It’s the consistency of Galicia surfing that makes it so awesome, along with thinned crowds and remote beaches. Downsides include blown out days, but catch it right and it’s wonderful.
Galicia surfing at a glance
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- Really wide swell window – AKA all year
- Beaches that face all directions
- This is a really beautiful part of Spain
- The spots don’t hold much swell
- You’ll need a car
- Cold water
What’s in this guide to Galicia surfing?
- An introduction to Galicia surfing
- Where is Galicia, exactly?
- The best surf spots in Galicia
- Surf hotels in Galicia
- When to surf in Galicia?
- Surf shops in Galicia
- Things to do in Galicia
- How to get to Galicia
An introduction to Galicia surfing
Galicia isn’t really like anywhere else in Spain. That’s true of the geography – lush and green. It’s true of the language – it’s more like Celtic Welsh in these parts (:/). And, it’s true of the surfing. This is one of the few parts of the country that faces truly west out towards the Atlantic. It’s got a coastline on the Bay of Biscay, and more shore running north from the Portuguese border. If you’re thinking that means loads of swell-exposed coastline, you’d be thinking right.
In fact, the greatest thing about Galicia is the sheer range of bays and beaches. They move north and then go west in a really higgledy-piggledy manner. It’s rare to find two in a row that face the same angle, and that means you can go searching for the spots that are picking up domination swells and nice offshores, provided you know where to look!
Sadly, the downside of Galicia’s main spots is that they are predominantly exposed beach breaks. That’s great news in spring, autumn and summer, when Atlantic swells are tamer. It’s not so good when direct W and NW swells come in during wintertime. There’s little reef to add shape to the sets and they’ll often be closeouts and blowouts. That said, crowds are nothing here, even compared to the relatively sparse beaches of northern Portugal. It’s territory for the adventure surfers who love to wake and paddle out early, totally alone.
Where is Galicia?
Galicia is the far north-western portion of Spain. It’s a whole province, with one foot in the Atlantic Ocean and the other in the Bay of Biscay. To the south, you’ll cross straight over into Portugal, where there’s plenty more surfing. To the east, you’ll find yourself in the region of Asturias, another of the best surf regions in Spain.
A guide to the Galicia surfing spots
Galicia has lots of surf spots. You can roughly divide them into the ones on the west coast and the ones on the north coast. The former tend to be bigger and generally better in the summer months, because they magnetize that cross-Atlantic swell and offer up any little thing going. The north beaches are more protected but offer a similar consistency to the neighbouring region of Asturias, which is okay but not great. That said, there are some there that bend westwards to act more like a west coast break – Pantin is a case in point.
Surf spots in northern Galicia
Reinante surf is close to the westernmost of the Asturias spots. It’s not west-facing, so less consistent than other options on this list. Still, when it gets a northerly or a wrap-around swell, the beach here kicks up lovely lefts. They can be barrely or steep with a crumbly top. The tide causes the main changes. Gets busy with sunbathers in June, July and August.
San Cosme is one of the more consistent options on the north coast. It’s sheltered from the west by the bulge of northern Galicia, so will need some good strong W or NW swells to get pumping. It’s a beach break with a few separate peaks. Works well on a nice chest-high swell when it’s rippable on a shortboard.
Don’t rely on the rivermouth break at Foz. It’s not a consistent wave and really fickle, because it needs pretty punchy W wrap-around swells to get going. Perfect at 6-8 foot and then it’s a hollow and very fast tube off the estuary that goes left. Some rights down the beach but the whole place is pretty shallow, so better for intermediates and experts.
Playa de Esteiro
Playa de Esteiro is really the first beach that faces westwards as you swing around the Galician coast on your way out of Asturias. That gives it the benefit of good exposure to the Atlantic and all-round more reliable surf. Try to come when the tide is low. That’s when the beach retreats and the sandbanks form nice long lefts on mid swell sizes. The setting is lovely, with evergreen forests rolling across the nearby dunes. Not often terribly busy.
Praia Sarridal is a perfectly arched bay between two high mountains that also faces north-west at the end of its own peninsula. A few dashes of offshore reefs can help add some nice shape to th waves when they’re on 5-7 foot. It won’t hold more than that but it reminds us a little of Arrifana when working. Spring and Autumn are best because NW swells are killer in midwinter. Beware of rocks.
