The most unexpected place to surf in Europe
The truth is wherever there's a large body of water you can get waves - in the US they even surf on the Great Lakes. Italy has a fine wave-riding tradition that dates back to the arrival of travelling Aussie Peter Troy in 1963. There are good waves to be had on both coastlines all through the winter and spring, but the islands of Sicily and Sardinia have become real surfing hotspots. You'll also find a surprisingly large and hardy crew of surfers taking to the waters off Norway and Iceland.
Can I stay away from the crowds?
The Spanish regions of Galicia and Asturias sit on the Costa Verde, or Green Coast, and boast some of the most pristine beaches you'll find anywhere in Europe. Here it's possible to surf alone for your entire stay. The fractured coastline is bombarded by the turbulent Bay of Biscay, delivering consistent swell, yet the bays and coves always offer a sheltered spot to catch some fun waves.
The towering Picos de Europa mountains are a spectacular snow-capped backdrop in Asturias, while Galicia offers a true "big country" feel like that of the wilds of northern California. The best months to visit are September/October and May/June. Brittany Ferries runs an overnight service from Plymouth to Santander (08703 665 333; www.brittany-ferries.co.uk), with a new link from Portsmouth to Santander starting next April; P&O Ferries (08706 009 009; www.poferries.com) currently sails from Portsmouth to Bilbao.
A bit of a challenge?
Head for Morocco. Not technically part of Europe, of course, but as far as surfers are concerned it's been part of the European surf tour since the Freeride generation of the 1970s chugged south along the Atlantic coastline in their VW Combi vans. The annual winter pilgrimage to the awesome waves at Taghazoute is now part of surfing folklore.
Those without three months to burn can fly to Casablanca on Royal Air Maroc (020-7439 4361; www.royalairmaroc.com), which carries boards for free, and stay with Pure Blue Surf Adventures (01326 316 363; www.pureblue water.co.uk/moroc) where they'll guide you around the less well known northern regions.