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Surf Andalusia. Everything you need to know.
In the summer of 2006, I heard the first time of people who surf Andalusia. It sounded weird to me, as it faces South West, and most swells would be blocked by the Algarve or Morocco.
Everyone knew of the Bask Country as one of Europe’s prime surf regions, and of course of the Canary Islands. And the idea of a surf trip along the North coast of Spain, driving through Cantabria and Asturias, maybe even to Galicia was nothing new, and rather obvious when you look at a map of the old world. But to surf Andalusia?!
I found the idea really interesting: A whole stretch of surfabel coastline, which is overlooked by so many surfers. My curiosity was awake and I had to find out a few more things about it.
It is true, most Atlantic swells come from the North West, and are blocked by Portugal. But as soon as the seasons change, and the centre of the swells are further South, the angle is different, and there is nothing interfering with the open ocean waves on there way to the shore and for good surf in Andalusia. This usually starts around September and gets better toward winter, with the prime season around December to February. It stays relatively consistent until March/April, with a fair number of good days until May. Of course, there is the odd summer swell as well, but if you plan to really surf, it is for sure a great option as a winter get-away.
This might be something new for us European surfers. But not for old, retired Brits and Germans, who knew that this coastline has the most sun-hours year round, on mainland Europe. Many bought there second or retirement house somewhere around Malaga, and spend there time drinking wine and golfing, what brought a market for cheap rental cars and houses, as well as budget flights from all over Europe and everything else tourists look for.
Andalusia found its spot on my “to-go list”, and it was only a question of WHEN.
My first attempt was in 2007, but as the season was already over, I decided to spend a few days in Seville, and enjoy the cuisine, culture and nightlife, which goes all hand in hand here. And I have to say: I loved it!
The next time I was there, was in the middle of summer in 2013, and I was not surprised to see the ocean flat. All the kite-surfers had fun in Tarifa, but no waves. I knew I had to come back in winter, and so I did in 2016.
I had 10 days time around Easter, and finally a real chance to see, if you can surf Andalusia. The cheapest flight I found, brought me to Malaga, a city worth spending a day or two. But as my time was short, and my craving for waves too strong to ignore, I drove straight to “El Palmar”. It is a bit of a drive, but the ever-changing landscape made even this part of the journey enjoyable. And knowing that I would see the sunset at a beach, after a few months of grey and cold winter in the middle of Switzerland, made me fell happy and light hearted like the Spanish music on the radio.
As my time was scarce on that trip, I had to make sure that I surf as much as possible. And “El Palmar” is the perfect base for this. It picks up the most swell around here, and is close to the other breaks. Plus, it has the reputation of being one of the best beaches to surf Andalusia.
Of course, I’m not the first one to know about that. More than 10 years ago, Arne arrived here, and decided to make this place his new home. He started the A-Frame Surfcamp here, and with this a home away from home for so many to come.
It doesn’t matter if you come to A-Frame to surf for the first time, or if you already feel confident in the water. As soon as you sit on A-Frame’s terrace, you feel as comfortable as you can. Having a cup of coffee or tea, watching some of the best peaks right in front of you, how they break to both sides, explains where the name of the camp has its origin, and tells you that you’re in the right place.
A-Frame is not your standard Surfcamp with parties every night and showing of every day.
It offers a wide ranch of accommodation, that fit everyone from single traveller, who wants to hang out with the other people and make new friends, to couples or families, with as much private sphere as they want. The team of surf teachers is experienced and the food is as good as you would expect in Andalusia! Once again, it is not your average Surfcamp, and the food is super delicious and healthy, but not hipster. The menu depends on the ingredients the chefs find on the market, and is every day a more than pleasant surprise. Maybe the kids would prefer fries and spaghetti, but after a suspicious first bit, they’re not to stop, giving their body the energy back, they lost in the water during the surf lessons.
And it’s not only the energy in the food, but in the chef as well. When you meet Javi in the kitchen, he will greet you with his big smile and stories of food and fiestas, and more often than not, with episodes straight from the ocean.
