Sardinero. Fantastic for groms and starters in the more chilled summer months, it’s well protected by dominant W Bay of Biscay swells thanks to a north-easterly orientation. More advanced surfers should be certain to cross the bay over to Somo. That’s got loads of spots and some beautifully green scenery stretching along the Cantabrian coast.

Check out our full guide to surfing in the city of Santander

Salinas

Salinas

Salinas town caps off a beach known as Playa El Espartal. It’s a smooth arc of golden sand that comes off a large harbour at its north-eastern end. Sadly, there’s a bit of industrail sprawl here, so the setting isn’t quite as nice as other places in Asturias. Still, consistency is king and Salinas has bags of it. Expect wedgy, powerful beach with potential for hollow waves on bigger days. Be over respectful in the line up – annoying, but the locals can be pretty grouchy.

See our guide to surfing in Salinas right now

San Vicente de la Barquera

San Vicente de la Barquera

San Vicente de la Barquera is a charming fishing town huddled under the gaze of the spectacular Picos de Europa. It’s got a nice stretch of rocky Spanish coast on its doorstep, so expect a few secret points in the area. You’ll need to ask at the local surf schools (of which there are plenty) about those. The break everyone talks about is Playa de Oyambre, a beginner-friendly sand bottom with reliable surf off a very pretty rivermouth just to the east of town.

Get to know all there is to know about San Vicente de la Barquera surf

Mundaka

Mundaka

All hail Mundaka! Yep, near-mythic status is afforded to this Basque Country favourite. It’s been on the surfing in Spain map for more than four decades and is now widely regarded as the home of the best rivermouth break in Europe – some say the world. We’re not fans of the growing lineup, which can sometimes be localism on tap, but the wave can’t be faulted. It’s framed by a submerged sandbank that protects the rivermouth to give glassy tubes with peeling barrel that can hit 200 metres or more across the bay.

Learn more about the awesome surfing in Mundaka

Cadiz

Cadiz

Cadiz surf takes us to the exposed south coast of Spain, where the country leaves behind the Gibraltar Strait and the Med to embrace the Atlantic. Down here, you get similar swell directions as the Algarve in Portugal. Most will start on El Palmar beach. However, local surf camps can organise trips to all the more secret spots that get working in the winter months.

Check out our full guide to the surf in Cadiz

Barcelona

Barcelona

So, you want to hit the waves while you’re exploring Barca? Okay. Just don’t expect Bali. The town is famously sat on the calm and cool Med, so there’s nothing overhead here. However, stronger winter swells can offer some decent beach breaks on Barceloneta – the town’s main and most vibrant sand stretch. On top of that, there are spots like Killers and Tyson, which go A-frame at their best or give frothy lefts off the city’s harbour walls.

Read all about surfing in Barcelona

When to surf in Spain

Spain is famously blessed with oodles of sun every year. Most of the postcards you’ll see from family holidaymakers will probably be of the Med in the south, which is where resorts like Benidorm roll down to umbrella-packed beaches. Simply put, that’s not surf territory. Much better are the north shores and the western Atlantic, which do see considerable changes in wave quality depending on the seasons…

Summer (June-August)

Summer can be pretty still on the Spanish coast. That’s even true on the Bay of Biscay and along the Cadiz shore, which both have good exposure to the Atlantic. Still, this is the Atlantic, so you will have surfable days thrown in the mix. When they do come, swells rarely peak overhead. That’s why summer is considered prime time for total beginners. Whitewash is on offer all along the Basque Country, and the exposed side of Galicia offers probably the most punch of all.

  • Wear: 2mm wetsuit

Winter (December-Feb)

Winter is considered the peak season for surfing in Spain. The Atlantic is working overtime on the storm front. The result is a steady stream of storm swells and groundswells moving NW-W over the Bay of Biscay. Sheltered places like Mundaka really come into their own, being able to cut down triple overheads into neat barrels. Wind protection is key for some spots because there will be days when more exposed breaks are completely blown out. Meanwhile, the slim pickings in the south of Spain hit a zenith, with Cadiz and even the Med starting to pump.

  • Wear: Boots, gloves, hood and 4/3

Autumn (September-Nov)

We love a Spain surf trip in Autumn. From around late September, you can start to rely more and more on the westerly Atlantic groundswells. Some move through to Hossegor and France, but there’s also a current that rubs along the coast of Galicia, Asturias, Cantabria and the Basque Country. Things should get steadily bigger the closer to Christmas you go, so early autumn is fantastic for learners, while November means some nice barrels coming for the intermediates.

  • Wear: 3/2 or 4/3, depending on when you go

Spring (March-May)

Crowds are still low on the Spanish beaches, which means line ups shouldn’t be too busy. What’s more, this season is all about transition. Come in March and you could find strong, cold swells running into the points of Cantabria and the city beaches of San Sebastian. Turn up in May and you might find flat day after flat day, although there are generally good stats for surfable days well into early June. Spring is also warmer than winter by a long shot – Spain heats up quick.

  • Wear: 3/2 or 4/3

Spain travel guide

Madrid

Where is Spain?

Seriously? Okay. Spain is at the very middle of the Iberian Peninsula. It’s a massive cut-out of Western Europe, bordering France to the north-east and Portugal to the south-west. Immediately to the north is the Bay of Biscay (one of the great epicentres of Spanish surf). To the south is the lovely Mediterranean Sea, where most of the holidaymakers go!

Climate in Spain

Some parts of Spain see over 320 days of Sunshine every year. That’s awesome for topping up the tan, and one of the reasons that spots like the Costa del Sol are now crazy popular holiday destinations. But it’s not all endless sun. This country is extremely mountainous. From the Picos de Europa (look for them over the surf breaks of Asturias and Cantabria) to the Sierra Nevada, there are snowy summits, some even with ski fields. Just be sure to pack a jacket and a jumper if you do come chasing the prime surf of November and December.

Amazing places to see when you aren’t surfing in Spain

You shouldn’t get bored planning that adventure in Spain. When the surf isn’t pumping there’s loads and loads to get stuck into…

Barcelona

Barcelona is a fascinating city. The UNESCO Sagrada Familia dominates the downtown with its frantic architecture. However, you’ve also got shimmering beaches and the enthralling Gothic Quarter (it’s like something out of Game of Thrones!)

Madrid

A party mecca and a city steeped in amazing history, Madrid is one of Europe’s bucket-list capitals. Come to gawp at the palaces of the Age of Exploration kings and queens before dancing the night away with far too much sangria.

Sierra Nevada

Spain’s mountains are simply stunning. But we reckon there are none more amazing than the Sierra Nevada that loom above Granada. We especially love that they have a rare ski field – yep, skiing in Spain!

Quick facts

  • Population: 46.9 million
  • Capital: Madrid
  • Currency: Euro (€)

We might use affiliate links in this post. Basically, you click em’ and we get a little something from your booking or purchase. They help us keep offering more and more in-depth surf guides to awesome places all around the globe. So, thanks for that!

This guide to surfing in Spain is just one part of our full guide to European surf