5 Rad Adventures in the Basque Country

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Outdoor Adventures in the Basque Country

The last time I was in Biarritz was on my stag do four years ago. The idea was to rent a house in Capbreton in the Landes region in France and go surfing up and down the coast around Hossegor. Heading over in the summertime is always a gamble for surf; however, it’s a great time to learn, chill out and enjoy some quality food and wine with mates, without the carnage factor of being in a big city for a stag do. I’ve wanted to go back ever since as I knew there were heaps of wicked adventures in the Basque Country so I put my list together and had some downtime before the Wheels and Waves Festival started in Biarritz. 

Kat, Theo and I rented an Airbnb back at the scene of the crime in Capbreton; for me, it was for the sole purpose to be as close to the ocean as possible. We lucked out and got a wicked apartment about a five-minute walk from Plane des Oceanides, which was going to be a great place to explore the area. 

1. Surfing

Getting Kitted Up

There was one fundamental problem here; I didn’t have a surfboard with me on this trip. No board, no leash, no fins, no wetsuit, heck, not even any wax! I had to get kitted out and there is no better place to do so than the surfing capital of Europe: Hossegor; at leas tin terms of surf shop options! The first day we arrived, I ventured across the surf outlet. There are so many deals on last year’s stock wetsuits, clothes, second-hand boards and more. 

Then came the holy grail of high-performance surfboards in Europe: Euroglass. I had been to Euroglass before and couldn’t stop dribbling at the surfboards in the store. When I went in this time, Christiaan Bradley was there and we chatted about some of his models. I couldn’t quite believe I was getting the low down from the man himself! I decided on the board and was told by all the guys there that the waves were pumping so I quickly drove back to the apartment and ran down to the beach. 

Photo Credit: Oli Russell-Cowan

The Surf

After checking the surf the previous evening, it was hauling onshore so I wasn’t expecting much. When I got there and peered over the sand dunes, it was certainly a different story! A frames lining up as far as the eye can see up and down the beaches! There were so many peaks to choose from I started laughing to myself; I couldn’t believe it! When France is on, it’s one of the best places to surf in the world (especially if you like slabby beach breaks close to the shore). 

There are also other options further down south across the border into Spain, with famous left point breaks at Mundaka; along with a number of reefs, points, and beaches. There are choices for everyone and with the number of surf schools available in the area, it’s a great place to learn in the summertime when conditions are a bit smaller and the water is warmer. 

Photo credit: Ecole Française de surf Capbreton Surfer School

2. Electric Skateboarding 

Like e-mountain biking outside Munich in Germany, I was pretty skeptical about e-skateboarding or electronic skateboarding; whatever you like to call it. In my mind, I had this image of policemen on Segways being the first to adopt the e-skateboard for some reason. When I saw that this was an actual thing and you can try it out in Labenne, only 20-minutes down south from where we were staying in Capbreton, I knew I had to give it a try! 

I drove down and met Jonas, the owner of Izi Rider tours, who specialize it yep you guessed it: e-skateboarding, as well as e-scooter bikes. I lucked out as Jonas didn’t have anyone else on the tour for the day. He ran me through the Evo Electric Skateboard and gave me my gun… I mean, my remote control gun to operate the board. ‘Just jump on and make sure you bend your knees’. I hopped on and pulled the trigger thinking I knew exactly what I was doing and it couldn’t possibly be too hard; only to go flying backwards! The controller was certainly touchy. 

My next attempt, I pressed on the trigger slightly and this time, I managed to keep my balance and stay on. He said to take it for a spin around the car park, which happened to be surrounded by pine trees; what better place to start! I zipped around the parking lot for a minute having a blast and going between the trees and over the grass. These Evo puppies have off-road wheels, which opens up a whole new world! 

Photo Credit: Oli Russell-Cowan

E Skate Out in the Open

It was time to head off and Jonas ran me through the plan and we were going to cruise along the bike path, then into the Labenne woods. Getting on the flat path, you can test out the board and cruise around, making sure you don’t stack it into any cyclists. I couldn’t believe how fun this thing was! We reached up to 25km/h in the setting we were on. 

We then got to a fire trail. The uneven surface means the boards skid out a bit, which was fun and almost felt more like snowboarding than actual skateboarding. It was then time for the main event. ‘We’re going to head down this single track’ said Jonas. Sure thing… but what I really thought was are you sure about this? The track was tight like a mountain biking trail. It was an epic time cruising around. The end section was unreal and this was for sure the closest you get to snowboarding as we headed down a hill through the trees; like going off piste in the Austrian Alps.

I’d love to give this a try again as it’s an epic way to spend the afternoon. You can book in with friends and family at Izi Riders and they have classes and tours for all levels. 

Rad Tip: Keep it easy on the trigger finger of the remote control when you first jump on the board. There’s no need to push start, this thing’s got some serious gas! 