Unquestionably the most famous of all the Galicia surfing beaches is Pantin. It’s got a near-perfect NW orientation that means virtually any spring, autumn and winter swell runs straight into the bay. They’ll pick up power as they’re funneled into the middle of the bay, so 5-6 foot is often enough to offer barrels at some of the peaks. The wave quality is generally pretty fantastic. A-frame peaks offer right and left rides, with the bulk of the line up clustering near the head at the north end. Gets busy but is actually pretty chilled, especially for Spain where localism is quite rife.
San Xorxe beach is surely one of the prettiest Galicia surfing beaches. It’s got an air of Fuerteventura about it as it unfolds in a scythe of white-tinged powder from south to north. The water quality is some of the best in Spain, because there are no rivermouths to interfere with the N-S currents. Waves are mellow and best at chest high swells, so decent for beginners. Lefts are the nicest ride, mainly thanks to shelter from the top headland.
The 1.5-mile run of sand at Doniños is a favourite with the surfers of Ferrol. That means it’s quite busy, but there’s also room to spread out. Before a run of wild dunes and a rugged headland, the beach offers multiple peaks. They’re quite reliable and form as wedgy A-frames with better lefts more common that quality rights. Surf it at low or mid tide on the push to get the best rides.
Praia de Razo
Long enough to handle all the crowds that nearby A Coruna can throw at it, Praia de Razo is a great place to check out classic north Galician swells. At its best, it’s fast and rippable, with peeling lefts and rights that can carry you right down the far end of the bay from the take off. Some days are crumbly and we don’t really know why, but all still fun. One thing will ruin Praia de Razo, though: A N wind.
Surf spots in western Galicia
There are peaks all up and down this remote beach, but it’s really the left that runs off the Lires River that you’ll come for. It gets working on any SW-NW swell direction and holds nicely up to 8 foot. Winds from the west can ruin it but look for a NE direction and you’ll nail a good day. You also might be the only person out there!
Carnota is the Galician beach that really shows its teeth when the swells get going in the autumn. Set below the craggy and downright stunning Cabo Fisterra peninsular, it’s a seriously remote bay with a head-on collision with westerly swells. Expect strong and powerful swells that wedge up to offer fast rides into a shoulder that’s sometimes rippable and very dumpy. Better for pros, intermediates okay. Rips are an issue and onshore winds are hell.
The slight SW orientation of Louro means that it’s a tad sheltered from that NW winter oncoming and gets good southerly swells on the rare occasional they go. That all adds to the consistency and means ridebale days are pretty common. You will have to make a hefty drive to reach the spot, because it’s out on its own headland about two thirds of the way from A Coruna to Vigo. Waves are nice at chest or head height but can close out at the center of the bay.
Hidden little Furnas is a gem of a spot with powerful beach breaks that hit a really nice sweet spot an hour or so either side of low tide. They’re sucky and there are strong rips, but you’ll often be surfing alone in the remote spot. Also known as Rio Sera, it’s a great option for anyone on a Galicia surfing holiday with their own van and boards.
Playa de la Lanzada
Just outside of the surf town of Sanxenxo is the ever-popular beach break at Playa de la Lanzada. We’d say it’s arguably the best beginner spot on the line up of the Galicia surfing scene. Works on all tides to give lots of mushy breaks towards the center of the bay. Watch out for the fast and challenging left-hand reef point that’s there. It’s a cracker but is a localism nightmare for some reason. Our advice? Don’t bother if you’re concerned – there are better breaks in the region anyhow.
A lovely beach framed by Galicia’s green mountains and the islands just off the coast, Patos offers a duo of breaks. The first is a pretty mellow beach break which is a fantastic for beginners in the summer and very nice for intermediates on the turn in the spring, autumn and winter. It’s sand bottomed and goes both left and right but is prone to a closeout on high days. The other part of the beach has a rock reef underfoot but balances that risk with some nice, sometimes hollow peelers that are fast.
