Surfer Srinivas Rao sums up of the surfing lifestyle perfectly: “When you’re on a wave, time ceases to exist, and you’re in a such an intense combined state of euphoria, peace, presence, and excitement that it’s something you have to return over and over again. Once you realize that, to live any other way would seem completely insane.” You may not be a professional surfer—yet—but you’ll soon understand that snippet of surfing euphoria he talks about. With a little practice, you’ll be riding the swell in no time. Just hop on a plane, get to that beach, and ride the waves to surf travel!
Lucky for you dudes and dudettes, you can catch a wave and do surf trips almost anywhere you find an ocean. Keep in mind, however, that not all beaches are created equal. Some have more surge, swell and spray, while others don’t have a wave in sight. There are hundreds of amazing beaches for surf tours, but here are our top picks to travel and hang ten:
Indonesia. First stop on the list: Bali. Known for its forests and volcanic mountains, beaches, and coral reefs, you’ll not only catch worthy waves, but also have great views while you do it. Picture yourself cruising on the crystal clear water past steep volcanic ranges, palm trees, and white sandy beaches. Bali has warm water temperatures and consistent swell year-round at over 60 surfing spots on the island! Make your way to the top beaches including Uluwatu, Canggu, Kuta, and Nusa Dua on your surf holidays.
Australia. Next on the list is the Land Down Under! This may seem like an obvious pick, but with close to 23,000 miles of surfable coastline blessed with point breaks and coral reefs, it’s a wave-rider's paradise. Start in the east on the Gold Coast, a region south of Brisbane—famous for its surfing adventures, and beaches large enough to house all of the surfers it attracts. It has one of the most famous point breaks in the world, creating barrel after barrel of waves. Just south is Byron Bay, a small surf town must-see, and the large city Sydney, which is filled with surf spots like Bondi Beach. The list is endless, but other top spots are Snapper Rocks, Burleigh Heads, Nobby Beach, and Mermaid Beach.
Home to glorious beaches and coastlines on the Caribbean and Pacific oceans, your surf adventure in Costa Rica can only be described one way: cowabunga! It’s main attraction are the year-round waves and generally warm waters (just bring a wetsuit for cooler months!). Expect big waves at Naranjo Beach and the river-mouth point break at Potrero Grande or Ollies Point. Barney or not, try the 90-foot waves at the Tamarindo Beach; surrounded by nature, you’ll never tire of seeing (and hearing) howler monkeys swinging from the trees while you’re waiting for the next run. Playa Grande is also famed for amazing waves and it’s Leatherback turtle populations (consider a surf volunteer adventure by helping to conserve these little guys in-between sessions!).
Surfing Trips Abroad
Anywhere there is a surfing adventure, there is a teacher. There are tons of surf travel programs in every surf town to turn you from beach bum benny to a surfer pro. Programs are fit for all skill levels and budgets. Schools, instructors, and programs often provide boards, wetsuits, and surf lessons. Most lessons will be one-on-one or in a small group; if you’re a beginner, the instructor usually starts the lesson on the sand, teaching you how to lie, paddle, and stand up on the board. Then you’ll move into the water.
Depending on your experience level, your surf tours instructor may stay with you in the swell to give you an extra push to paddle hard, stand up, find your balance, and catch a wave. With more experienced surfers, instructors may focus more on fun tips and tricks, like 360s, laybacks, and kickflips.
The moment you stand up on the surfboard is a total rush. You’ll feel weightless as the force of the wave pumps you across the shore. It’s almost as if you’re flying across the jewel-toned water beneath your feet. Typically April through October are the warmest months to surf, but with the advanced technology in wetsuits, you can tackle the surge anytime and still stay warm.
Surf and volunteer combo programs can be found in most locations, from Cloudbreak in Fiji to Indo to Jeffrey's Bay in South Africa. You can work in animal conservation (like in Costa Rica), teach kids about the importance of water systems and respecting the ocean, or get involved with local NGO’s. Just be sure to always look out for the men in grey suits!
Surf Travel Tips & Advice
Now that you know the sickest places to catch the gnarliest surf, you’ll do best with a few pieces of advice to take with you. First off, for the best waves, know the peak season of your destination. For any of these locations, you’ll get waves all year-round, but the biggest waves come during peak season. Remember: countries in the southern hemisphere have seasons opposite to those in the northern hemisphere.
During surf tours, be sure to pace yourself (and be patient with yourself). Beginners should use a big surfboard to get the rhythm and flow of the balance necessary to stand. It’s okay if you don’t know what your goofy foot is yet. Ideal surf trips feel like a combination of pushing yourself out of your comfort zone and playing it safe. Don’t jump on a short board or tackle a barrel before you’re ready!
Packing for surf travel means swimsuits and towels a-plenty; your carefree beachy locks and suntanned skin will clue others into your epic awesomeness. And finally: don’t be a beach leech— cough up money and equipment when it’s needed!
Benefits & Challenges
Surfing is a relatively easy skill to learn. As you progress and hone your skills, you may be zipping through glassy barrels in no time! Whether this is your first time crushing the waves, or you’re a seasoned surfer, there is no doubt the adrenaline will be pumping non-stop during surfing adventures. You’ll have a blast, enjoy the beach, and get in some great exercise (have you ever seen an out of shape surfer? I don’t think so!).
Surfing is pretty easy to catch onto, but it does take some physical stamina. If you’re not the most athletic person, don’t worry. Whenever you need to take a break, ride back to the beach and bask in the sunshine for a while. Pay attention to the tides and currents as well. Some oceans, especially those with waves, can get rough at times. Know your skill level, and if the waves get a little rough for your liking, hang out on the sand until the tides have calmed.
Get ready to yell “Banzai!” Once you get the hang of it, you won’t want to stop the thrillingly surreal experience of surf trips. The power of the wave pushing you to gain speed while you’re right in the heart of nature. That feeling of being part of the ocean and riding on top of the world is freedom, adventure, and creativity all rolled into one. There’s only one place to get that feeling and it’s in the surf!