Surf: 3.5/5 = Above Average
Price: 1/5 = Expensive!
Party: 4/5 = Great bars and crazy people.
Localism: 3/5 = They’re pretty friendly, especially if you speak French. (Go Quebec!)
Thieves: 2/5 = Pick pockets and car break-ins are common.
Time Frame: August 2008
I flew into Paris from Munich, Germany to meet up with my brother and girlfriend, who flew in from Calgary and Hamburg, respectively.
We got our hands on a diesel rental car – first bit of advice: always rent a diesel, more bang for your buck, especially in Europe where everything is expensive (e.g. gasoline was $2.10 CDN per liter). Diesel is about 0.25 cents per liter cheaper and you get more mileage from it.
We all piled into this dinky car and headed to the Bordeaux area where we were hooked-up with a castle from the 1800’s to stay in for a week for free (special thanks to Paul R. for this one).
With the castle as our home base, we checked the surf reports, made the most out of our time and headed to Biarritz the next day.
We arrived in Biarritz mid-morning and got a quick feel for the town and made our way down through their narrow cobblestone streets until we could see the surf.
Getting a parking spot was a totally different matter. You either had to have 4×4 to park on the sand, where the only free spots were left, or you had to be there bright and early to find an actual spot on the paved parking lot.
After circling around a half dozen times we decided to use the only advantage of the refrigerator-sized car we had and parked in the middle of a roundabout. My brother and I headed for the top of a sand dune so we could get a good view of all the breaks along Hossegor.
After seeing waist- to chest-high sets coming in, we were not all that impressed until we actually looked at the beach itself and realized that the majority of French girls forgot to wear their bikini tops to the beach. Needless to say this made up for the smaller than expected surf.
We decided to relax on the beach for the better part of the morning, and then we headed to an Internet café to see if the surf was going to improve. It was! By tomorrow it was suppose to increase in size from four to 6.5 feet, slightly change direction with offshore winds.
Direction is critical if you plan to surf in France. I’m not going to tell you what direction works best as it would take the fun out of it for you, but keep in mind that Spain extends well out into the Atlantic in the south and there is a chain of islands (known as the U.K.) to the north. Do your homework and keep this in mind.
We drove back that night to crash in our castle and wonder what in the hell does a person do for a living in order to own a castle for a summer home?!
We woke up around 5 a.m. and drove back to Hossegor to check the surf. It was shoulder-high at best but a lot cleaner, so we got our hands on some boards and surfed the rest of the day.
After a week of steady-improving surf, drinking countless amounts of cheap beer, gin, rum and some disgusting customary drink imported from southern Germany, it was time to head south! I’ll save this story for another post in my “Pist n’ Broke” travel series, so stay tuned!
If you do plan on doing a surf trip to France here’s what you can expect and a few more detailed tips:
- Expensive: With an exchange rate of 1 Euro equaling 1.49 CDN, even chocolate bars are expensive.
- Rent a car for a week for about $350. Split between three or more, it’s well worth the cash. If you’re solo, take the bus, it’ll be way cheaper and they let you take boards on the bus no problem and no extra charge. If they try to charge you, ask to see proof that it’s required (preferably in French!).
- A place to sleep can get expensive fast. A dorm in a hostel will be about $25 per night whereas a hotel room for four people is about $140 and up. Or if there are only two of you and you want to save cash, you can just rent an SUV and sleep in it on your board bags.
What you MUST bring:
- Board: Unlike Mexico or Costa Rica, boards are more expensive to rent in France than in Canada. Hard to believe, I know!
- If you go in the winter months, when the surf is better (December-March), pack a 4/3 suit, as the water can get rather cold.
- You’re not allowed to camp on the beaches in Europe, but there are plenty of campgrounds, which are safer, cleaner and usually close to the beach. You can go this route if you want to save money, but be aware that your stuff still may walk away on its own if you’re not careful.
- The golden rule as what not to bring: Anything that you actually like or value as it will probably be the first thing to be stolen.