x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Unemployed are riding out the crisis on Spanish surf

Rather than mope around at home, legions of unemployed Spaniards are riding out the economic crisis on some of the best waves in Europe, driving a surf boom on the country's northern breaks.

Surfing teacher Mike Dobos glides on a wave in the northern Spanish Basque village of Mundaka.
Surfing teacher Mike Dobos glides on a wave in the northern Spanish Basque village of Mundaka.

MUNDAKA, Spain // Rather than mope around at home, legions of unemployed Spaniards are riding out the economic crisis on some of the best waves in Europe, driving a surf boom on the country's northern breaks.

With one in four now out of a job in Spain, surf professionals say the number of surfers has jumped these past two to three years on the stretch of coast from western Galicia to the border with France.

"I think people are taking their unemployment money and just deciding to surf as much as they can," said Michael Dobos, who runs a surf school in the village of Mundaka, home to some of the continent's most sought-after waves.

"Since the crisis broke there are three times more people in the water," said Federico Ibazetor, who runs the Cabo Billano surf school in nearby Plentzia.

Both Mr Dobos and Agustin Ciriza, a surf instructor who runs the San Sebastian-based activity tour company, Gorilla Trip, agreed with the estimate.

"They don't have work, so they have more time to surf. They are mainly young, because it is easier to lay off young people than older ones," Mr Ibazetor added.

Surfers in Plentzia point at beach parking lots - which once stood almost empty on weekdays - now full. Many who surf around Plentzia are unemployed construction workers or car mechanics. yet it is not only manual workers who have more time to surf.

Mikel Serrano, a marine biologist, has been out of college for two years and has yet to find a job.

"It's a month here, four months there. We are all unemployed," he said. "There is less work, fewer grants, less research and less scientific investigation. It's tough."

While long-time surfers are slightly put out by the increased numbers in their favourite surf spots, surf schools are delighted.

For the past two summers schools say classes were not only full, but business continued right up to, and beyond, the mid-autumn holidays, as cash-strapped families decided to take domestic holidays rather than travel abroad.

Surf school managers also say that surfing in Europe - which has long been associated with drug-taking, skipping school and generally lazing about - has ditched that negative image.

Instead, as a Mundaka surfer said: "There are pijos (posh people) in the water now".