Everyone knows the second the U.S. Open of Surfing ends, summer might as well be over and done with. You might get a few hot beach days out of it, but it’s time to start planning your next move. August is weird. It’s hot. And sticky. And crowded. And aside from maybe Japan and Tahiti and a few other secrets, it’s a tough, crowded and fickle time to travel. But remember, while the heat of August is definitely on, that somewhere, out there on the horizon, is the subtle puff of autumn and it’s gentle breezes and there is going to be a deafening call from France. If you get nothing more out of today, plant a preparation seed for your 2015 trip to France. Below you will read why and how and more.
For breakfast, you will be disappointed by the coffee but delighted by the Chocolate Croissants, or Chocolatines as they are known. Standard procedure is to start a day with two, and hold one in reserve for post morning shred grindz. These are easily acquired at any bakery, where at the same time you must purchase a baguette, aka Baggie also known as Bag and Pain.
The baguette is an integral asset to your stay in France. Tucked under the arm with a certain Je ne sais quoi will complete that continental look you are trying oh so hard to carry off. Left stale it can and must be used as a weapon against the hordes of grommets whom will turn up en masse to the peak. I digress. Baguettes are your go to lunch, to be consumed with cheese and ham and fois gras and pate and salad and butter and more cheese and jambon de bayonne and jamon serrano.
For dinner, or diner. This is France and you shall be spoilt for choice. The local specialties are Magret du Canard (duck) , Chipirions (squid) and Côte de boeuf (side of beef) and they are each more exquisite than the next. Princess Pizza in Hossegor seem to share the same recruitment policy as Victoria’s Secret, they exclusively employ supermodels of all descriptions. This coupled with the face the pizza’s are incroyable make it a must for any travelling surfer with a taste for fine dough and an eye for the fairer sex. Biarritz is to dine with the highest of French society and one must pay the price for it. Try Café Jean or Bar Jean. San Sebastian has the highest Michelin star ratio per captia in the world and the food is all time, nay, the best. Anywhere in the old town is usually good, but Atari by the church is your go to.
Every day. To be started at lunch and to continue as you deem fit. Compared to those countries that turned up late to western global culture (‘Merca & ‘Straya ), drinking is heavily encouraged from a young age in France. You are a guest in this beautiful country so sit back, enjoy the ride and quaff rose and beer until a gout induced coma sets in, which judging by a look around the clientele of some bars, would seem to be around 40. But, we are young! Beer is cheap and plentiful, the wine is to die for and pretty much free and Pastis and Get 27 are to be tried once and not again.
Hossegor: Café de Paris. Although the staff usually look they are about go on strike, the beer is cold and there is no better spot to watch the world pass by. Le Surfing and the Bourdaines bar are pleasant in fair weather with good eats and a fun crowd. The cave of a thousand beers, otherwise known as the ile du Malt is a key SMOL hang out, out of the back of Hossegor in the industrial estate.
Biarritz. Biarritz is Paris on Sea. Biarritz is endless legs, fluttering eyelids, and green eyes served with a side of perfect complexion. Biarritz is Blue Maseratis and Green Aston Martins. Biarritz is Casolette des Chipirions and Magret du Canard served by a waitress who is outer worldly. Biarritz is the epitome of class. The bars (especially in summer) reflect this. Pavement wine bars of the highest grade, cocktails to die for, the coldest of beers. Bars to check out are Café Jean, Bar des Halles and Le Comptoir du Foie Gras.
San Sebastian. Jump across the border, at high speeds (you have a foreign license – enjoy the privileges that brings) into the Spanish Basque country, past the towns that sound like sexually transmitted diseases ( Hondarribia ) and find yourself in the paradise that is San Sebastian. The San Sebastian oasis that last year enchanted Messrs Agius and Deane into a vortex of debauchery and good times from which they simply could not leave. Vodka Limon (a must) and Gin Tonics are served in glasses the size of your head with a garnish of fresh limon, all for about half the price of France. The beers are called cañas and they are frescas and delicious and you must consume many.
Yes. Fickle but yes. France has many variables. Tide too low, Tide too high, too much period (picture 200m long closeouts), too little period, too small, too big, sandbanks changing on a weekly basis, shit banks and the best banks but with 300 people. However find that moment where all the variables align, eternal glory awaits. Capbreton / Hossegor / Seignosee thrive on a E wind. Best swells will have a touch of N.
