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The Ultimate Canary Islands Surf Guide

The Canary Islands, or “the Canaries”, make up a Spanish archipelago in Macaronesia, just off the shoreline of northwestern Africa.

Often referred to as the “Hawaii of Europe”, the destination is known for its breathtaking landscapes, diverse culture, national parks, and great surfing.

There are eight main islands in the Canaries, and you can find waves on any one of them all year long. 

History of Surfing in the Canary Islands

Explorers from northern Africa first arrived on the Canary Islands during the 5th century and inhabited the archipelago as natives for nearly 2,000 years.

These people, who became known as the Guanches, developed their own language and cultural traditions which mainly centered around their deep appreciation for nature.

In the 1400s, sailors from all over Spain began traversing the islands, and by 1496 European colonization had taken place. 

Surfing emerged in the Canaries during the sport’s boom decade – the 1960s.

When Englishmen began vacationing on the islands, they made sure to pack their boards and go hunting for new waves.

As the story goes, these vacationers would sometimes leave their boards behind and eventually locals were able to replicate them to test out the waves for themselves.

Since then, surfing has become a way of life on the Canaries, and the archipelago even hosted a pro tournament last year, the Gran Carania Pro-Am World Tour SUP Surf Final. 

Waves in the Canary Islands

The Canaries are infamous for reef breaks since the ocean floor is covered in coral and volcanic rock.

These breaks form hollow but heavy waves, and like most places, the size will vary depending on what spot you’re at and what time of the year it is. 

Gear Needed to Surf in the Canary Islands

Air temperatures in the Canaries will only stoop down to the high 50s at the very coldest.

Year-round both water and air temps usually sit somewhere in the 70s, so you can leave your wetsuit and hood at home.

The only gear you may want to consider aside a swimsuit and rash guard is a pair of reef booties and a helmet.

Booties will come in handy especially if you’re new to surfing when you’re walking your board out over the jagged coral. If you’re a more advanced surfer and plan to paddle into some of the bigger waves the Canaries have to offer, a helmet isn’t the worst idea.

It may take a few sessions to get used to, but head protection is becoming widely popular in the sport and for good reason. 

Waves in the Canary Islands are typically best fit for shortboards, but if you stay close enough to the beach on a calm day you’ll be able to find little rollers for longboards. 

The Best Waves in the Canary Islands

El Confital – Gran Canaria

In northeastern Gran Canaria, there is a little peninsula that jets out into the Atlantic Ocean. El Confital is located in the southwestern corner of this peninsula, so it parallels the coast of Las Palmas.

The spot has both beach and reef breaks that are most active when offshore winds blow in from the east throughout January and February.

Waves here get pretty big in the winter and offer a ton of potential for lengthy barrels. The beach itself is a super cool sight since it’s bordered by huge rock cliffs and the water is a deep shade of navy. 

Majanicho – Fuerteventura

Majanicho rests at the northern tip of Fuerteventura, the island closest to the shore of Morocco. Here, there’s a long rolling righthanded point break that gets really powerful towards the end of the fall season. At low tide during big swells, there’s a hollow left that’s exciting but risky since you’re carving over shallow reef. The beach is similar to El Confital, bordered by headlands that form a natural harbor. 

Almáciga – Tenerife

Almaciga is located on the northeastern tip of Tenerife, the biggest island of the Canaries.

Unlike most spots, waves here form from groundswells that activate when offshore winds come up from the south. This break provides heavy rights and lefts with steep takeoffs.

Barrels are common during winter swells and this surf spot may be the best in the archipelago when it comes to views.

A semi-circle of lush green mountains shapes the beach here, and they’re topped with small villages whose architecture is beautiful and unlike anywhere else. 

La Santa – Lanzarote

La Santa is smack in the middle of the northern coast of Lanzarote.

This exposed reef break is best in the wintertime during high tide and when swells come from the west, surfers can find both lefts and rights.

The best time to visit La Santa is in December when the waves are not only overhead, but reliable nearly every day.

However, the spot is known to be lively year-round, even in the summertime with ankle biters perfect for longboarding. 

What To Do in the Canary Islands When the Waves Are Flat

If you arrive in the Canaries and the forecast has let you down, don’t panic.

You certainly haven’t wasted a trip because there is an infinite number of activities to do while you’re on the islands.

Whale watch in Costa Adeje, explore Teide National Park, hike up the Chinyero Volcano, wine taste in Lanzarote’s La Geria Valley, or unwind at Playa de las Canteras just to name a few! 

The Bottom Line: Surfing Canary Islands

For expert surfers, the Canaries will be the most worthwhile sometime between December and February.

Waves that come from winterswells here are something you won’t want to miss out on if you’re a risk taker in search of a new destination.

For other levels, the beginning of autumn is when you’ll find breaks of varying sizes and not have to worry nearly as much about the strength of the ocean sending you into the bottom. No matter what level you’re at though, the Canary Islands have waves for everyone. 


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