Essential gear for surf trips to Spain
- [SUMMER – April to September] C-Skins Session 3/2 | Again, we’ve focused on the flex when it comes to choosing the right summer suit for Spain. That’s mainly because thermo features can take a back seat when the mercury cranks up here. You’ll need arm coverage to counter the winds, but then you can afford to add features like the Freedom Zip and Xtend 2 neoprene that C-Skins do so well. All very eco-friendly too, which is nice.
- [WINTER – October to March] Rip Curl E-Bomb E7 4/3mm | The Rip Curl E-Bomb benefits from uber-stretchy E7 neoprene. Boys in the office won’t stop going on about how it’s like surfing in a rash vest. That’s a nice touch on the waves of Basque and Cantabria, which often need a lot of repositioning. The 4/3 should carry you right through the Spanish winter months. A cracking wetsuit.
- [SUMMER – April to September] Billabong 302 Synergy 3/2mm Chest Zip Wetsuit (2021) – Blue Seas | The latest Synergy from Billabong has really impressed the European team at The Surf Atlas. The interior has a fleece lining that keeps super toasty but the neoprene is lighter than usual to give you more freedom on those longer sessions. It’s a solid go-to suit for all levels heading to Spain if you ask us. How bout’ that colour too!?
- [WINTER – October to March] C-Skins 4/3mm Surflite Wetsuit | A 4/3 should see you through all but the coldest days on the Spanish coast. We love this C-Skins model because there’s been a big focus to cut down seams, while the Xtend neoprene offers an extra touch of flex, which is important on the Basque and Asturian breaks where paddling and positioning is key.
SUNSCREEN: Suntribe All Natural Zinc Sunscreen | Do not even think about surfing in Spain without sunscreen. This is one of Europe’s most UV-rich corners. Great for the tan, but surfers shouldn’t risk it. Our block of choice is now the Suntribe because it’s got that all-importnat zinc infusion but is 100% natural and ocean safe.
WATER BOTTLE: 18 Oz Hydro Flask | Now our water flask of choice, the Hydro range does better at keeping our aqua warm than any other brand we’ve tried. Also, all the other surfers are using em!
WAX: Quick Humps Mr Zogs Sex Wax Basecoat and Cool Water Topcoat Surfboard Wax | Re-wax before you get to Spain with this combo pack of tropical (for the base) and cool-water wax (for the top coat). It covers everywhere in Spain.
Where to stay when surfing in Galicia
So, you’re set on hitting the Galician surfing spots listed above? We can hardly blame ya’. Before you book, we’ve got a few favourite lodges that are pretty great for getting close to the beaches. That’s particularly helpful in this region, where you could find most of the stays are in the regional cities of Vigo or A Coruna.
Esteiro Surf Lodge ($$-$$$)
You cannot beat the Esteiro Surf Lodge for a Galicia surfing holiday with your family or group of mates. It’s right by the sands – like a walk to the breaks! You can surf everyday and enjoy total seclusion out on the lovely north-west coast. The pad is a traditional Galician casita, with whitewashed walls, a beach-view terrace, and a bright and breezy interior with a full kitchen. It’s awesome.
Noa Boutique Hotel ($$$)
Best for: Luxury after the waves
Want to be pampered? Treat yourself to this stunning boutique hotel. It’s between A Coruna and Ferrol, so you’ll be able to get to all the breaks to the west and on the north shore in just a few hours (car required). That’s if you can pull yourself away from the bubbling outdoor Jacuzzi baths and the infinity pool, or the minimalist suites with their glass-walled bathrooms.
Boaola Surf House ($)
Best for: Budget
Boaola Surf House is perfectly located for access to the consistent beach breaks that run west from A Coruna. It’s a simple but charming place with contemporary design. Shouldn’t break the bank but also offers proximity to the waves and an on-site gym.
When to surf in Galicia
Galicia experiences similar seasons to northern Portugal, but also takes the colder waters of the Bay of Biscay. That said, having two coastlines here counts for plenty. Swell windows are opening to include NW and SW and everything in between. It’s only really the summer that can be small. Sadly, the chilly movement of water from up in the North Atlantic means a 4/3 is usually required in these parts, no matter the season.
