Surfing in France
With almost 5000 kilometers of coastline, mainland France provides plenty of opportunities for great surf. You can find everything from the most beautiful landscapes in secluded places in the north, to beach breaks of world-class quality in the south.
Although not as popular with surfers as southern France, many great waves can be found in the north and some of the landscapes alone are worth visiting for. In northern France, the Brittany area is one of the more popular regions with surf travelers. Traveling in a van is quite easy around there, as sleeping at the beach parking places is most often not a problem. You will see many vans stay for a couple of nights.
The well known and popular surf spots can get crowded but with a bit of exploring uncrowded and secluded spots can easily be found. Generally though, crowds are much less of a problem than in southern France.
A spot to check out is Pointe de la Torche, which is one of the most popular spots in Brittany. The waves are working quite consistent and you can easily spend a couple of days in the surrounding area.
The southern part of France's Atlantic coast is the main attraction in surf tourism in France. No matter if you are going surfing for the first time or want to battle for barrels with the pros, southern France can provide it all. In the areas of Gironde and Landes basically every road leading to the beach will bring you to surfable waves with surf schools and board rentals nearby. Conditions are similar all along this part of the coast and sheltered spots are rare, as the coastline is basically a straight line. For more varied conditions head all the way down into the Basque Country. There, Hendaye, which is right before the border to Spain, can even provide you with a sheltered spot. You might need it on those days where the waves are too big everywhere else.
Unfortunately sleeping in a van at the beach or on public parking places is most often forbidden in the high season. But you will find plenty of Aire de Camping Cars, simple designated parking places, which will run you about 10-12€ per night for a van. They usually provide a possibility to fill up water tanks without additional charge and have a public toilet nearby. In regions that are not the absolute surf tourism hotspots, the off-season starts sooner and camping by the beach sometimes becomes allowed, e.g. in Le Grand Crohot.
Spots to definitely check out include Hossegor, a neat little surf town which is known for its world-class, barreling beach breaks, and Anglet and Biarritz for a beautiful city and lots of varied waves in close proximity.
When to go
Generally, surfing is possible year-round in France. The best time for you to go depends on your surfing ability and on how much neoprene you are willing to wear.
The winter months, November until March, are only for the hardcore crew. Water and air temperature are low, so be prepared to wear are thick wetsuit with hoodie, gloves and booties. As waves can be massive, you definitely should already be an advanced surfer, if you want to surf in this time.
From April to June the water is still cold and the weather not always nice, which is why these months are still part of the not so popular off-season. July to September is high season for surf tourism in France. The weather is nice and the water is quite warm, so wearing a 3/2 wetsuit or even a shorty in the south is fine. Waves are quite consistent even in the summer, but July to August the waves tend to be small, making them perfect for beginners.
In September, waves start to get bigger and swells become more consistent. This is a great time to visit, as surfers of all abilities will find their waves and the weather is usually still nice. Even in the northern parts of France, air temperatures can surpass 20°C and in the south, you can easily have days up to 30°C. It the north, it does already tend to be cold in the mornings though.
In October the bigger ground swells really start to pick up. Conditions for experienced surfers can be top-notch. One reason why the Hossegor area is one stop of the WSL tour and why southern France becomes home to some of the world's best surfers for a couple of weeks in October. October is still quite warm in the south but as days go on, temperatures will start to go down, which is especially noticeable in the mornings.