TAKE A SNEAK PEAK
ASTURIANGREEN WOR DS
PH O T O S
G R EG
M A R TIN
Sliding the contrasting colours of Northern Spain With natural borders of the Bay of Biscay and the Cantabrian Mountains, Asturias is a Spanish province of stark contrasts. Claustrophobic industrial coastal towns like Gijon punctuate stunning and sparsely populated countryside. Fervently territorial locals pack-out urban beachbreaks and famed lefthander Rodilles, while either side, miles of first-class surf reels through unridden, all the way to Galicia.
Matt staying casual under fire
Asturias is an area traditionally built on agriculture and fishing, enticing many locals to leave their homes in the mid 19th Century in search of a better life in the Americas and West Indies. This coincided with the beginning of the industrial revolution which saw a huge coal and steel trade develop in the region, which then boomed as the pioneering Asturians returned from the ‘discovered’ countries as wealthy ‘Indianos’ keen to invest in the new economy. The region continued to grow under the dictatorship of Franco throughout the 1960’s. It is a history that is written in the Asturian landscape. Run down farms sit empty on the hills overlooking the beachside ‘modernista’ villas and empty cliff-shrouded coves surrounded by lush fertile land are abruptly smothered by industrial sprawl as you enter the main ports along the 008
coastline. Asturias is both sophisticated and earthy. It is a captivating place: a place for travellers, not for tourists. We arrive in Santander by ferry under blistering sunshine and a good swell forecast. With two days before a European Tour of Longboard (ETL) contest due to be held at Arenal De Moris in Caravia, I set out west with Sam Bleakley, James Parry and Matt Travis. A short drive from the swanky city we are immersed in the rich green that Asturias is known for. The terrain is dramatic. A fast and winding road is carved aside peaks that look ready to topple over, with tunnels cut into their sides, and bridges stretched over dazzling river valleys. As we near our destination we get the first glimpse of the waves, disappointingly small and cross-shore. We follow the snaking road down to Arenal de Moris.
The cove is spectacular, but the surf is worse than the wake we created entering Santander harbour. Caravia is surely sheltered from the predicted thee to four feet swell. We scour over a road atlas, unfolded across the bonnet of Sam’s van. I hone in on Salinas. The Gijon peninsula is clearly blocking the westerly fetch from reaching Caravia, but Salinas, a long luscious looking strip of yellow sand, sits on the more exposed side of Gijon. The easterly wind that is destroying the tiny waves in Caravia will be offshore in Salinas, so we head two hours further west. Choking in the industrial smog of the concrete port of Aviles, the town of Salinas cannot hide its urban foundations, even with one of the longest stretches of golden sand in the province. But several wrong turns and a sweaty hour in the van
later, Salinas is rapidly becoming a name that we will associate with fun, shapely peaks and great high tide banks. At the eastern end of the beach, surfers hug close to the long manmade groyne and share the lineup with huge container ships as they navigate their way into the entrance of the port. Further west, in front of a row of dominating apartment blocks, waves break in more crowded waters at the town’s centre. We find an empty A-frame a few hundred metres away from the crowds, and a long session, late into the evening, distracts us long enough to align our appetites to fit in with the normal Asturian eating habits; apparently 10pm is a good time to go out for food. Only a few hours after finishing one last cerveza, having slept in the van and tents, we are back outback amidst empty sets, watching the sunrise over
Salinas shining at the end of the day
James Parry 10 over
Sam hanging five
The terrain is dramatic. A fast and winding road is carved aside peaks that look ready to topple over LONGBOARDING MAGAZINE
Salinas. The swell has dropped slightly but is still delivering bowly lefts and peeling rights. Sam, James and Matt are in fine form for the ETL comp due to run the following day. Bleakley, a veteran and still a competitor very capable of winning such contests, passes on invaluable advice to Parry and Travis. Fresh from qualifying for the ASP World Longboarding Tour Finals earlier this season at an event in Tapia, James is surfing better than ever and hungry for victories. Goofyfooter Matt, also from Sennen, is confidently working his way up the ranks with crisp footwork, and ultra-cool noseriding. As the crowds pour in from the city to make the best of the decreasing waves, we head back out of the Asturian seaside town that has served us well, and wind our way back to the contest site at Caravia. Sheltered from the thinning west swell, the surf is two foot. But the chance to share waves with friends who have travelled from as far a field as Reunion and California to compete turns the event into a celebration. The atmosphere captures the best elements of
Parry defying gravity as the sun rises
Bleakley in the semi-finals
longboarding, turning knee-high peelers into canvases for footwork and noseriding. The British contingent are standouts, with Matt expressing classic fives with Joel Tudor-esque composure, and achieving his best ever European result (5th place). James and Sam both look set to meet in the final, and James’ long hang tens, stood bolt upright, have the spectators cheering on every occasion. But by for the man-on-man semis, the waves disappear to mere ankle-snappers. The infrequent sets elude Sam and James and they finish in equal third. In the grand final the high tide helps just enough for Reunion’s Aurelien Maynieux to beat Britanny’s Alexis Deniel with some critical tens and snappy re-entries. Back on the road we stop in for one last free surf before the gentle sail home across the ever calming Bay of Biscay. In vivid contrast to gritty Gijon, Aviles and Salinas, San Vincente, in Cantabria, is classy and picturesque – but also more expensive. Like Salinas, it is a bit of a swell magnet and as the sun sets on our last night, the last bumps trickle through
with just enough size to make it worthwhile. As we reflect on four very contrasting days, with perfect, fun waves in industrial settings and contestable wind chop amongst rural beauty, we know that we’ve barely touched on the potential of Asturias. This is a place of great colour and variety, where locals crowd out urban breaks, but the rest of the coast reels off, unridden. See for yourself.
For surf travel to Spain check out brittany-ferries.co.uk/surf