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Cote Des Basques - Grande Plage

Cote Des Basques - Grande Plage

Biarritz - Landes - Aquitaine , France


Biarritz is the birthplace of Europe’s surfing. The French California is located on the Atlantic facing southwest coast of France, in the Aquitania region, only 30 kilometres from Spain. It marks the border between the sandy coast of Les Landes and the cliffy coastline where the Atlantic Pyrenees end. The story began when Empress Eugenie declared this enclave to be her favourite place and she convinced her husband Napoleon III to build a summer palace by the Grande Plage. This palace is now the Hotel du Palais. Since then, this part of France is the most traditional holiday destination, and as they say, glamorous. It’s an exclusive place where French tradition meets the Southern Californian surf culture.

It all began in 1956 when Peter Viertel, screenwriter of the film based on the successful Hemingway novel ‘The Sun Also Rises’, was invited with his wife, the famous actress Deborah Kerr, to shoot there. The producer Richard Zanuck also travelled with them and he decided to take his son along. He was a young actor to be that grew up on the Malibu beaches and was enthusiastic about the idea of crossing the Atlantic and the opportunity of surfing in Europe. Zanuck’s son hid two boards in the cargo but his father found out about his son’s intentions and sent him back to Los Angeles. The boards however, remained hidden with Peter Viertel. Peter, who had surfed in Hawaii, decided to take them to the Grande Plage and entered the water, causing great expectations between the masses of non-believers and demonstrated that it was possible to surf the waves there. The repercussion was huge and from that moment on, everyone wanted to surf. The two boards ended up broken and Peter had to ask a friend to send more boards from California. This was how the surfing craze spread to the other nearby places and Michel Barland and Jacques Rott opened the first surfboard workshops in Bayonne, the first surf shops opened (they are still there today), championships were organised and Joël de Rosnay was unveiled as a national hero for becoming the first surf champion in France, and in 1962 the first French surf club ‘Le Waikiki’ was inaugurated. 


Since then Biarritz became an exciting place and the best excuse to get to know the old Europe for those fleeing the masses of the Californian and Australian beaches, especially students who were enjoying their sabbatical year and were travelling along the French coast in caravans. Some ventured to the Cantabrian coast in the north of Spain, a country which was isolated from the rest of the world during the sixties. Biarritz has two main beach breaks, the Grande Plage and the Cote des Basques, along with a multitude of services, atmospheric shops and various surf schools. The two spots are adjacent but each has its own spirit. The Grande Plage, in front of the popular Hotel du Palais, is the heart and tourist centre of the French Basque city. It may not be the best surf option, but it’s very consistent, and you’ll see perfectly how Biarritz is a city that’s devoted to this sport. Nearly the whole of the beach is reserved for surfers and for the use of the surf schools with only 10% reserved for swimmers. You’ll find parking areas in the following places: Vincci Park Grande Plage, Vincci Park Casino, Vincci Park Bellevur, all cost around 1,50 Euros per hour.

Cote des Basques is a little more visually attractive and there are often better waves there. The panoramic views of the rocky and mountainous Spanish Cantabrian coastline are spectacular. It’s interesting to see how while in Biarritz and around the French coast it can be a sunny day, whereas in the Spanish Cantabrian it is cloudy due to the more mountainous terrain. This clearly defines the fact that the special micro climate that the southwest of France enjoys. There is an underground car park which you have to pay for in the summer and the beach is accessed from the stairs by the cliff, which has a chill out area at the top. Every year in July, Cote becomes the stage for the Roxy Pro, a classic surf event in the ASP Women’s World Tour. On these dates, the city of Biarritz becomes a centre for leisure, sports and urban culture for the public.  


The swell comes from the W or NW and it’s possible to surf all year round, but the best time is at the end of the summer and in autumn when the low pressures begin to deepen in the north Atlantic, sending the first big swells. There are also less tourists around. The best winds are the offshore E and SE.
The Grande Plage offers many opportunities and a variety of conditions. The peaks are variable as sometimes the waves are fun and manoeuvrable whereas other times they are hollower and close out. Despite being almost adjacent to Anglet, it receives less swell and is good for beginners. It breaks with low to mid tide from 1 to 6 feet. It’s a beautiful place where the rocks at the end of the beach on the left side contribute to the formation of the banks and block the S and SE winds.

In Côte des Basques the waves are often better quality. It’s also better at low to mid tide with 1 to 8 feet, but it’s important to pay attention to the rocks around the peaks, above all with heavy seas. Don’t underestimate the rising tide, it’s advisable to get out before the waves reach the rocks on the beach because the beach disappears so you’ll have to get out by climbing over the rocks with the danger that entails. La Plage Marbella is south of this beach. It is popular with the locals and quite often has better peaks than Biarritz.
Optimal Conditions
  • Wave
  • Wind
  • Tide
  • Swell
    NW - W
  • Bottom
  • Size
    1 to 6 ft
  • Time of year
    From September to November
Suggested Spots
  • 23 km from Cote Des Basques - Grande Plage Landes - Aquitaine , France
  • 91 km from Cote Des Basques - Grande Plage Northern Spain - Basque Country , Spain
  • 116 km from Cote Des Basques - Grande Plage Bizkaia - Basque Country , Spain
  • 172 km from Cote Des Basques - Grande Plage Gironde - Aquitaine , France