Claire Smail's Bank Holiday Surf Break

Board Bank Holidays

Ever wondered what to do on the bank holidays?

The luxury of a three day weekend is thanks to the traditional spring festival and is always a sign that summer is just around the corner; the water is getting warmer and evenings longer.  However, it can also be the first reminder of summer traffic and busier line-ups.  So, in April when the idea of cycling to France was suggested, my only thoughts were… waves, camping and patisseries. The combination of these three things seemed like the perfect bank holiday adventure. 

Two days before we set sail, I began to gather a wide range of excessively warm camping gear, oiled my trusty mountain bike and borrowed a nifty surfboard rack.  Then the next thing I know, the sun was setting on Friday evening and we were actually on route, winding our way slowly through the streets of Plymouth, headed for the ferry port and some soon to be amused ferry staff. 

After a few hours of smooth sailing, Roscoff welcomed us with a morning coffee and croissant. Once refreshed, our thoughts returned to the need to discover surf and then the hunt was on to find the nearest wave!  The search proved successful! Thanks to the French and their appreciation of cycling, we were able to meander along a scenic cycle route for a few kilometres, until we headed off the road, down over a line of sand dunes and found ourselves at Le Dossen.  Our efforts were greeted with the sight of a fun looking, 2ft beach break with moderate cross-off winds.  Looking at the near empty beach meant only one thing to us all; pile up the bikes, dig out the wetsuits and get in!

After an afternoon enjoying clear skies, fun, friendly waves, island exploring and longboard trailer repairs, we ended our first full day wild camping in a deserted campsite. 

Sunday dawned bright but cold.  On my part, after a night of seemingly not so warm camping, I was glad of a hot cup of tea and another warm day ahead.  The surf check revealed the inevitable, that the swell had dropped in the night which left only one choice, to continue on down the coast in search of a more open beach.  Our destination was Boutrouilles, noted as a ‘good higher tide beach breaks’ with a ‘friendly atmosphere’ (The Stormrider Guide Europe).

As the surf forecast had predicted little incoming swell, we decided to spend the day slowly cycling along the Brest coastline, enjoying the quaint villages, green farmland and secluded bays that this area is made up of.  We passed through idyllic scenery, stopped for divine local hot chocolate and peddled along comfortably quiet roads, until after many lesuirely kilometres we reached our destination.  Boutrouilles turned out to be a sleepy place, graced with the most dramatic granite rock formations and tranquil aqua blue water.  Its location was perfect and if any swell did start to push in, we would be in the right place to catch it.  Thus another night of decidedly warmer, wild camping was undertaken with the hope of an early morning surf.

A peaceful night stretched into a peaceful morning and at 5am we woke up to a quiet dawn…the new swell had not arrived.  With the optimal tide not due until the exact time our ferry was scheduled to leave, the decision was simple, head back towards Roscoff and hope that the swell hits before lunchtime.  Taking the more direct route to deliver us back to Le Dossen, we made it in time for the flooding tide to start making use of the small swell beginning to push through. 

After an enjoyable session, we loaded up our bikes with boards and wetsuits for the final time and swung back on the road to meet the ferry that would take us home.

Resting on the ferry as it pitched through the long awaited surf, we all agreed that the last three days had been the best use of this year’s spring bank holiday weekend.  With only a few tumbles or crashes and no flat tyres, we had cycled to continental waves and surfed the secluded shores, on a self-sufficient, low carbon surfing trip. 

Written by Claire Smail

Alder wetsuits, Diplock Pheonix Surfboards, Saltrock Clothing


Edited by George Crossley

Photographs by George Crossley


With thanks to The Slide Show