Summer is the tamest season on the Galician waves. The NW swell channel all but shuts down when the Gulf Stream kicks in with warmer weather. You get some nice N-S currents that can bring occasional wrap-arounds in the bays of western Galicia, but they’re never overhead and wild. For the most part, it’s sporadic surf days and plenty for total beginners. Also, great weather!
- Wear: 4/3
Prepare to be crunched in the winter. The most exposed breaks, like Praia Carnota are pretty mental at this time of year. With NW swells churning up the Atlantic carried over by the Canarian Channel, you can set the overheads and closeouts like clockwork. It’s still great for Galicia surfing trips, but we’d recommend paying closer attention to more sheltered spots – like Louro in the west, for example, and San Cosme in the north.
- Wear: 4/3 or 5/4 – booties and gloves too
Autumn is a fantastic time to plan your Galicia surfing trip. The waves pick up and groundswell days really increase in frequency. We noticed a distinct upping in the period times, so there’s more punch to those western beach breaks, and more power to get the northern coast firing. Crowds also drop off considerably, and you can still catch the tail end of those warm-season NE offshores.
- Wear: 4/3
The lighter, brighter days of spring on the Galician surf beaches means slightly mellower conditions. Thanks to the wide swell window of over 180 degrees, there’s plenty to pick up in the channels to the north and across the Atlantic more directly. The west is working, the north is working; the quality is sporadic but the crowds are small. We’d say April is for intermediates and up, but late May is fine for all levels.
- Wear: 4/3 and maybe a hood and booties
Be sure to check out our gear guides:
- 10 Best Surf Sunscreen Choices for 2021 – Keep the skin healthy and the ocean happy.
- 5 of The Best Surf Hats for 2021 – Surf hats that’ll keep the sun off.
- The Ultimate Guide to Eco Friendly Wetsuits [2021 Edition] – Consider the ocean when you buy.
- The Best Surf Booties for Men in 2021 – Protect yo’ feet. Keep the toes warm.
- 10 of The Best Gifts for Surfers – Gift ideas for surfers in 2021.
Surf shops in Galicia
Galicia surfing is still very much off the beaten path stuff. That’s why you don’t find as many surf stores here as you do in neighbouring Asturias or down in Porto region of Portugal over the border. Our advice? If you’re not looking to patronise a local shaper and spend a packet of euros, bring your own gear.
SPOT SURF SHOP
Look for SPOT SURF SHOP in the de facto capital of Galicia surfing – Ferrol. It’s a fantastic little local outlet with stock of MSC boards, Billabong wetsuits and all sorts of surf fashion.
A super-cool shop a little inland from the coast, CORE SURFING is a boutique shop with its own lineup of shaped boards. There’s also some cool threads on offer from major brands like Carhart, and a range of footwear. It’s a new place so expect swish things.
What to do when you’re not surfing in Galicia
Galicia is gorgeous. However, it remains one of the lesser-known regions of Spain. With UNESCO pilgrimage sites with thousands of years of history and grand coastlines up its sleeve, we really can’t think why…
Praia das Catedrais
Praia das Catedrais is arguably one of the most breathtaking and dramatic beaches in the world. Carved from rough rocks, it drops into the lashing Atlantic with a series of huge stone arches. They’re amazing to look at and the reason for the name: The Beach of the Cathedrals.
Santiago de Compostela
Santiago de Compostela is legendary throughout the world as the end of the Comino pilgrimage route. It’s been an important religious site since the Middle Ages and now has a UNESCO tag for its great cathedral and stunning Old Town. We really don’t think you can miss this one on any trip to Galicia!
How to get to Galicia
- Fly: Santiago de Compostela has the main airport in Galicia. Direct links and some low-cost links to other major European hubs are available. The airport’s official name is Lavacolla. The trip to the nearest surf beach on the west coast is a little under an hour.
- Drive: You can drive to Galicia from anywhere in Spain or Portugal. The A55 and AP-9 roads join it to Portugal over the border, where it’s about an hour to Porto. The E-70 links the coast of Spain in the north, which will be your route in from the surf beaches of Asturias and Cantabria. The A52 goes down to Valladolid and then Madrid, which is about five hours away from A Coruna.
This is just one part of our full guide to surfing in Spain