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La Côte Basque, France, EUROPE

The ‘Côte Basque’ shares many characteristics with the north-facing Spanish coast and is blessed with some decent submarine geology. Slabs of reef dot the coast, focusing some of the most organised and unadulterated swell trains into scary, big wave arenas. There are also coves, headlands and a series of jetties in Anglet, offering wind protection unseen on the beaches to the north. This short coastline curves from the exposed WNW-facing spots of Anglet to the sheltered, northerly aspect of the beginners’ beach at Hendaye, creating cross/ offshore conditions when winter south-westerlies blow. Famous reefs like Guéthary and Lafitenia attract the crowds from far and wide, especially when the beaches are maxed out or onshore. Furthermore, with huge 4m+ spring tidal ranges, the window of opportunity becomes compressed for many spots, adding to the density of surfers in the line-up. The Côte Basque is now recognised as the big-wave venue on mainland Europe since the 2002 discovery and subsequent towing-in at the bombora reef Belharra. Avalanche also handles huge swells, entertaining a dedicated local crew of chargers who usually prefer to paddle-in. Flexibility in aspect and wave type suggests that the Côte Basque is a year- round surf destination. From the summer beachies in Anglet to the winter reefs around Guéthary, there is always something to ride and there is always someone to ride it, regardless of the season.