Seignosse: The finest of peaks. Good on swells up to 5ft. Rippable banks at all tides, apart from dead low. Summer go to. Reference select waves of Jordy in Lost Atlas.
Hossegor: Good on all sizes. Currents a bitch. Leg burning checks over sand dunes reveal fun waves on most tides. 6-to 8-foot may look inviting, but you’ll need a ski to fight the rips.
Capbreton: The iconic bunkers, a leftover from our German cousins early 1940’s compulsory camping holiday for those aged 18 to 40. Fun peaks with many tubes and ramps. Better on the higher tide when on 3-to 6-foot swells. Older locals sometimes create an atmosphere that is not in the slightest welcoming to the travelling surfer, picture downtown Mogadishu à la Black Hawk Down.
Basque Country: To be surfed on swells larger than 6ft and 14 secs.
Pretty much all the waves in Anglet are more partial to a lower tide. La Cote des basques in Biarritz is a spot for mature French gentleman riding boards over 9 ft and we aspire to be slightly more critical than that. However Grande Plage is tres rippable on low tide and right in the middle of town, by the casino. It is here and only here where you get out of the water and are in the center of town, brushing shoulders with the upper echelons of European society, notably Prada clad cougars. There is no more civilized place to surf. Further down there are points and then the Spanish basque country where there are waves everywhere that enjoy a south wind which are prevalent in autumn and winter.
The French don’t do ( good / acceptable ) coffee. Café is the nearest translation, but this would equate to a bitter, dark, lukewarm and somewhat sour affair. A demand to your serveur for a Latte / Cappuccino / Americano / flat white will most likely be met with a gallic shrug, a raised eyebrow and you shall be given an expresso with cold milk. Bail. If you simply must get your caffine fix post San Seb binge, pre Capbreton shred then ask for a noisette, A hazelnut expresso affair with a touch of milk. A Cigarette must of course accompany this. Smoking is far more important than Coffee in France. To be in France and young smoking is a must. Lose those inhibitions. But quit immediately when you cross the back over the border.
All Night. San Sebastian. Arrive at earliest 3 am and no earlier, unless exchanging awkward glances across the D-floor with the bar staff is your idea of a good night out. Spain starts late. Stay in a pension in the old town yet book for the night after your misdemeanors as you will most likely be raging through cobbled streets until check out time in the morning. The Club for you is called Bataplan and there are no rules.
Take the A64 autoroute south, stop at Biarritz airport and fly to London and Paris. For there, there are many and here there are none.
Speaking French is key, even though most will speak English. A few well placed lines en français will up the odds astronomically of leaving with your new found Cherie.
During the day, the beach. With strategic forward planning, your beach set up for a day by the peak should be being flanked by the prettiest of girls from all corners of Europe. Les Culs Nuls beach, which is largely nudist, should and must be your first port of call.
Under the veil of moonlight, Biarritz twinkles and the girls are beyond comprehension. If you finish your night in a suite in the imposing Hôtel du Palais (originally built by Napoleon for his wife) with one of the local brunettes, enjoy it, for life does not get any better.
Fly to London, befriend someone who has an address there, buy a van and this corner of the world could just be a small part of a full blown euro and North Africa road trip from the frigid waters of Norway or Scotland down to the minty gel of the Western Sahara. That’s winning.
Select French and Spanish border towns. If you black out from a night out in San Seb and wake up here then your European jaunt has gone badly wrong and you must a) Review life and b) Sail as fast as the wind will take you back to the safer waters of Biarritz and San Sebastian.
Lifeguards. No Shit. French lifeguards actually part of the police. Hitting the end section ramp in the swimming zone will result in three oversized and most probably highly sexually frustrated lifeguards wrestling your board off you, then demand a $50 fine to get it back. Avoid.
Forest Tracks en auto. Though they look deceivingly passable with your whip, always park and walk. There is an indigenous tribe north of Hossegor who survive on kicking the fuck into rental cars and cars with foreign plates parked under pines on soft sand. They leave kind handwritten notes in wax politely inviting travelling surfers to “Fuck off.” Mr. Reynolds will testify, his car having been beaten to fuckshit by the locaux once upon a time.
Written By Alexei Obolensky