¡Vaya, vaya, aquí no hay playa! So goes the chorus of the anthemic song by the Spanish ska band Los Refrescos, expressing the beach-less plight of the Madrid resident. In the grainy music video from the 80s archive, the bandmates are bedecked in nautical ensembles, life vests and shades, riding a raft on a concrete rooftop crooning, “podéis tener mil cines, mil teatros, mil museos, pero al llegar agosto, ¡vaya, vaya!”
And as for every other month of the year in Madrid, the closest you could get to sittin’ on the dock of the bay would be watchin’ the rowboats go by – over Retiro’s artificial lake. Pacific Ocean? Try Pacifico metro stop.
But does the lack of shoreline mean that Madrid is bereft of any kind of beach culture? Not at all. In fact, it may come as a surprise that Madrid actually has a thriving network of surfers, as well as a surf school authorized by the Comunidad de Madrid. Yes Virginia, if Jamaica can have a bobsled team, then Madrid can certainly have its own group of dedicated wave riders!
La Madrileña de Surf is the first surf school accredited by the Comunidad de Madrid, offering surfing and longboard classes for all ages, weekend surf trips, as well as surf camps in the summer.
On weekends in the city, you can find them in Retiro Park giving longboard classes – an enjoyable sport in itself and a good way to practice board balance on dry land before hitting the water. The classes are open to all ages too, and so the classes are a merry mix of kids and twenty-to-fortysomethings all sharing the adrenaline rush.
Their weekend excursions, called “Escapadas,” head to many of Spain’s surfing meccas from Cantabria to Cádiz, and even beyond the border to Portugal. They even have Escapadas in the winter – packing the thicker wetsuits of course.
If you don’t live by the coast and need to drive 4 hours away to get to the water, you take advantage of whatever you have. So who has more passion?
Joaquin Cotta is a longtime surfer, nature lover and the the founder of La Madrileña de Surf. His passion for the sport is infectious – heck, he could probably convince a Dothraki horde to take up surfing. It all stems from a lifelong love of the waves, ever since his father first bought him a small board when was nine years old on a beach in Almería. And yet he’s not your stereotypical surfer dude either, dude. In fact, he has a background in advertising and public relations, and his Clark Kent persona spends his workdays creating online marketing apps.
But MadSurf is his real baby, where he’s dedicated the past year building and spreading his personal philosophy. The school is founded on three pillars, issues that he shares are close to his heart – sport, environmental awareness, and language. It’s the perfect summer learning environment for kids who want learn a new, fun sport while learning English from native speaker surf instructors.
And yet in spite of his tireless efforts and 20 plus years of surfing, Joaquin would be tagged by some in the Spanish surfing circle as a “secano” - literally “dry land”. It’s an obvious jab at the geographical quandary, of being involved in a sport that requires a lot of H20 to be able to perfect. Yet he refuses to get wiped out by that rather discriminatory label.
“People see Madrid surfers and don’t take us seriously,” he shares. “But surfing is a feeling. It’s life. If you don’t live by the coast and need to drive 4 hours away to get to the water, you take advantage of whatever you have. So who has more passion?” He goes on to explain that whereas those who are blessed with a coastal birthright can afford to forego a day of surf if they see that the waves are small, the long distance traveler-surfer in contrast would make the most of every wave he gets.
Joaquin’s dream is for the next Spanish surf champion to be from Madrid, and of course from La Madrileña Surf. A winning “secano”? He believes it is possible. “If you start them young, you can develop the next champion.”
So what’s his pitch for picking up a board this summer?
“Surfing gives you another perspective. It gives you a distinct point of view, an alternate way of life that’s more calm and relaxed, and more in the present. Through surfing, you gain a real appreciation of nature. And most of all, you learn a way of life that’s… no stress!”
Longtime newspaper journalist, children’s book writer, retired fire dancer. I moved to Spain in 2008 for the wine, food, and football.
Image Credits: David