Surfing in Guéthary
A guide to surfing in Guéthary
Guethary is proper Basque Country surfing territory; rocky coves, reef breaks, off-shore big wave surfing, and spectacular scenery everywhere you look.
In the heart of the French Basque Country, between Biarritz and Saint-Jean-de-Luz, Guéthary is an old fishing port that will charm your socks off. It’s also a corner of paradise for big-wave surfers with world-renowned Parlementia and also the left at Alycons and the wave at Avalanche that holds up in the biggest swells. For most surfers, surfing these waves is a spectator sport only, but call in to enjoy the show, it’s well worth the detour when the conditions are right.
Watch this: Big Wave surfing in Guethary
The Best Time of Year to go Surfing in Guéthary
Probably more than anywhere else along the French Atlantic coast, the best time of year to surf in Guéthary is the winter. From December to March, big swells roll in one after the other, so there’s more opportunities to go surfing than at any other time of the year.
Guéthary Surf Forecast
Guéthary – Cenitz surf forecast – surf report and surfing conditions for the next 3 days with swell components including wave height, wave direction and wave period, wind direction and weather forecast.
Guéthary – Cenitz surf forecast courtesy of surf-forecast.com.
Guethary Surf Spots
Spot type: Reef. Offshore wind: Easterly. Bottom type: Sand and Rocks. Best tide: All tide.
Wave size: 1.5 to 6 m. Swell direction: West, North Lat Long: 43.427718, -1.611053.
Big one at Parlementia, Guethary | © Flickr – Langio
Parlementia is regarded as one of France’s premier big wave spots. You’ll find the wave a few hundred metres off the coast just to the north of Guéthary village. Expect to go get your longer board as it’s a brutal 20 minute paddle to reach this powerful right. The take-off’s actually pretty mellow, the wave doesn’t pitch like Belharra, so you need plenty of paddle speed and to drive hard to get down the face. That’s why it’s so popular with longboarders and more and more with SUPs. The wave then steepens out with a nice fast hollow section that spits you out onto the shoulder Sunset-style.
This is a big wave that’s suitable only for experienced surfers. And up close it’s usually a whole lot bigger than it looks from the beach. The wave’s size combined with the rocky bottom and long paddle out means you need to be fully committed before getting in the water.
Parlementia is a big wave spot that’s known the world over. On good days Parlementia can deliver huge waves up to 5 metres. It’s a popular spot with local big wave surfers especially in the winter when the swells are larger and more consistent. The peak offers up a long right the reforms closer to the shore, and a shorter, fast, hollow left. However, you should only paddle out if you’re at the top of your game. Parlementia is for expert surfers only and you need to respect the locals who are less than enthralled with the wave’s new found fame.
2. Les Alcyons
Spot type: Reef. Offshore wind: Easterly. Bottom type: Rocks. Best tide: Mid to High tide.
Wave size: 1.5 to 5 m. Swell direction: North, West Lat Long: 43.426970, -1.613677.
Sunset session at Les Alcyons, Guethary | © Flickr – Haspordy
In contrast to Parlementia, this reef break is quite is close to the shore. It needs a good northwesterly swell to work, but when it does it’s a beautiful wave. There’s only one peak dropping into a left, so the line-up can get pretty competitive. Les Alcyons is best surfed on an incoming tide and gets downright dangerous at low tide because of the strong currents and rocky bottom.
Les Alcyons is the wave that’s located straight opposite the jetty of the same name, about 200 m south of Parlementia. It’s a reef break that starts working when the swell gets over 1.5 metres and the spot can hold a wave up to 3 to 4 metres. The wave is a fast and hollow left with a rad drop-in on big days. At low tide you can feel the water drag over the shallow rocky bottom, so you need to be paddle fit and know what you’re doing to be out here. It’s not a beginners spot. The peak is well defined and the wait between sets is notoriously lengthy, so it’s no fun when there’s too many surfers out.
Spot type: Reef. Offshore wind: Easterly. Bottom type: Rocks. Best tide: Mid tide.
Wave size: 3 to 7 m. Swell direction: North, West/ North Lat Long: 43.42761, -1.61583.
A small day at Avalanche in Guéthary | © Flickr – Langio
It’s a gruelling 20 minute paddle to reach this legendary big wave spot behind Les Alcyons jetty. You don’t just need paddle fitness though – when Avalanche is pumping it can serve up 7 metre waves, so you need to be at the top of your game in every respect. The spot works best at low tide in a south-southwesterly swell and a light off-shore wind. The wave jacks up quickly and the drop can be pretty intense, but once you’re through the bottom turn there’s time to compose yourself before the wave gets properly hollow. Experienced big-wave surfers only – you’ve got to earn your place in the line-up here.
Avalanche is both mysterious and terrifying at the same time. It’s a favourite stomping ground for Basque Country big wave surfers who love riding their guns in outrageous winter swells. Located a few hundred metres beyond Les Alcyons, the wave starts to work in swells upwards of 2.5 metres and can hold a wave in swells of over 5 metres. On its day, Avalanche is simply massive and it’s right up there with Belharra just down the coast. If you’re not up for surfing it, and there’s no shame in that, it’s well worth coming to Guéthary anyway to enjoy the spectacle.
Spot type: Beach, Reef. Offshore wind: Easterly. Bottom type: Sand and Rocks. Best tide: Mid tide.
Wave size: 0.8 to 2.9 m. Swell direction: North, West/ South West Lat Long: 43.423121, -1.619492.
Sunny beach day in Cenitz, Guethary | © Flickr – Julien Le Priol
Located at the southernmost end of Guéthary and just to the south of Avalanche, Cenitz is a mellow surf spot and the only real option in Guéthary for beginners. The attractive bay and relaxed atmosphere make it a nice place to hang out for the day. A few different peaks serve up lefts and rights. Cenitz is a fun small wave spot for everyone, but if you’re just getting into surfing, you’ll be in your element. A few rocks to be aware of.
Cenitz is by a long way the best spot in Guéthary for learning to surf. There are two waves: a left at the southern end of the bay and a right at the northernmost end. The left is perfect for longboarders as it’s pretty mellow and the ride’s good and long. The right is a bit faster and hollower and will suit shortboarders better. As with everywhere in Guéthary, you still need to watch out for rocks when you’re getting in and out of the water.
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Please leave a comment below if you need specific advice for your surf trip to Guéthary, or if you have any recommendations to help us improve this guide. Happy holidays!