Asturias is a land rich in culture. It’s rolling, green coastline and beautiful fishing towns sit in the shadow of the dramatic Picos de Europa, a mountainscape which hugs the coastline and can be easily seen from most surf spots in the area. There is still a traditional fishing fleet which works from a string of small harbours dotted along the coastline, providing seafood to local restaurants that offer the same kind of tasty dishes that have probably been served there for generations. During the winter most businesses only open between 11 and 2, giving the place a sleepy, relaxed atmosphere. In amongst all of this is a committed crew of local surfers making the most of the region’s world class beach breaks, reefs and points.
The last time I visited Asturias was 2008 on a quick 5 day mission with a friend. Our decision to visit was made almost entirely on price; the flights were cheap and we had a friend who would put us up and feed us. I remember some fun waves and a few nights at the local bars, but not much else. 10 years on and travelling with my partner, I had a much deeper appreciation for the beauty of the place. We stayed overlooking the river at Rodiles with the fabled left hander to our left and the snow-capped Picos to our right. Normally we would have been watching one of Spain’s best waves reeling into the beach, but a huge west swell meant that double to triple overhead bombs were closing out the entire rivermouth. With a swell of this size (Nazare was being towed for most of the week) I was worried we would struggle to find spots to surf. I needn’t have been. A quick look on google earth shows just how many nooks and crannies this coastline holds.
For most of the week we drove east towards Cantabria. Not only were we escaping from the booming West swell, but the eastern part of Asturias is where the real beauty is. Mornings were spent sipping Espressos in the market towns of Ribadesella or Llanes, before finding somewhere to surf for the afternoon. On the second day we stumbled upon a real gem of a spot, with perfect right hand wedges reeling along a sandy bottom. We surfed a few other places too, but always gravitated back here. Session after session it delivered the kind of waves that make it really difficult to finish your surf, so much so that by the end of the week I was an exhausted, sun burned mess! Evenings were spent on our balcony with a can of local brew in hand, watching the sun go down over the Picos. I was surprised by how warm it was, in and out of the water. Southern Portugal or the Canaries are most British surfer’s winter getaway destinations, but we had sunshine for most of the week and the temperatures pushed towards the twenties several times.
Although the waves pumped for the whole trip and we had great weather, the general slow pace and mellow feel of the area was what really sold it to me. It feels as if the way of life there hasn’t changed much in the last 100 years. The opportunity to really relax and spend some time just surfing, reading and talking reminded me how frenetic life at home can be sometimes.
On the whole, I would highly recommend Asturias as a place for an east coast surfer to head for a trip. Good waves, good weather, interesting culture, tasty food, excellent wine and amazing scenery. Roll on the next trip.