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The surf also rises

The surf also rises

10 Dec 2013 BY Tim Wells

Biarritz was for centuries a nondescript whaling town, with a slight reputation as a spa resort until the mid-19th century, when Princess Eugénie convinced her husband Napoleon III to build her a palace on its shores. It quickly became a chic resort for the great and good of Europe, especially after the casino opened in 1901. In 1957 Biarritz saw the launch of a new seaside craze, as two California lads brought with them their passion for surfing. Producer Darryl Zanuck and screenwriter Peter Viertel, in Biarritz to shoot their film version of Hemingway’s “The Sun Also Rises”, had smuggled their surfboards among the camera cases. Together with some local enthusiasts, Viertel co-founded the Waikiki Surf Club in 1959. The first French surfing championship took place in 1960, and the following year saw the first European surfing championship. Surfing was here to stay. Biarritz boasts six kilometres of coastline, and its beaches are today world-renowned as surfers’ paradise, especially Côte-des-Basques beach, surrounded by cliffs and with views of the Spanish coast, and a bit further along, the spacious and wild Marbella Beach. A number of world-class surfing competitions are held here each year, and there are surfing schools offering lessons for all levels. Biarritz is firmly ensconced as an obligatory port of call for surfers looking for that perfect wave.