When it comes to surfing, Bondi Beach and Waikiki aren’t the only options. Whether you’re a seasoned professional or a surfing newbie, there is a wave out there for you. But once you get out of your wetsuit what do you do? Here are eight destinations that have something to offer in and out of the water.
Dana Point, California, USA
When the Beach Boys sing about going ‘down Doheny Way’ in their iconic hit Surfin’ USA, it is in reference to the beach in the small Californian city of Dana Point. Located an hour south of LA by train, it is the perfect place for weekend warriors to escape the bustle of Tinseltown, grab their boards and enjoy the slower pace of small town America. Dana Point’s surfing heritage is strong, being one of the birth-places of the industry, with California’s first surf shop opening there in 1954. It is also a great place to start your own surfing journey, with its long mellow waves making it perfect for beginners and longboarders.
For those who develop a taste for it, the city also marks the start of Highway 1, the iconic Pacific Coast Highway, which is the route to hundreds of miles of sandy beaches that make California a surfer’s paradise. Out of the water there is a range of other outdoor activities to enjoy, with four different conservation parks to hike in, lots of outdoor yoga classes and dolphin and whale watching in the waters off its picturesque harbour. When the day is done there are plenty of chilled-out bars and seafood joints to kick back in.
Eisbach, Munich, Germany
Surfing isn’t often a pastime of the land-locked, but that is not the case when it comes to the residents of Munich. If you head down to the city’s Englischer Garten, don’t be surprised if you see people walking around in wetsuits, because the two-and-a-half mile spur of the Isar River that cuts through the park is home to a man-made wave which people have been surfing since the 70s.
The Eisbach is widely regarded as the best city-centre surfing in the world – but don’t let the lack of ocean fool you into thinking this is a walk (or surf) in the park. The shallow depth makes it an unforgiving spot to take a spill and the constant flow means you can surf it for as long as you have the stamina.
The authorities warn that the wave should only be taken on by professionals and in 2010 tried to shut it down but it was saved after a hard-fought battle by campaigners. Those with less experience should head downstream where a smaller wave known as E2 offers a better option for those looking to cut their teeth at river surfing. The Englischer Garten sits right in the centre of Munich, so surfers can slip out of their wet-suits and into some lederhosen for a unique Bavarian surf experience, enjoying the numerous beer halls the city has to offer.
Fistral beach, Newquay, UK
Cornwall is a popular choice for Brits to take to the water, with the north coast being the spot where the wild Atlantic waves make landfall. But the most famous of the South West’s surf beaches has to be Fistral. Popular with tourists, it can get busy, but there is plenty of room for surfers of all abilities.
Beginners and intermediate surfers tend to head to the south and middle of the beach, with the more experienced surfing the northern end. It is to the north you’ll find the Cribbar – a reef which can create waves of more than 30ft. It is also known as the Widowmaker and is a spot for only the most experienced, with mere mortals better off watching the action from the safety of Towan Headland.
The many bars of Newquay make it post-surf heaven, but for those who don’t want to leave the sand, the Fistral Beach Bar makes the perfect place to watch the sunset with a cocktail and is neighbour to several restaurants.
Thurso East, Scotland, UK
While the county that is home to Land’s End is the first place that comes to mind when one thinks of British surfing, it’s also possible to catch a wave at the other end of the country – and just a stone’s throw from John o’Groats is Thurso East.
The best surfing is found in Winter, when freezing fog and floating blocks of ice making their way into the surf from the river Thurso are among some of the hazards hardy locals say they routinely encounter.
So why go through all this? The answer is the combination of Atlantic Swell and perfectly positioned reefs which give rise to some world-class right-hand breaking waves. Come back in the summer and conditions are a bit more forgiving; you’ll be gifted with 19 hours of daylight and warmer temperatures. The small town of Thurso has plenty of pubs, cafes and restaurants, or if you fancy something a bit different head north for about a mile to Scrabster Harbour, where you can catch a ferry to the Orkney Islands.
Desert Point, Lombok, Indonesia
When it comes to surfing in Indonesia most people head to Bali but across the water lies the island of Lombok, which is growing in popularity as a surf destination and, for the time being, is a less touristy spot than its neighbour. The island is awash with sleepy bays and rolling waves, perfect for any skill level, but a big pull for the pros is Desert Point, which offers a long breaking wave that can give surfers the chance to ride some of the longest barrels of their lives. But as the famous Guinness advert says, good things come to those who wait. Such waves at Desert point can be fickle, with ticks sometimes following tocks for weeks at a time.
For the best chance of catching one head there in the dry season between May and October and grab your board when the moon is full. For the more impatient surfer, the island offers plenty of other spots on the south and west with great surfing all year round. If you ever get bored of exploring Lombok’s beaches, take a three day trek up Mount Rinjani, an active volcano with breathtaking views. Alternatively check out the Capital, Mataram, which is home to bustling strings of nighttime food stalls.
This chic resort in south western France has always been something of a cultural hub, where great artists, writers and musicians went to seek inspiration from its pine tree-lined coast. Now, the year-round waves attract surfers from around the world. There are four main beach breaks offering something for surfers of all levels, but it is the tunnels of La Graviere which have made it legendary. The action is so good here that surf brand Quicksilver use it as the home for their yearly Pro Surf competition, where spectators can watch their favourite pros battling all the Bay of Biscay can throw at them. It is held in October and buzz of the competition gives a boost to the already healthy apres-surf scene.
The town boasts a wealth of friendly piano bars, cafes, restaurants and nightclubs, as well as a busy programme of live music throughout the summer. And for the morning after the night before – you can grab an al fresco coffee and croissants just metres from the beach.
Killer Point, Taghazout, Morocco
When you catch the bus to the coast from Marrakech and arrive in the small village of Taghazout you could be forgiven for thinking you’d travelled back in time. Fisherman still ply their trade and locals wear traditional clothes as they walk down streets of brightly coloured houses, rubbing shoulders with surfers and people looking to check out of the modern world. The place was made popular in the 60s and not a lot has changed since then. There’s places to hire a board, and several different surf spots to hit, however the most famous is the ominously named killer point.
Don’t worry though, the name isn’t in reference to the danger of the waves but the killer whales that often frequent it’s waters (if that’s any comfort). It can be a long paddle out to catch the waves here at high tide – if surfing at low tide you can scramble along the cliffs to get the deeper water more quickly – but whatever way you get there, you won’t be disappointed, killer point offers consistent surfing on any tide.
At the end of the day head up to the skatepark above the town for a cool place to hang out and to get some amazing photos. On non-surf days consider taking a hike through Paradise Valley in the foothills of the High Atlas Mountain range.
Prainha, Sao Francisco do Sul, Brazil
This Brazilian island offers several surf spots of it’s northern tip around the laid back town of Prainha. Its streets are lined with bars and restaurants and cheap accommodation can easily be found in one of the many pousadas (inns) a stone’s throw from the water’s edge.
The town is flanked on each side by two beaches, Prainha and Enseada, offering constant waves and and a perfect place for beginners to enjoy the action and soak in the town’s relaxed atmosphere. On the other side of the island is the historic town that gives it its name – Sao Francisco do Sul. The third oldest city in Brazil, its picturesque waterfront boasts an impressive mix of European architecture.
The fort of Marechal Luz is also worth a visit. An interesting site for history buffs, it also offers stunning views over Babitonga Bay. If you get there at 8am on Saturday you’ll get to see a cannon fired as part of a changing of the flags ceremony – complete with guards in traditional garb.