Surfing in Liguria: looking for the perfect wave
In Liguria, winter storm surge are perfect for surfing. In Recco you can find the largest Surf School in northern Italy
There is Nicole, 11 years old, with long blond hair, who loves to surf and can’t wait to camp in France at the end of the season with the other boys. There is Annamaria, more sporty, she likes to catch the waves, and has a passion for the sea. And then there’s Andrea, 10 years old, who is learning to surf because he likes the “height” of the waves. At this answer, Serena Gallone of the Blackwave Surf School – the surf school with the largest number of members in northern Italy – and the instructor, Giacomo Beniamini, look a little perplexed. What will it mean? Who knows… may Andrea be already a “soul surfer” – meaning a person with a “mystical” approach, a bit like Bodhi (Patrick Swayze), in Point break.
But whatever aspect of surfing you love – be it sport, social, naturalistic or mystical – in Liguria you can find it. Whether you are looking for adrenaline in challenging the waves, or you want to completely blend with the big blue, nature, and the environment, in Liguria you can do it. Even in winter. Especially when the weather is cold.
Blackwave Surf School in Recco have understood it very well: between Recco and Bogliasco there is a large group of wave chasers, tube fanatics, people who shed their skin in winter within a dark neoprene skin in order to dive into the mistral’s rough waves. And today, you can also learn how to surf here.
“In winter, in Liguria, conditions for surfing are ideal” – says Serena Gallone, about 30 years old and with 20 years of surfing experience. “Exposure to the libeccio and mistral storm surges present perfect waves and very high quality spots.
Spots are the best beaches for surfing: in Liguria there are many.
“The most famous are in Levanto, Chiavari, Bogliasco, Varazze, Andora and Diano Marina. When waves come, the news spreads in an instant and people arrive from Piedmont and Lombardy. Many have never ridden a board and want to learn how to do. On the other hand, you recognize Ligurians immediately: they usually are the expert ones, who challenge the most demanding storm surge”.
Surfing in Recco
It’s a beautiful sunny day even if the air is prickly. The wind is not strong but the sea is rough enough to create beautiful “pipes” close to the Recco dam. There already are about twenty guys in the water with their boards, but others keep coming. Looking at them, I wonder what features a spot must have to attract surfers.
“In Liguria there are several good spots with many types of seabed: beach breaks, points, riffs…– Serena says – The beach break is a sandy seabed, fairly large beaches with steep but simple waves, good for learning , such as Andora and Diano Marina. Then there are riffs, like Varazze: mixed backdrops of rock and sand with precise waves, which always break in the same point. Finally, there are points, such as La Santa di Varazze, with a rocky backdrop and the pier on which the wave unroll. Recco is a perfect mix between beach break and riff, with a submerged barrier that breaks the waves, and the sand close to the shore”.
“In Liguria there are many types of seabed perfect for surfing: between beach breaks, points and riffs”
Blackwave Surf by Recco was born 10 years ago. For two years it has joined the other surf school in the area, Roofless in Bogliasco. The idea was good: school and surf shop have grown together, the number of enthusiasts continues to increase, and today it is the largest school in terms of number of associates in Italy counting more than five thousand people. Now the small shop also has a bar, the school organizes surf courses, and summer camps for the youngest. Giacomo gathers his little pupils, arranges their wetsuit, and prepares the boards.
“I’ve been surfing for 11 years. I’m from Imperia and I myself learned in Bogliasco during the university period – Giacomo Beniamini tells me – I like teaching, I’ve been doing it for a while. I teach adults and children all about the sea, the weather, the waves, in order to recognize where the best ones generate. Each spot is different from the others. First of all, you need to think about safety: there are clear rules to followin order not to injury yourself and others. Then, you need to understand the boards: you start with the “spugnoni”, more manageable boards ideal for beginners. Once in the water you firstly learn the “take off”, how to stand on the board; the rowing technique, and the line up, which means to recognise where to stay. These are the basic elements of surfing. With experience, training and practice you get to do more difficult manoeuvres, such as curves…”
“Learning how to surf includes understanding and experiencing sea, weather, waves. Each spot is different from the other. In surfing there is a complete fusion with the environment”.
Which equipment is the necessary? What does anyone who wants to start surfing need to have?
“To begin with, especially in the winter season, a wetsuit and neoprene boots are essential. Then you need paraffin, a special wax to create the right grip on the board, and finally the board. The board is a world apart: to begin with you need a sponge. The best surfers, like Serena, use the shortboard. Then there are longboards, completely different in styles. You have to learn to choose the right boards depending on the wave: for rougher seas a short is better, with calmer seas you take the long board. For example, I take them both in the van and decide in the morning, after coffee … In any case, you can rent everything you need from us.”
Van, getting up early at dawn, boards, searching for the perfect wave… just like in “Wild Days” by William Finnegan, which is one of the sacred texts of surfers. Or in famous films such as “Point Break” and “Big Wednesday”… but what is the typical day of the Ligurian surfer?
“The typical day of a surfer begins the evening before with the weather forecast – Giacomo is speaking, and we can clue he is an expert in wave research – In the morning, you wake up at dawn, have a protein breakfast, and you leave by van to look for the best spot depending on weather and sea conditions, as well as depending on your training level. Ligurian surfers must always be on the move in order to find the best spot. this is why you need a van. But there also is someone who use the Smart… (he winks at Serena and she smiles). It can happen that you spend hours on the road… but then even two hours in the water sometimes reward you for the effort. Afterwards, you can have lunch in the sun, and be ready for a second session until sunset time, when the wind drops. In the evening, a beer all together is due. This is the top day. Often, however, you have to fit your passion in with work and family, and everything seems more difficult…”
“The typical day of the Ligurian surfer is in constant search for the right wave… it starts at dawn, then we move by van to the best spots, second session in the evening and then a beer”
Between Recco and Bogliasco the number of surfers has grown enormously. Serena also knows some of the “veterans”, the first surfers in Liguria.
“It was the surf of the origins, that of the first pioneers. In the 70s and 80s there were not many. Surfing had just arrived in Europe and some daredevils began to ride the waves with boards built by themselves. Hearing their stories, when it happens, is beautiful. They all knew each other at the time, and they were all friends. They gave their names to most of the commercials. Now a bit of poetry has been lost, but the philosophy is the same”.
The boys arrive, with their boards, and they are ready to dive into the water. I follow Nicole, Annamaria and Andrea, and I notice that he has the sponge bigger than him. One would think that these guys have chosen to challenge themselves within the icy waves, instead of practicing a more comfortable sport. They already walked out of their comfort zone.
At the origins, surfing was legendary, but today is not bad either! The passion is still the same.
Surf in Recco > www.blackwave.it