Victor Hugo once said, “ I know of no other place more charming and magnificent than Biarritz.” The author is not alone in his adoration for Biarritz, for many before and after him have discovered the same allure and fascination of this small town in Basque Country, a region in southwest France. Since the 1950s, vacationers from far and wide have flocked to Biarritz for its abundant sunshine and pristine beaches, making it one of the most sought after tourist destinations. However, Biarritz’s touristic success is largely attributed to the sporting activities that dominate the culture and lifestyle of the coastal town. Media that promotes Biarritz tourism typically focuses attention on it being the ideal location for surfing, golfing, and other out-door activities. This fusion of tourism and sports in the media illustrates how Biarritz is presented as a destination that is appealing to a wide range of individuals who seek both leisure and thrill.
Historically, Biarritz began attracting the rich and famous to its coast in the mid-nineteenth century. In 1854 Napoleon III commissioned a luxurious summer home to be built on the beach of Biarritz for his wife, Empress Eugénie. The estate is now known as the Hotel du Palais, one of the most beautiful and grandeur hotels in the world. Thereafter, other royalty and aristocracy followed suite and soon Biarritz was transformed into a vacation getaway for the elite. Sports first appeared in Biarritz when a group of Englishmen created the Biarritz le Phare in 1888, Europe’s second oldest golf course (Etcheverry 14). Then in 1956, Biarritz was hit its biggest discovery to date. While shooting the film The Sun Also Rises, American screenwriter Peter Viertel discovered the glorious and majestic waves of Côte des Basques beach. An avid surfer in Hawaii and California, Viertel decided to put the waves to the test and became the first to introduce the sport of surfing to Europe. Although Biarritz was featured in Surfer Magazine in the 1960s and 1970s, surfing remained a fairly marginal sport in the area until the late 1980s when began gaining full popularity (Crumley 27). Today, surfing is an essential element of the culture and lifestyle of Biarritz where nearly everyone can be caught with a surfboard clutched under their arm. As a result, it is expected that Biarritz tourism media should focus on the promotion of this key characteristic of the region.
In addition to surf schools, Biarritz tourism also benefits from the surf festival held annually on the Côte des Basques. The Biarritz Surf Festival, which is held during the middle of July every year, brings together professional surfers from around the world to compete on its sandy beaches. This famous weeklong summer event, which started in 1993, also attracts hordes of tourists, with an estimated 150,000 people in attendance in 2010 (journeymart.com). The most prestigious competition of this five-day festival is the Roxy Jam Biarritz ASP Longboard World Championships. This competition, which began in 2006, features thirty-two of the world’s best female surfers, thus making it the biggest and most important longboard event for women. Along with the exciting competition, the festival also draws in tourists with the showcase of art exhibitions and musical concerts (surfersvillage.com). However, due to the importance of surfing in Biarritz, it comes as no surprise that media representations of this high-profiled event is centered around the beach and surfing.
While surfing is indeed the focal point of attraction that lures tourists from all ends of the world to Biarritz, it is important not to overlook other sporting activities that also respectfully contribute to its proliferation of tourism. As previously mentioned, the founding of the Biarritz le Phare golf course in 1888 made Biarritz a historically important site for golf. Currently, the golf course still possesses a prestigious reputation, hosting many international competitions yearly (golfbiarritz.com). However, Biarritz le Phare is only one out of the ten sprawling golf courses in the coastal town today. Therefore, Biarritz tourism has greatly taken advantage of the plethora of these golf courses by highly promoting the Biarritz Golf Pass, a pass that provides access to six of the region’s most beautiful courses (golfpassbiarritz.com). Aiming to instantly draw in golf-lovers, the logo for the pass informs tourists the enticing golf courses they can tee off at during their visit to Biarritz. This adds to the illustration of the chief employment of sports in tourism media to lure in potential vacation seekers.