Eating out in Hossegor can be a surprise. With so many surfers and watersports and health fanatics living or holidaying here, it can be easier to gert a nutritious acai bowl than a plate decent steak-frites, with most places serving vegan and vegetarian dishes. That said, Bistrot Balnéaire, overlooking the lakeshore, offers classic, meaty Landaise specialities, such as foie gras and a juicy magret de canard.
Hossegor’s lake is a stunning wetlands site that opens into the Atlantic, and a perfect place for oyster beds. It is the coolest place for an evening aperitif at one of the half-dozen waterside cabanes, which are oyster fishermen’s huts. Order a shellfish platter – oysters, shrimps, whelks – and a chilled bottle of rosé, then enjoy the most beautiful sunset in the world. In the town centre, the covered Les Halles market is great for picnic supplies and has several fun tapas bars for lunch.
Of course it is great to eat right on the beach, and the perfect place for that is next door to our surf school, at the Lou Cabana, which is great for seafood salads and grilled mussels. It is on the Plage des Culs-Nus, a beach popular for nudist bathing – but you can come fully dressed to the restaurant.
I love to walk along the Avenue du Golf, which runs alongside the ocean from the town centre to the edge of Les Barthes nature reserve (see below) and is lined with fabulous 19th-century villas. I arrived in Hossegor 25 years ago, just a surfer, and when I walked along that avenue, I said that one day I would live on it. It is still the dream.
When friends from out of town visit, I usually take them out on mountain bike trips into the Fôret des Landes. It is the hidden face of Hossegor – a completely different world from the beach and the waves. And I cannot resist telling visitors from England that these famous trees were planted by Napoléon to build warships to sink the English fleet!
It may seem that life here revolves around the old town centre and the beach, but those in the know head a few miles outside of town to Zone Pédebert, which has developed from an impersonal industrial estate into the surfing HQ, an underground hangout for surf enthusiasts, with funky boutiques, bars, restaurants and food trucks. I opened my Chipiron workshop here in 2010 and have seen the transformation of the area first-hand. On afternoons when the weather is not good for surfing, everyone comes over here. I especially like L’Ile du Malt, a brilliant craft beer bar that buzzes when live bands hit the stage.
Les Barthes de Montbardon is a wetland area that was once the delta of the Adour, until the river was diverted as part of plans to drain the wider marshy area and stabilise the coastline. I live near to Les Barthes and often come to me ressourcer – recharge my batteries – because out here in the wilds, the summer invasion of tourists seems a million miles away. The nature reserve is free to enter and always open, with hiking trails, bike tracks and hides for watching the stunning birdlife.
In the centre of Hossegor, wine bar L’Etiquette has a huge selection from all over France, but the local Tursan wine is sourced from a vineyard right on the sand dunes. It also has some amazing locally produced armagnacs. The town’s main party place is right on the main beach, Plage Centrale, and nearby Place des Landais. There are lots of bars to choose from, but don’t miss Rock Food, which has been a gathering point for surfers from around the world since the 1980s, and has seen some crazy parties. There are several nightclubs in town, too, but don’t expect Hossegor to be like a big city when it comes to clubbing.
For young surfers on a budget, I recommend a fun new address, the Hejmo Hostel (doubles €74, dorm bed €26), which has its own swimming pool.
Damien Marly designs and handcrafts Chipiron-brand surfboards