Biarritz has come a long way from poor fishing village to whaling town to the mundane and world-famous bathing and gambling resort. At the end of the nineteenth century, the Belle Epoque succeeded the Second Empire in France and the who’s who of that age adopted Biarritz as their holiday place of choice. Whether being famous politicians, flamboyant socialites, English aristocrats, stars or big-time gamblers, they all came here. “Distinguished society” danced the Charleston in the 1920s, sumptuous parties were given here after The Second World War and the partying continued, changing appropriately with the times, well into the 60s, the 70s, and the 80s and beyond.
And yet… Something is wrong with your first impression of Biarritz. Biarritz gives you the impression of somehow being caught in a time warp. It still seems to belong to an earlier era. Where is all the action? Where are all the young people? It’s still an extremely expensive location, of course, but the money is very old and the atmosphere is a bit stifling – unless you are one of those who drives a Rolls Royce – or unless you are a surfer. Head down to the beaches! That’s where all the action is.
With its huge beaches, powerful waves and a mild climate all year round, Biarritz became the natural choice to welcome the first surfers in Europe and is now what some claim to be Europe’s surfing capital. North Atlantic depressions are the source of regular swells which end up here on the Basque coast and the great depths of the Bay of Biscay form a real “wave funnel”, thus enabling surfing all year round. But nobody was even aware of the surfing potential here until the late 50s, primarily because nobody had ever surfed here before then.
As if the stuff of a Hollywood film, it all started with an American filmmaker named Peter Viertel. He had come to Biarritz in 1956 to direct “The Sun Also Rises” with his famous wife, actress Deborah Kerr. He had surfed in Hawaii and California before and had decided to bring his long boards with him (surfing was unknown in Europe at that time). The astonished on-lookers wanted to know more and voila, before anyone knew it, it was the beginning of a wonderful surfing relationship.
And now, 40 years on, surfing has become an integral part of life in Biarritz. It has brought back the city’s youth and brought it back up-to-date. It plays a significant part in the local economy and its influence can be felt everywhere throughout the city. What is more, it has a history now, too. It is rooted here and the surfers feel at home here – because they are.
And whether or not you are an experienced surfer or a novice, Biarritz offers you the surfing “infrastructure” that meets your needs. The following list of surfing schools offer lessons with state-qualified (Fédération Francaise de Surf or FFS) instructors. Individual or group lessons are available and the season is open-ended. So pack your boards and board your plane! À bientôt.
Tropical Euskadi – Ecole de Surf Quiksilver
29, Boulevard Charles De Gaulle – 64200 Biarritz
Tel. +33(0) 5 59 22 03 12
Biarritz Surf Training
4, Impasse Helène Boucher – 64200 Biarritz
Tel. +33(0) 5 59 23 15 31
La Vague Basque
Plage de la Milady – 64200 Biarritz
Tel. +33(0) 5 59 23 61 99
Biarritz Association of Surf Clubs
Centre de glisse
Plage de la Milady – 64200 Biarritz
Tel. +33(0) 5 59 23 24 42
Ecole de Surf Jo Moraiz
Maison Gure EtchekoAv. De Bidart – 64200 Biarritz
Tel. +33(0) 5 59 41 22 09
And don’t forget to make your plans for the Biarritz Surf Festival in July:
The Biarritz Surf Festival
Biarritz Surf Concept
Tel. +33(0) 5 59 23 56 75