The past decade has seen a surfing explosion in Europe. Areas like the west coast of France and Cornwall in the UK are talked about in the same breath as Hawaii and Australia, but tucked away in the Canary Islands offering year-round sunny surf, warm water and good swell, sub tropical Gran Canaria is putting itself well and truly on the map.
“More and more people are realising that we have surfing conditions that are a match for the best resorts in Europe. The waves are good, we have many great beaches and the water temperature makes it perfect for surfers” says Sergio Álvarez, manager of the Quiksilver Oceanside Surfcamp in Las Palmas.
A keen surfer himself, Álvarez started the school and shop, seven years ago. The company has expanded since, so that now they offer accommodation to visitors, a variety of water sports, as well as arrange for groups of Spanish surfers to travel around the world.
The surf school is on the beach of Las Canteras, a four kilometre long sandy beach in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, the island's capital. This makes it ideal not just as a surf hotspot, but when you are out of the water there is also great shopping and nightlife on your doorstep.
“The type of people coming here has gradually changed since we started,” continues Álvarez. “In recent years we have seen more and more Swedes coming here. The reason they come, like everyone else, is because Gran Canaria enjoys some of the best surfing conditions in Europe. We have some of the best waves,it is safe for people of all abilities, and it is especially good for beginners as the water is so warm, normally between 19-21,” he adds.
If there is a downside to the sport, the surfing boom has come with an expensive price tag for many in the UK and France in particular, especially for families and beginners.
However, a surfing holiday here doesn't have to break the bank. Regardless of ability level or experience, packages including 7 nights accommodation, 5 days of lessons, 4 hours a day, board and wetsuit rental and a daily picnic lunch is just €430 for one person, with generous discounts if more sign up.
If it's just a weeks surfing you're after, lessons only will set you back just €250. For the budget traveller, this is a great option because the company offers its own accommodation. The apartments are in a perfect location and great value for money, especially when you sign up to an inclusive package with surf lessons and equipment hire.
“We run a shop, and give courses for all ages and abilities, either one-on-one or in groups. All of our trainers are fully qualified and if you want to try out something different, we can also offer other activities here like body boarding for example,” says Álvarez.
If you want to ride the waves in other areas, the school also offers the immediate level surfers and above the chance to sample other great beaches in the area, the best of which are on the island's north coast, stretching west of Las Palmas, to San Felipe, Galdar and San Nicolas.
The beauty of the location itself, on the beach but in the heart of a lively throbbing metropolis, means that when you get out of the water, there is still plenty going on. Las Palmas is crowded with dozens of surf bars, restaurants and pubs with enough nightlife to keep even the most ardent clubber happy.
Four hours a day surfing still leaves plenty of time for other activities, so why not combine a trip with shopping, sightseeing, or simply just lazing on the sand sunning yourself on one of the islands numerous beautiful beaches? Scratch a bit beneath the surface and there is much more to the Canary Islands than you may think.
It may be a while before Gran Canaria's surf reputation is mentioned in the same breath as Biarritz for example, but with great waves, warm water and a guarantee of beautiful weather, the secret the Spaniards had been keeping to themselves is out.
Article sponsored by Gran Canaria Tourism Board and Spanish Tourism Board