35mm film photography by Cynrig Williams
One year I ended up surfing southwest France on multiple trips; early in the summer I joined my Dad on a trip to the Basque region, catching the ferry to Bilbao. After a week he dropped me off in Biarritz where I rented a board and surfed La Grande Plage getting an ear infection before getting the train all the way back to Cornwall (via Paris and London). At the other end of that summer I then went on a field trip to Hossegor with my university course (we were quite the rent-a-crowd), and we scored great shorebreak barrels next to the old (and now no-longer-there) pier at Le Penon. In hindsight, I’m sure our lecturers were just having a laugh at our expense, sending us out to try to measure sediment movement in the impact zone of a headhigh shorebreak and watching their students get smashed up the berm and crawl out of the sea spitting out sand.
The train ride to Biarritz makes it a legitimate option for taking a surf trip without the need to fly – following that first experience, I then visited Biarritz again several years later, one Easter, as a friend and I tried (and succeeded) to take our surfboards all the way to Morocco by train. To be perfectly honest, the stretch to Biarritz (where we stayed overnight) was the easiest part of the whole journey; we managed to carry our boardbags in the guard’s carriage or the overhead luggage racks all the way to and through London and Paris, and the TGV was quick and easy. Taking a surfboard on the Spanish rail network was a whole different story….
Surf trips to Hossegor, for many, means a van trip. I’ve been lucky enough to experience it this way too, with a friend from Western Australia in an aged and decidedly unfashionable and slow VW Westfalia campervan nicknamed Turtle (Turtle was not a swish T4 or T5, nor a trendy #vanlife conversion job). We parked and slept in lay-bys and on roadsides, and on a garage forecourt in Spain for about 3 nights when we inevitably broke down (the first time). We ping-ponged back and forth over the border between Hossegor and Mundaka, making the most of the opportunities on the Spanish side when the straight beaches of Landes were closed out by storms.