One of surfing’s biggest appeals for me is the fact that it’s a relatively simple pursuit. At its core it’s just you, your surfboard and the ocean. No price of admission, no need for a licence and no limits to how long you can stay out for.
Of course, it becomes more complicated when we factor in the myriad of ever changing conditions to consider, differences in wetsuit technology and transport to and from the beach. But my favourite places to surf are always those that allow you to catch and ride waves with little to no frills. Southwest France is one of these places. More specifically though, southwest France during that magical time of the year when seasons collide in September.
The water is still warm enough that you can get away without wearing any neoprene. The heat of the sun can be felt on your skin but you’re never in danger of being fried. Dormant banks come to life as more and more powerful swells arrive, showing flashes of what’s to come in winter.
For the travelling surfer there are plenty of waterborne and earthly delights to sample, such as the smell of croissants as you sprint down the beach for a dawnie or the fact that everywhere is within cycling distance. But we’ll start with the many beaches in and around Hossegor, Capbreton and Seignosse.
La Graviere seems to get better with every new pulse. Soon enough this sleeping giant will be punishing many and rewarding a select few with stand tall kegs that detonate only metres from the shore. And while you wait patiently, hoping to be one of these few, you can fine tune your skills at Plage des Estagnots, Les Culs Nuls and Santocha. Each of which offer gentler, much more manageable rides for the everyman or everywoman surfer.
Then when you’re sick of jostling for waves or you’ve racked up an admirable tally and can paddle no more, you can rinse off, dry off and take off in search of a post-shred feed. French bakeries are a famously good option, with warm flan, freshly made baguettes and decadent pastries that are guaranteed to fill you to the gills. But there’s also places such as Le Surfing, Chez Minus (for clams by the bucket) and Makai Beach Food & Bar when it comes to sit-down options.
Need to knock over some work before a late arvo dip and rip? You’ve got Wojo Spot at Jo&Joe Hossegor or Capworking in Capbreton. If excellent coffee is high on your list of priorities when it comes to finding the perfect office-away-from-home, you could also try café Volt. Located in The Zone – an area rife with food trucks plus outlet stores and surfboard manufacturers looking to hock their wares at discounted prices – it’s the go-to spot for digital nomads in the know.
For accommodation you can’t go past Southwest Surf House in Seignosse. It’s spacious, well-stocked with boards, wetsuits and bikes and defined by a kind of vibe that makes you feel like you’re hanging at a mate’s beach house. Easy to love, hard to replicate, it’s a lively joint in a serene residential setting. The healthy all you can eat breakfasts and dinners, which are prepared fresh daily by a professional chef, only enhance what’s already an epic little spot.
It nearly goes without saying that Hossegor and the surrounding areas tick a lot of boxes for a lot of people. And even though the WSL will no longer be holding any major surf events there, surfing and by default surf culture will never die in this part of the world. Do yourself a favour and start planning your French surf trip itinerary for next year. And remember that even if the waves let you down, the bakeries will never break your heart.