Catch the World's Gnarliest Waves
There’s nothing quite like surfing. To finally master a wave, keep your balance and not end up with a face full of water is one of the best feelings you can get. Surfing also gets bonus points for the keeping you fit and taking place in beautiful surroundings on a beach. So much better than a sweaty gym, right?
From UK seasides to Asian destinations, and of course far out Australia, every continent has waves worth discovering. But which ones are the best for our budget-minded travellers?
1. Taghzout, Morocco
Taghzout is a tiny town with great waves year round, and at enticing Moroccan prices.
If you’re a seasoned boarder you can hire one from the shops lining the beach and jump right in. Anyone yet to stand on their own two feet can benefit from the many surf and yoga retreats in Taghzout. If you book in advance you’ll get a pick up from Agadir airport, dorm-style accommodation and sessions of sunset yoga to stretch out those tired muscles. You’ll learn to surf in small groups, which is great if you’re cruising solo.
2. Bali, Indonesia
Bali is the Aussie summer hotspot and it’s easy to see why. The tourist town of Kuta teams up bargain hostels and laid-back beach life with an extremely lively club scene. The backpackers come flocking.
If you’re a beginner surfer, barter down one of the local surf schools for a few hours of tuition; just be careful of the other boarders out there. If you’re a bit of a pro you’ll want to head to Dreamland. It’s a beach every bit as beautiful as the name suggests with powerful waves that, no matter how experienced you are, could sweep you off your feet. Be careful!
3. Hawaii, USA
Babies practically enter the world in wetsuits here. Surfing is the Hawaiian way of life and with so many board masters around, it’d be silly not to take advantage.
Most of the islands have at least one spot to catch a good wave although Oahu, home to Honolulu, has the most. For beginners, Waikiki Beach is the best place to go for lessons. If you already know your pump from your pop-up, go to the glimmering shores of Diamond Head.
When you’re struggling to catch a break and need a little surf inspiration, sit out over the Banzai pipeline and watch some of the world’s best ride the monster waves. If you’re planning on going surfing in Hawaii I’d also recommend you watch the film ‘Surf’s Up’ – those little penguins make me want to book a ticket immediately.
4. Montauk, New York
It’s hard to imagine riding the waves anywhere near Fifth Avenue but, if you leave The Big Apple behind and head out to the Hamptons, you’ll find one of North America’s best surfing spots.
Montauk is a small fishing town just 2 hours away from NYC. Like most surf towns it has a chill-out vibe; the beach is your best friend and a beer completes the picture.
Head to Ditch Plains or Turtles Beach for great waves and once you’ve washed off all the sand, visit Surf Lodge. Sunsets, live music and lobster is all you need.
5. Thurso, Scotland
If jumping on a plane just doesn’t line up with your budget, no worries. Sacrifice the sun for Scotland and head to the northern town of Thurso. It has some of UK’s greatest waves, making it ideal if you just want to test the water.
Watch out for the high winds though. They can make mastering the waves a little difficult, so make sure you know what you’re doing before you wade out. And we definitely wouldn’t recommend going it alone. Who’s up for the challenge?!
6. Byron Bay, Australia
The coastal town of Byron Bay in southeastern Oz is a beauty and exactly how you’d imagine the beaches of Australia to be, complete with golden sands, a few guitars and parked up VW vans with dreadlocked drivers.
It’s a rite of passage for any surfer to be able to navigate the waters of Australia and the waves here are ideal for beginners. Aside from surfing, the town itself is extremely cool, with amazing restaurants, great coffee and dolphins – what more could you want?
I do have friends that have been sucked in by the Byron Bay way of life though, so watch yourself!
7. Siargio, Philippines
The Filipino waves are reserved for those looking for adventure. The water here can be unpredictable but with 7,107 islands and access to the South China Sea and Pacific Ocean, you’ll find some good spots.
Siargio is the number one place in the Philippines for surfers. The stunning town has incredible views and amazing waves. The water is warm, the island is tropical and when you need a quick drink, there’s a steady supply of coconuts.
8. Jeffrey’s Bay, South Africa
In the east of South Africa you’ll find Jeffrey’s Bay. It’s a popular spot with the locals and has loads of surf shops to get you fully equipped. J-Bay, as it’s known, is also home to the Billabong Pro World Championships.
Beginners learn the basics over on the beautiful Dolphin Beach, but if all that sea salt gets a little too much, you can swap the swell for sand and have a go at sandboarding instead.
9. Nayarit, Mexico
Nayarit is one of the most popular areas for surfing in Mexico. Puerto Vallarta in the south of the province is the most well known and full of resorts, so will be pretty expensive. Nearby you’ll find Sayulita and San Pancho – two great little towns for getting your surf on.
When the boards are away and the suits are drying, both Sayulita and San Pancho are cool places to unwind. They’re old Mexican fishing towns that have managed to keep the tourist traps at bay, although you might find what tourist delights they do have inviting.
Sayulita has three main streets that wind their way to the beach in less than 5 minutes so wherever you stay you’ll be close enough to grab the board and go.
10. San Sebastian, Spain
San Sebastian combines good food with good fun. It’s home to so many pintxos bars you’ll need the hours in the water to keep the pounds off.
Located in the Basque country of Spain, San Sebastian is a great spot for anyone InterRailing for the summer. Sun is pretty much guaranteed. If you really want to throw yourself into it, you can take part in one of the many weeklong surf camps here. Practice makes perfect!