3. Trail Running in the Basque Country

I wasn’t planning on doing much running over in France; as one of my main reasons for going there was to surf and check out Wheels and Waves festival. Upon reaching the coastline in Biarritz, I realized that there are some seriously good tracks to hit up. I left our apartment in Bidart going through what has to be one of the most well catered and situated campsites around Le Pavillon Royal Campsite. Filled with motorbikes and camper vans from all over Europe, the camp stretches for a couple of kilometers and leads right to the beach. 

I ran across the beach for a while, then went up a cliff to reach the single trails in Bidart. It was crazy to run past old Chateaus and castles overlooking the sea. I wish I had enough time to check it out in the other direction and run north towards Biarritz. The Basque Country alone is home to more than 15 trail races; from running and walking to vertical races, obstacle races, multi-day events and more. There are hundreds if not, thousands of running trails and routes that can be found throughout the Basque Country; ranging in difficulty. Some of the easiest and most popular trails can be found near Azitain, País Vasco; with more moderate and difficult trails available near Zegama and Axpe. 

Photo Credit: Oli Russell-Cowan

4. Whitewater Rafting

I’d never been whitewater rafting and it’s something that has always been on my to-do list. Before heading to Biarritz, I didn’t know that rafting was an option but soon found out from locals who recommended it. 30 minutes inland from Biarritz on the river Nive lies Uhina Rafting.

I called up Uhina Rafting last minute to see if I could squeeze into a trip. Sure enough, there was a group leaving in an hour and I bolted down the road through the incredible green hills and rocked up at the rafting site. The site was packed and there was a bucks-do going on and loads of people throwing back the wine over what looked like a long lunch. These must be my new rafting buddies! I was kitted out with a wetsuit, helmet, and the paddle; and introduced to Leo, the English speaking instructor. He gave me the lowdown on what to look for and most importantly, the key instructions: ‘When I say Bonzi, you jump in the raft with your paddle up in the air’. I wondered how many times he was going to need to say Bonzi…

The Adventure

The rafts hold 6-7 people comfortably. We loaded up and set off into the river. It was super peaceful there paddling downstream; then we came to our first rapid. The raft was bouncing off rocks and negotiating the beds was really fun. There were four main rapids that we went through and the last one had a bit more grant than the previous three, but all of them were really fun! As long as you can swim and have some kind of fitness, you can do it. 

Just before the last rapid, we stopped off at the side of the river and Leo asked if we wanted to jump in. Why not? We abandoned the raft and walked upstream to this little rapid. ‘Remember to look up when you jump!’ It’s like bodyboarding down the river, just without the board; or being on one of those lazy rivers in a waterpark, but with a lot more rocks in the way! I jumped in and looked up to the sky; then you get spat out at the bottom of the rapids. It was one of the highlights of the tour for sure and we got to do it a couple of times. 

We then ventured further down the river to a cliff jumping spot, which was cool. Getting some time in the water and soaking in the surroundings was awesome! 

Photo credit: Uhina Rafting

5. Cycling

There are purpose-built cycle paths all along the coastline. You can rent everything from cruise bikes to mountain bikes and e-bikes. As we were staying in Capbreton, Theo our two-year-old son came across this cruiser bit with a box container in the front for him to chill in. He climbed in and wouldn’t get out so that was a bit of an indication that we were going to rent a bike for the day! 

We went to Jerry’s Bike Rental in Capbreton, right on the river and directly next to the bike path. Theo loved being in the trailer and all I could hear in the back was ‘faster, faster’! We cycled along the path up to Hossegor, then around the lake, which was super chill. 

There are a number of popular cycling routes that can be found in the Basque Country. One of the main ones is the Gastronomic Tour, which starts at the bottom of Monte Igueldo and travels along the beach and into the old town towards Astigarraga. This route is relatively flat and mostly off-road, which is perfect for beginners.

Another popular route is the Rioja Wine Region, starting in the city of Logroña, through the villages of Eltziego and San Vicente, ending in the town of Haro. 

Photo Credit: Oli Russell-Cowan

How to Get Around

We rented a car just outside Biarritz train station and this was definitely the best way to get around. You can find Avis France and Alamo Rent A Car counters at the main train station, with plenty of rental options for all budgets and adventures. 

If you don’t have access to a car, the Basque Country can also be easily navigated by public transport. Trains and buses connect Biarritz to all nearby major cities in the south of France and north of Spain. There are plenty of tour companies as well, which offer day trips and multi-day trips to nearby attractions and points of interest. 

To get around Biarritz and the Basque Country by public transport, the easiest way is by bus. Single tickets start at 1.15 euros per person with monthly and summer passes also available. Throughout the summer, there are also free shuttles that travel throughout the region of Anglet. 

 

Feature image credit: Fabio Angelini Pictures

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Oli Russell-Cowan

The concept for Rad Season came about when I was trekking around Latin America. I found it difficult to find cool events and festivals going on that were a bit different and had an element of adventure and general radness to them. I knew that there was always something rad worth going to somewhere in the world, but there was no single platform bringing them together for like-minded people. With over 15 years experience in international business development, spanning multiple industries including action sports, events, media, digital, ICT, travel and tourism, I decided to combine them all with Rad Season.

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