San Vicente de la Barquera, Spain’s best kept surfing secret. Hours away from the ever-growing crowds of the San Sebastian surf scene, this beautiful beach is home to a consistently mellow beach break attracting longboarders from far and wide. And the mellowness doesn’t stop with the waves. The locals are some of the friendliest folk around and will happily share their rides and insider info with ‘outsiders’. They really want you to love the place as much as they do. And we do!
Last summer we spent a week camping at a friendly Euro-style site that lines the estuary and overlooks the town. With the mountains of the Picos de Europa as the backdrop, we really felt no need to leave our campsite. But the lure of the waves only a few hundred metres away saved us from our penchant for lazy afternoons with Spanish tortilla and red wine.
We happened upon one of the best surfing weeks of the summer, for our intermediate level, and managed to get out morning and evening almost every day, often beating the locals to the first waves at sunrise. The waves were not big but had just enough power in them to hold up all the way to the shore giving you what seemed like an age to practise turns and enjoy the ride. The paddle out was a mere couple of minutes with no time to recover before the next set of perfectly formed bodies of water started rolling in.
The beauty of the tide timings during our stay meant that we managed to get the most out of each day enjoying more than just the surf. Like Spanish Tortilla and red wine! We played some great card games, lots of frisbee on the golden sands of Pena del Zapato, adopted the wonderful habit of the siesta and did some exploring around the area.
Somewhat spoilt with ideal surf conditions, we became a bit choosy about when to squeeze into the wetsuit. So on a less than perfect day we rented some standup paddleboards (SUPs) for the afternoon and took the rising tide inland past the town and toward the mountains. The scenery was breathtaking and once we got into a good rhythm it was easy to paddle our way into a meditative state of calm and peace. That is until we realised that our timing of the turning tide was also less than perfect. Thankfully our paddling arms held up to tackle the half hour battle back to town against the still incoming tide with time to spare for some gladiator style battles and speed paddle races in the shallow water.
We love to explore and are not really the types to go back to the same place twice. But there is something about life in San Vicente that’s making us question that ‘rule’ and think we might just find ourselves enjoying another trip to Northern Spain’s surf paradise next year.
Surf board hire
You can hire boards just a couple of minutes walk from the beach at Buena Onda. The staff are super helpful and there are a good variety of boards available to swap and change to suit you and the conditions.
We sampled a lot of Spanish Tortilla, but our favourite was from Bar Cafeteria Ahinara. A conveniently positioned little cafe right next to the board hire shop!
Camping El Rosal is a family friendly site and its returning visitors give it a nice community feel. It has a small shop on site as well as a bar and restaurant.
Located on the edge of the campsite, the bell tent village of Dreamsea Surf Camp has a wonderfully mellow and relaxed feel about it.