His tongue-in-cheek tip is surprisingly effective. After a few more attempts I’m standing up and gliding in front of the white water, cruising to the shore. It’s a brilliant feeling, harnessing the energy of the ocean as I slide along a peeling wall of water.
After a long slog through winter in London, there’s no better way to welcome summer than with a surfing getaway in Europe.
Seignosse – along with neighbouring Hossegor and Capbreton beaches – is the ideal location, with regular swells, fun beachbreak waves, a laid-back vibe and a bucket full of stunning sunny weather.
I’m staying at the Natural Surf Lodge – an idyllic retreat set in a forest and run by passionate boardriders and surfing instructors Stephane and Claire Becret. The days are a blur of fresh crusty breakfast baguettes, morning surfing lessons, lunchtime siestas, afternoon surfs and outdoor barbecues with like-minded souls.
Getting into relaxation mode is no struggle: the leafy eco-retreat has a warm hydro-massage pool, steam room, tree house massage area and hammocks swaying in the breeze.
Nearby Hossegor is also worth exploring, with a vibrant café and restaurant strip and a piazza on the beach perfect for sipping a coffee or cold pint while watching the waves. The town is the European headquarters for several major surfing companies and hosts the Quiksilver Pro France every September. It’s so ‘surfie’ you can almost smell the scent of surfboard wax in the air.
As well as the chance to be a beach bum for a week, Natural Surf Lodge also offers tailor-made packages, which include a week of surf and yoga, and a surf and French language course.
The priority is learning to ride the waves, though, and every morning the van is loaded with boards and it’s a short drive through the pine forest to the beach for more time in the water.
“I’m hooked,” beamed Tessa Heal, a 25-year-old Aussie who took a break from London to learn to surf at Seignosse. “The surfing is a real adrenaline rush. I want to stay here for the summer!”
While life at the Natural Surf Lodge revolves around the ocean, Claire says a stay is about more than simply learning to stand up on a surfboard.
“We try to share our lifestyle,” she says. “The nature, the waves, the weather and the ocean … it’s a really rich way of life and I love seeing how much people enjoy having a taste of that.”
There is also plenty on the menu for more experienced surfers. Stephane is always keen for the morning dawn patrol wherever the waves are best, and he has a quiver of more than 100 boards to try out. Just remember to bend your knees for the ideal surfing stance. If it helps, imagine you’re a monkey shitting in the forest.
» Trevor Paddenburg stayed with the Natural Surf Lodge (+33 (0) 674-160 228; www.naturalsurflodge.com). A six-night stay, including B&B accommodation, surf equipment, daily lesson and transfers, is €499.
Weapon of choice
There are loads of different surfboard types suitable for different conditions and ability levels, so read on to find out what’s the best board for you
As the name suggests, these babies are made from foam, making them soft, easy to ride and ideal for beginners.
Again, no points for guessing these boards are, er, pretty long. They’re ideal for small waves and are heaps of fun once
you’ve got the basics of standing up and turning.
These short flexible fibreglass boards with three fins are for high-performance surfing in small to medium waves for experienced surfers.
Big versions of shortboards used for serious surf.
Twin fins are retro boards with a loose feel , suitable for days when the surf isn’t too powerful.
These boards are for the lying down version of surfing, ideal if you find standing up too bloody difficult.
See the pros
Take a surf trip to coincide with these European surfing contests and you’ll see the best boardriders in the world shred the surf – and party afterwards
Roxy ASP Women’s World Championships
The battleground for the ladies’ longboarding world title will be at Biarritz, France, from July 11-16.
Rip Curl Pro Mademoiselle
The world’s leading female surfers have their shot at glory in the surf at Hossegor, France from August 28-September 1.
Quiksilver Pro France
The world’s top 44 male surfers go head to head in perfect beachbreak waves at Hossegor, France, from September 19-28.
The world’s best then head to the legendary waves of Mundaka near Bilbao in Spain from September 29-October 12.
France has a reputation for being Europe’s best surfing destination but it ain’t the only one easily accessible from the UK. There are quality waves to be had right across the Continent and the northern tip of Africa
The perfect barrels at Mundaka near Bilbao take much of the limelight when it comes to surfing in Spain. But the entire northern coast is littered with quality waves suitable for both beginners and experienced surfers – pack your van and go exploring.
This is surf hippy heaven with long pointbreaks near Agadir, perfect sunny days, loads of culture and dodgy blokes trying to sell you hash on every street corner. Morocco isn’t as exposed to swell as parts of Europe, so flat days are common.
The south coast around Lagos offers fun beachbreak waves, while further north there are some serious reef breaks that pack loads of power, most notably Coxos near the quaint fishing town of Ericeira.
Technically part of Spain, the Canaries are closer to Africa but are commonly called the ‘Hawaii of Europe’ because the locals are fiercely protective of the surf. The fierce waves pack tons of power, break on shallow lava reefs and are for experienced surfers only. The rewards, though, are worth the risks.
It’s colder, wetter and the swell is less reliable than mainland Europe, but the UK has plenty of waves on offer, and they’re worth checking out if you’ve got the boardriding bug and need an ocean fix
Devon and Cornwall are the surfing hotspots, though lack of swell can be a problem in summer. Still, if the weather is fine, pack the boards, hit the coast and hunt down a few waves. Newquay is the most reliable area with wild nightlife to boot.
The surf temp in Wales is cold, getting down to 10˚C in winter. Still, Welsh surfers reckon they have the best waves on mainland Britain. The south-west corner is loaded with surf spots, especially around the Gower peninsula and Pembrokeshire coast.
Ireland’s west coast is littered with quality waves. They’re at their best from September to November when regular swells charge out of the Atlantic before the water temperature plummets to head-numbing figures.
Only the hardiest surfing souls head to Scotland, but the rewards for freezing water and remote beaches can be perfect surf without any crowds. Thurso, near Caithness, is as good as anywhere in the world.