Following The Sun: An Autumn Road Trip Through West Europe
Road tripping along the Atlantic coast is practically a rite of passage within the European surf community. It’s a path frequently travelled, but for good reason and with much reward, as Ben Bennett and his brother Simon discovered.
“I love Europe, and autumn is my favourite time to go. You have all the new swells on the way after the summer, and the sea and air is still a nice temperature. I also find it’s less crowded in the water, and of course all the pastries are a bonus!”
Ben, a surfer and carpenter from Cornwall, and Simon, our C-Skins distributor in New Zealand, packed up their Bulldog board bags with all the gear they’d need and boarded a plane from Newquay to Faro, where they picked up a converted VW T6 camper-van and began their journey up the coast.
Southern Portugal’s mild climate means that you’re unlikely to need a wetsuit thicker than 4:3, even in the winter months, and summer goes hand in hand with surfing in boardshorts. Ben also utilised our neoprene top, allowing him to stay in the water longer and keep the sun off, in both Spain and Portugal. He talked us through his kit list: “I took my 3:2 C-Skins Session wetsuit, which was perfect for the water temperature that time of year. I also had my C-Skins wetsuit top which was great with a pair of boardies on the hotter days. We took our Bulldog leashes and board bags which were great for traveling, as they were nice and light and the bags provided the perfect protection for the boards on our flight over. We also had our Robie towels and C-Skins dry bags, which both came into their own for the days we would set up on the beach for the day and surf two or three times.”
With three weeks in hand, the boys set off with the intention of getting as close to France as possible in the time they had. With no strict itinerary and only a few select spots they were eager to check, Ben and Simon followed their old Stormrider Guide, Google maps and the wind and swell direction in search of great waves. “We wanted to spend a good chunk of time in northern Spain as neither of us had done that before, and we ended up finding so many epic beach breaks there with barely anyone surfing them!”
“We also scored such a wide variety of waves - lots of good beach breaks in Portugal and also lots of reefs and point breaks.”
The west coast of Europe is the perfect road trip destination for surfers of all abilities. From small, sheltered bays and cruise-y beach breaks to world-class slabs and shallow reefs, you’re more or less guaranteed to score good waves in both spring and autumn (whilst winter can be too stormy and summer can be flat). “My most memorable session was a beach break we stumbled on by accident - we were passing by and stopped to check it. I actually paddled out at the other end of the beach but as the tide dropped there was an insane left sandbank with this mechanical hollow left breaking, and only a handful of guys out. I’m not sure if it always breaks like this or if we just got lucky!”
The route is geared for van travellers and surfers, with plenty of campsites, designated spots for vans, surf hostels and overnight car parks. Whilst you’ll see many people sleeping in tents and in the back of their cars, boards strapped to the roof, Ben and his brother decided to do the trip in comfort by renting a camper-van from Road Surfer, a company based near the airport in Faro. “It had a pop-top where I would sleep, and a rock-and-roll bed my brother Simon used. It was completely self-sufficient, which meant we could park up anywhere and cook dinner. We stayed at some amazing setups, mainly right on the beach or off the beaten track somewhere. There’s nothing better than waking up and jumping straight in the surf!”
Whilst the van-life lifestyle is becoming increasingly popular, it’s important to consider the local community. “I think the best advice is to just be friendly and respectful to all the locals, and be conscious of where you park, especially in a camper-van. We had no trouble at all and I think that was because we were as respectful as possible.” Being considerate of the locals, both in and out of the water, is integral, as is disposing of litter correctly, using designated public facilities such as toilets and showers (which you’ll find at most beaches) and not having open fires.
Tempted by the idea of pumping beach breaks, quiet waves, sunset beers and tripping around in a van? Europe’s west coast is a great place to head. The Stormrider Guide can be really helpful when planning a road trip, and the coastline is easily accessible by both plane and ferry. Check out the forecast via Magic Seaweed, and make sure you’ve got all the gear you need by stocking up on essential C-Skins, Bulldog and Robie Robes kit in your local surf shop.