Surfing is unpredictable. Picking the right destination for a given time of year is an art. Get it right and empty peaks await. But make a minor misjudgement and you’ll be greeted with crowded water, or worse still, flat seas.
Some destinations are more unpredictable than others. Waves that can be fickle during the summer months can come alive during the winter, and spots that show promise in the summer are often overwhelmed in the larger swells of the winter.
But look in the right place and you’ll find that there is always somewhere on the planet with a perfectly breaking wave. In the spirit of eternal classic ‘The Endless Summer’, we’ll guide you through the best places to visit throughout the year, and look at when is the best time to visit.
January – Barbados
This Caribbean paradise is perhaps more synonymous with luxury holidays and honeymooners. But its 60 miles of coastline boast consistent swells, warm waters, and a variety of peaks to spread out the increasing number of travelling surfers. At this time of year world-class right-hander the ‘Soup Bowl’ is rarely going to drop below head height, ensuring there is plenty to go round and guaranteeing relaxed rum induced Caribbean smiles all round.
February – Morocco
Its consistency and quality have made Morocco a stalwart on many travelling surfers calendars. Only a short flight from most European capitals – yet seemingly much further apart in culture, weather and wave quality – the famous peaks of Morocco consistently attract visiting surfers. For an easy trip, base yourself somewhere around Taghazoute and there are a plethora of insanely good waves right on your doorstep. For the more adventurous, or those not wishing to share the line-up, look further south; seemingly endless stretches of unexplored coastline reveal hundreds of un-ridden waves.
March – Canary Islands
A group of 7 islands, the nearest being 100 km from the coast of Africa, the Canary Islands are swell magnets. Couple this with a variety of rocky reefs and volcanic beaches upon which the swells are unleashed, and the travelling surfer has hundreds of opportunities for scoring great quality surf. With a reputation for fierce locals at the most famous of spots, stay respectful and there’ll be no aggravation in the water. Lanzarote has some serious big wave spots, El Quemao firing in all its glory is an incredible sight. All along the coast the power of the Atlantic is unleashed in thick slabs, the likes of which are more akin to that seen in the Polynesian waters of Teahupo’o.
April – China
Surfing and China are words not usually paired together. China doesn’t have much of a reputation for delivering rideable waves, let alone classic peaks worthy of the not inconsiderable effort of reaching the Chinese coastline. But that doesn’t mean it’s not worth the trouble. The island of Hainan, which sits at the southern tip of China, is the centre of the Chinese surf scene. With 1800 KM of coastline there’s always a wave breaking somewhere. Unexpected point breaks lurk around every corner and the warm tropical water means you’ll only ever need boardshorts. A surf expedition to China is going to be memorable for more than just the waves.
May – Australia’s East Coast
Pinpointing a single destination to visit along Australia’s surf littered East coast is impossible. The month of May brings consistent swell to the beaches and with a bit of luck the sun will still be shining. How about driving from Melbourne to Cairns and seeing just how consistent the epic beach breaks of Australia really area?
June – Indonesia
You could probably surf a new location everyday of the year somewhere in Indonesia. It’s a surfer’s paradise of crystal clear water, incredible backdrops and the most consistent waves on the planet. The easy and obvious choice for the visiting surfer is Bali; June heralds the beginning of the dry season meaning the west coast of the Bukit Peninsular has crawled out of its wet season hibernation. But Bali can be busy, for an altogether different experience take to the seas and seek out remote ‘only-accessible-by-boat’ type waves. The Mentawai Islands in Sumatra will never fail to disappoint, or to remove yourself even further from the outside world, the Hinako Islands in North Sumatra are renowned for consistently head high surf breaking over perfect Indonesian reefs.
July – Cape Town
Cape Town could just be the one of the most perfect cities in the world. Sitting in the shadow of the breathtaking Table Mountain, a fascinating history and unique culture has earned it the nickname of the Mother City. Music, art and food all play a large part in the make up of this South African hot spot – and it also has waves. Powerful point breaks, hollow barrels, thundering sections: Cape Town has it all. The water is crisp, but just one classic ride will warm you up from the inside and keep you forever coming back for more.
August – Philippines
The Philippines have a reputation for being inconsistent. Fickle waves that are often mixed with strong cross-shore winds; a great kite surfing destination, but best ignored by those wishing to leave lines, kites and buoyancy aids at home. While this may be true for 75% of the year, August through to November sees the winds change, and typhoons in the North Pacific send copious swells towards the islands with more consistency then it is often credited with. Cloud 9 will offer picture perfect barrels, but with thousands of unexplored, unnamed and ultimately un-ridden reefs just waiting to be discovered, your best bet is to find a friendly local boatman and head off into the unknown.
September – Ireland
Ireland has a unique surf culture. Its wave are undoubtedly world class and on its day will challenge anything the North Shore of Hawaii or West coast of Australia has to offer. Yet it remains largely off the beaten track for most travelling surfers. The reason? Probably something to do with a water temperature that defies even the most enthusiastic of wave riders. September though sees the first of the winter swells beginning to make their way towards the coast, and the water still retains some of the heat from the brief Irish summer. There’s a defined hierarchy in the water, especially at some of the frequently photographed and now world famous spots (such as Bundoran), but show respect and Ireland will deliver some of the most memorable waves you’re ever likely to experience.
October – Southern California
Southern California is the home of US surfing. A seemingly endless stretch of coastline plays host to some of the world’s most famous surf. Trestles, Huntingdon, Newport Beach… names so synonymous with the sport that even those who haven’t been there feel an inherent connection to the locations. Often written off as over-crowded and unsustainable, arriving swells are actually widely distributed amongst its many surf spots, nicely dissipating the numbers in the water. A trip in October should see a drop in numbers as the summer visitors pack their bags and head home, all the while the Pacific swells march their way to shallower waters to deliver classic waves along California’s fabled seaboard.
November – Sri Lanka
Renowned for being one of the most fun surf destinations on the planet, Sri Lanka’s reef and beach breaks will leave you with nothing but memories of long sandy shores and warm offshore winds. Sri Lanka serves as a reminder that waves don’t have to be triple overhead to be exhilarating. Sometimes nothing serves a surfer’s needs more effectively than a moderate swell, a light offshore breeze and water that doesn’t drop below 80 °F. In November, the western reef breaks of Hikkaduwa are the place to be. The old fishing village retains much of its original charm and is the perfect base to explore Sri Lanka’s plentiful offerings.
December – Hawaii
The spiritual home of surfing. It’s no coincidence that some of the world’s best surfer’s learnt to ply their trade on the numerous waves surrounding the islands of Hawaii. When Pipeline starts firing, chances are it’ll be full of pros and veterans of the wave, but Hawaii has so much more to offer than Pipeline. Dotted around its beautiful landscape are numerous reefs, lagoons and beaches. All of the islands receive consistent swell and December is the perfect time to witness the North Shore of Oahu doing its thing.