The seaside town of Soorts-Hossegor in southwestern France is a world-renowned surfing mecca on La Côte d’Argent, the longest uninterrupted stretch of sandy beach in Europe. Surfing is the main attraction for visitors and locals alike, but anyone can make the most of the area’s active lifestyle and stunning landscapes. Friend of i-escape Lily Plume shares her top tips for the area.
Where to surf
Due to constantly shifting sandbars and large tidal ranges, the beach breaks around Hossegor can go from tricky mush to perfect peaks within the space of an hour. A tide chart is therefore essential for any surfer, and getting advice from the locals can make or break a session.
Beginners should head to Les Bourdaines or Les Estagnots for easy-access waves and plenty of surf-hire places, or La Sud (at low to mid tide), further south towards Capbreton. More experienced surfers looking for bigger waves could check out La Nord or even the legendary board-snapping barrels at La Gravière (definitely not for the faint-hearted!). Whether you’re a beginner or a pro, watch out for rips and always remember to respect the locals – wave hogging and dropping in is not appreciated by anyone, least of all the regulars.
For a more chilled-out surfing experience, head south into the Basque Country for the dreamy waves of la Côte des Basques – the birthplace of the European surfing scene. The beach break is ideal for beginners and popular with long boarders due to the long, mellow waves, which are sheltered from northern winds. This corner of the Atlantic coast boasts the warmest water temperatures, meaning rubberless surfs during the summer months and minimal neoprene through September and October.
What to do
If you’re not into wetsuits and board bruises but still want to get in on the action, visit Hossegor during the World Surf League’s Quiksilver Pro, when you can watch professional surfers from all over the globe battle it out in the water. As well as witnessing some epic waves, you can party at regular live gigs, beer festivals and BBQs along Hossegor front. Shortly before the Quiksilver Pro, in August, comes Newave Festival, a local event celebrating the values of board culture through art, music, surf and skate.
The northern beaches of Les Landes are fringed by peaceful pine forests that are perfect for walking and picnicking. You can hire bikes and explore 40km of cycle tracks along rural lanes, forest trails and even the hard sand at low tide from Les Casernes to Les Estagnots.
La zone Pédebert provides for all your surfing needs, with outlets and concept stores selling everything from boards and wetsuits to organic hemp clothing and art. Spend an afternoon strolling through the town centre, where you’ll find the likes of Billabong, Quiksilver and Roxy amongst independent boutique stores like HOAZ, which sells unique handmade clothes in gorgeous floral prints.
Paddleboarding or windsurfing on the lake
No waves? Try your hand at windsurfing on the shallow waters of Lac d’Hossegor, where equipment hire is available right on the shore. No wind? Pick up a stand-up paddleboard instead.
Yogis should head to Audine Farm, where clothing brand Yogasearcher hosts regular retreats and workshops in a peaceful setting in the beautiful Landes countryside. Don’t miss the Roxy Fitness Event in October, which includes a 6km run around the lake, followed by a stand-up paddle race on the water and a group yoga session on the sand.
Eating and drinking
After all that activity you’ll need to refuel, and during the summer season you’re spoilt for choice, with cute cafés and trendy hang-outs dotted around the town centre, the beaches and beyond.
Meg’s Café and Waxed Coffee
These newly opened cafés were set up by Brits who have settled in Hossegor. Both serve healthy food and good coffee, with a laid-back surfer vibe. Head to environmentally friendly Waxed for your pre-surf caffeine fix and a brunch of local produce, or Meg’s for a classic avo on toast with acai bowls galore.
Le Mango Tree
Grab nutritious and delicious goodness on the go, or pull up a chair and enjoy your smoothie bowl and fresh-pressed juice at Le Mango Tree in the serene setting of Lac d’Hossegor.
Le Palais de Lucas
This is a family-run boulangerie and patisserie chain with shops in Hossegor, Capbreton and Bayonne. Here you’ll find a dizzying array of pastries that will make you drop that summer diet before you can say tarte aux pommes – the apricot and raspberry cake is my favourite. Owner Lucas also brings the best of the Basque Country to Hossegor in the form of the famous gateau basque, a biscuity tart with a cream, cherry or chocolate filling.
This new restaurant in the town centre is well-known for its artisan ice cream. It’s open from 8am until midnight, and its retro décor, cocktail bar and terrace make it an ideal place for hanging out with friends and family.
Le Surfing at Les Estagnots
This cool after-surf hangout is great for drinks and nibbles, or you can choose from a diverse menu of global cuisine (everything from mussels and chips to pad thai and nasi goreng). It has a relaxed atmosphere, with seating both outside on the terrace and inside at the bar.
Beach House Anglet
If the swell takes you further south across the Adour river, head to this converted beach house for lunch or dinner. It’s set along the picturesque Chambre d’Amour in Anglet and offers a unique mix of French, Indonesian and Thai cuisine, with flavours inspired by the chef’s winter travels. There are armchairs by the fireplace for cosy autumn evenings, and a pool, terrace and gin boat for the summer season.
Lily is currently working towards a degree in English Literature and French, but for now she is surfing and eating her way through the French Basque Country on her year abroad. Her travels have taken her to Croatia, Greece, Morocco and Sri Lanka to name a few, which she captures on 35mm film, and writes about on her blog.