Summer is here at last and some of us still have yet to pull any holiday plans together. But what better way to spend the summer than hanging out in a friendly surf town, catching waves in a beautiful setting? From Ireland to Bali via Japan and South Africa, the world is full of idyllic, sometimes unexpected places to catch a wave. Originally an ancient Polynesian sport, picked up by Americans in the early 1900s, surfing has since become a world phenomenon promoting not just physical activity but a whole beach lifestyle.
We’ve taken a look at ten of the world’s top surf spots as chosen by National Geographic to give you a taste of what’s out there. Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced surfer, one of these destinations will be perfect for you. So what are you waiting for? Grab a board, grab a wetsuit (if need be) and hit the water. . .
10. Hanalei, Kauai, Hawaii
Kauai is one of the least developed Hawaiian islands and one of the most naturally beautiful. Hanalei town sits on the island’s north shore and offers a variety of surfing spots from beginner-friendly waves at Hanalei Pier to reef breaks for the more experienced wave-riders. The waters can be temperamental, however, and certain areas are unsuitable for tourists. There is also a strong local surf scene that demands a healthy respect from people visiting the surf haven. The local people, ‘Ka poe Hawaii’, maintain a strong connection to their Polynesian roots which makes this a culturally rich destination as well as a great surf spot.
9. Tofino, Canada
A lively beach community emerged in Tofino in the 1960s, and since the 1970s the dramatic beaches and atmospheric wilderness here have contributed to this area being recognised as one of the world’s prime surf spots. Part of the Canadian province of British Columbia, Vancouver Island is just a ferry ride away from Vancouver. The town sits at the edge of the Pacific Rim National Park Reserves (a United Nations World Biosphere Reserve) and is a popular spot for nature-loving tourists and surfers. As long as you’ve got your wetsuit on, the water is welcoming all year round.
8. Taghazout, Morocco
Morocco’s leading surf spot is a small fishing village named Taghazout, located just 19km north of Agadir. Taghazout was originarily a Berber village but today has a multicultural population and a fast-growing tourist industry. Surfing is the main attraction for tourists who come to enjoy the long right hand break points which are consistent and usually uncrowned. For the more experienced, it’s possible to go on 2km surf rides from village to village if the conditions are just right. There are also beginner beaches in the area. Warm waters make it an especially pleasant spot all year round. Yoga classes and a variety of restaurants offering Moroccan cuisine are available in the village – ideal for relaxing after a day among the waves.
7. Bundoran, Ireland
Ireland’s surf capital Bundoran is located in the country’s northernmost county, Donegal. People from around the country and around the world are attracted to Bundoran’s countless beaches and reef breaks as well as the lush green countryside all around. Although the Irish weather is temperamental, reliable surf condition websites mean you can check what the water’s like online before heading out. The water tends to be on the cold side, but venturing in with a wetsuit and a bit of courage guarantees a great day riding the waves. This is one outdoor activity to which Ireland’s notoriously rainy climate need not be a deterrent.
6. Florianópolis, Brazil
The Brazilian city of Florianopolis is made up of one main island, a continental stretch, and numerous small surrounding islands. The water is a part of everyday life for the region’s locals. With 42 pristine beaches, Florianopolis offers consistent swell in the water and a varied, buzzing surf culture on the land. It is Brazil’s surf capital and hosts South America’s one and only WCT pro surf tour event. Soft sand dunes, lagoons and lush greenery make for an idyllic setting – and if you’re lucky you might even spot a dolphin swimming alongside you in the water.
5. Byron Bay, Australia
Recognised as an ideal surf location for locals since the 1970s, today Byron Bay attracts surf enthusiasts from across the word. Renowned as the backpacking town that no visitor to Australia ever wants to leave, Byron Bay is a surf haven for beginners and pros alike. Friendly locals, a chilled out vibe, and warm waters all year guarantee a constant buzz about the town and beaches. Between May and November you’re even likely to catch a glimpse of migrating humpback whales.
4. Biarritz, France
French surf haven Biarritz is located on the Atlantic coast of southwestern France. The seaside city has been cultivating its vibrant surf culture since 1957 and attracts thousands of surfers each year that are drawn to its world-class standards. Biarritz hosts surf competitions every year, including the Quiksilver/Roxy Jam tournament. Although the winter months are cold, the city’s southern location makes for an agreeable climate throughout the rest of the year and hot summer months (20 – 25°C).
3. Shonan, Japan
Japan’s coasts are full of surf spots that crowds of enthusiasts rush to on the weekends hoping to catch a wave. Shonan is recognised as the number one spot, combining city attractions with the promise of good surfing conditions. The stretch of coast in this area is varied: it includes beach breaks, reef breaks and river mouths. The best season is between August and October when typhoons usually come through the area. The typhoons promise great waves for the pros, but due to sophisticated infrastructure it’s one of the safer areas during those times when typhoons produce huge, dangerous and unmanageable swells.
2. Muizenberg, South Africa
Cape Town’s beach-side suburb Muizenberg is considered the birthplace of surfing in South Africa. Muizenberg is home to a large local surfing community centered around a popular spot with prime conditions called the ‘Surfer’s Corner’. South Africa has a bit of a rep for cold water, brutal waves, and even sharks – but Muizenberg is the exception to the rule as a gentle spot with waves that range from easy to challenging. The area’s friendly locals, quaint beachside cafes, and the charmingly colourful beach houses that line the shore of Muizenberg attract and engage regular international surfers, experienced or not.
1. Bukit Peninsula, Bali
Bali has long been a popular destination for surfers and tourists alike, with some of the world’s most beautiful coastlines. The Bukit Peninsula is a stunning region bordered by beautiful limestone cliffs and it has maintained a strong Indonesian culture which makes it perfect for surfers who like their sea sports with a side of cultural education. The Peninsula boasts a range of beaches, some catering perfectly to beginner surfers, while some of the world’s most formidable waves are available for more advanced surfers in the form of the Uluwatu and Padang Padang. This area is best exploited for outdoor sports during the summer months, from May until late September.