Everything that could be taken care of was set perfect. Now I needed Mother Nature to do her part to make me happy. And so it came. The first few days where small and cross-shore. But as I haven’t been in the water for a while, it was all right and good to just be on the board again. The forecast looked promising for the next days and I went to bed early, anxious like a kid before Christmas.
I woke up while the world was still asleep. It was not dark anymore, but the sun hadn’t won the fight again the morning fog, not yet. Standing on the beach, trying to see where the ocean ends and the sky starts, I was not quiet sure how much of this grey was because of my sleepy eyes, and how much of it was real.
But within a minute, a perfect glassy A-frame broke right in front of me, barrels to both sides and no one in the water.
I took a picture, run back to my room to get changed, and back down to the beach, to find out if the waves are as much fun as they looked.
Paddling out was quick, and the next perfect grey little wall of water came towards me. I turned around, two strokes; take off and with no bottom turn to the right. How I love those early mornings! No one on the beach, no noise and no sound. The waves were so perfect and glassy, there was not even a sound coming from my board. It was a small one. I had to bend down, and got a short cover up! And this on my first waves of the day! This is how I imagine short surf-trips! The wave was short, and so was the paddle back. No one sitting there to share the stoke of my first wave, but also no one who was next in line, and all I had to do was to swing around and take the next one!
The morning wore on, the sun won her fight over the fog, and my little solo session ended as the tide got higher. But as always with such beach breaks, as soon as one sandbank stops working, another one starts. All I had to do, was to walk up or down the beach. And sure enough, I found another one. This one was not empty, but far from crowded. It was the whole team of A-Frame who surfed together before breakfast and work.
The swell was still building, and should be around for a couple of days. Perfect for me to explore some of the other break in the area and see if the waterscape is as diverse as the landscape.
Only a short drive from El Palmar is “Los Caños” and Travalgar. Once again, this is a very long beach, but has a lighthouse on one end, and some apartments on the other. The waves here are not as steep and fast as up in El Palmar, but rather slow and mellow breaking for a long distance.
The perfect longboarder wave, or for everyone who feels already comfortable taking off on green waves and want to enjoy the long and easy ride to improve the actual part of riding waves.
Further down, in front of the apartments is a reef, that offers steeper walls, but still not heavy. I had a lot fun there. Taking off and having long open faces in front of me, asking me to surf one turn after the other. What surprised me most, was that this reef produces various peaks and most of them break to both sides, what cuts the crowd in half. A-frames again!
I was sold! The idea to surf Andalusia was great! El Palmar picking up so much swell and having those hollow, fast and super fun beach breaks is perfect to have right where you stay. Only a few minutes driving, and you have some more waves. Facing a different direction, what is great as a second option if the wind is side shore… but the road didn’t come to an end here.
I had to explore a bit further and found a beautiful point break. Pealing along a steep cliff, it reminding me a lot of Morocco. And it is actually not that far away from it. This point needs a decent swell to start working, and holds most of the big winter swells. And if it really should get too big, there is another beach further down the coast. This beach, behind a harbour wall, needs huge swells to produce “real” waves, but perfect beginner conditions on medium size swells. I think it is safe to say, that even the biggest storms in the middle of winter won’t send anything that direction, which would be unsurfable here. Or if you want to surf the point and your travel partner or girlfriend prefers smaller waves breaking over sand, you both could have a session, where you leave the water smiling.
My time came to an end. Of course much faster than I could wish for. But as Andalusia is not a trip around the world for Europeans, I can come back for more, when ever I have to escape the cold and depressing winter between snow-covered mountains again.
To surf Andalusia is after this trip still pretty much the same to me as it was before. I know about the great weather, the delicious and healthy food, and the friendly people.
It still isn’t a question IF I will go back, but rather WHEN!
The only thing that has changed is: I know the rumours about its waves are for a good reason!
Thanks a lot A-Frame Surfcamp, for making my time so amazing, and thanks a lot to the whole team, who make A-Frame what it is! See you again…rather sooner than later.