Hossegor is the little French surfing Mecca with a big splash of je ne sais quoi.
Perched on the southwest coast of France, where the wild Atlantic breakers roll their way in from the Bay of Biscay and the New World beyond, Hossegor languished for decades in the shadows of its glitzy neighbour, Biarritz. Over the past two decades, however, this unassuming town has well and truly found itself and come into its own as one of the world’s leading surfing destinations.
Many francophiles return to the southern coastal resorts of France year after year only to be frustrated by the glitz and glam, the high prices and the ever-growing crowds. Head to the south west coast however, and you have the chance to rediscover the real France, at real prices, and with some stunning beaches to boot.
Wide sandy beaches flanked by rolling sand dunes stretch north to south, giving way to huge plains swathed in scented pine trees. Dotted here and there are campsites and country homes, and an increasing number of holiday home developments, especially in the area around Lake Hossegor, the large freshwater lake just inland that is a popular windsurfing, water-skiing, wake boarding and kite surfing destination in its own right.
But more than anything, Hossegor is all about the surf. The huge Atlantic rollers pound the glorious sandy beaches day after day, week after week, month after month. Cresting far off shore and rolling relentlessly in, the waves in Hossegor provide some of the longest surf runs in the world – and depending on the season, also some of the highest.
Serious surfers and beginners alike flock to Hossegor and its neighbouring town of Soorts at the first signs of summer, many remaining with their tents and backpacks for the entire season or as long as their budget will last. But that is not to say that this is a low-rent destination. There is a great deal of high quality accommodation to be found amongst the pretty bordelaise architecture – from large private houses for hire to five-star hotels and just about everything in between.
September is the time to visit if you are a real surfing fan. This is when the surfing world really descends on Hossegor and the town finds its place each year at the forefront of the world stage. The Quiksilver Pro France takes place at the Plage Centrale, or central beach, over the course of a wave-pounding week when some of the leading names in surfing battle it out on the Atlantic breakers.
Away from the beach there is plenty to entertain. Lake Hossegor is a freshwater playground and perfect for learning the windsurfing ropes. Or if you prefer to keep your feet on dry land, there is plenty of action to be found amongst the extraordinary scenery of the deep limestone gorges nearby. Try your hand at bungee jumping, climbing, mountain biking and potholing or ride the rapids in a two-man kayak for something a little different.
Summer nightlife is fun and lively thanks largely to the surfing crowd and with so much to entertain, Hossegor makes the perfect alternative to Europe’s more traditional Mediterranean beach resorts.