Shred the Seas
There are many types of holiday to consider going on for a relaxing break. Hiking excursions, sightseeing tours in some of the most incredibly touristy spots you can imagine, climbing breaks, extreme sports ventures, skiing, snowboarding: the list goes on. Few holidays encapsulate all of the best bits of the summer (regardless of the time of year it may be in your own country) like surfing holidays however, but there’s one drawback: experience level. Much like you wouldn’t bother going to your local town centre to watch beginner skateboarders fail tricks over and over again whilst thinking they are somehow even above the level of competent, you wouldn’t want to go on an all-out surfing holiday unless you had at least a fairly decent grip on the ins and outs of the sport. This is why this page only lists destinations that are notorious for requiring at very least an intermediate level of surfing ability and experience (and even then, it needs to be in the top echelons of intermediate skill). They may be exclusive, but below are some of the best surf spots in the entire world just waiting for you to shred them up.
Pipeline – Oahu, Hawaii, USA
Otherwise known as the Banzai Pipeline, there is a reason why this surfing mecca for all those that are serious about their sport is considered the best in the world. Taking a peek at the surf report on the conditions at the Pipeline will give you a good idea about its current status but there are numerous videos on Youtube such as this one of people riding the notoriously perfect-for-surfing barrelling waves that make consistently it the best location for surfing in the world, year after year.
The sheer size of the swell at peak surfing times means that all but the very best surfers should probably leave this beach to the experts, though if you take a look at the aforementioned video you can see what these waves will do to the less experienced surfers out there. It isn’t just the waves that should make you wary of this location either: razor-sharp table reef lurk under the waves and add to the danger factor. This is the best surfing location in the world because, well, it takes the best to ride it with success.
Superbanks – Gold Coast, Australia
The Gold Coast is one of the greatest stretches of coastline in the whole of Australia, if not the world, but there’s another reason why surfers go there: Superbanks. This stretch of surf runs from Snapper Rocks Point through to Kirra, and is likely to be one of the rides of your entire life. The Superbank can produce some incredibly long and hollow waves which allow surfers to ride inside with pride and (depending on their level of expertise) emerge at the break without failing spectacularly and saying goodbye to your board.
The downside to such an incredible surfing location with the best and some of the longest waves in the world is that you’re going to have to fight to get your place on the wave. It isn’t unheard of for over a hundred and up to two hundred people to fight it out for prime position on these incredible waves, with some managing to ride the waves for the distance, even reaching over 1.5km. Then there’s the inevitable trek back to the car once you’re battered, bruised, and generally exhausted from what may very well be one of the best days of surfing in your entire life; this walk is no less than two kilometres in length, so make sure you bring a spare Powerade to “tide” you over.
Mavericks – California, United States
There’s no beating around the bush with this one: Mavericks is incredible, but with its incredible surf comes significant danger. Mark Foo died here in 1994 trying to best these waves, and he was an experienced surfer who was technically brilliant. The surf here is often referred to as the “wave of legends” because well, it takes a legendary performance to not wipe the hell out of the gigantic waves that Mavericks produces.
How high is high when it comes to Mavericks? Regular surfers here think nothing of ten meter waves, and twenty meters is kicking it into moderate gear; 25 meters is more like the terrifying beasts that it produces however, and it is these that any surfers wishing to take on the swell here must deal with. The size of the waves and the inherent danger involved therefore means that only experienced surfers should attempt to make passes at the waves that are found here.
Just to add to the complexity, the so-called wave of legends isn’t reachable by simply swimming in from the beach: you need a jet-ski or a boat to be able to reach it, and you need to make sure you’ve practiced coming in at the correct angle as well, otherwise you’re going to have a very bad time. Some pretty incredible photos and accounts of the wave can be found at Mashable’s Mavericks page, which gives you a pretty good idea of why this destination is for experts only. If you wish to find out more, you can read about the official event at the official Mavericks Invitational webpage.
Cloudbreak - Tavarua, Fiji
We all know that Fiji is one of the most beautiful places in the world to visit. Crystal-clear waters, swimming with dolphins, unbelievable beaches, and a generally lovely time with lovely people are what can be expected here, but the surf is just as impressive. The Tavarua Island itself is heart-shaped when viewed from the air and is a place that has surf for all levels of expertise, from the most advanced surfers down to the flat-out uninitiated. Don’t get too annoyed about the thought of beginners interrupting you surf at Cloudbreak however: it’s so choppy and difficult that the beginners will simply be skilled out of the equation.
You can expect heights of up to ten or so meters (give or take a few either side of this limit) here, but it is the length of the wave as well as its barrel shape that gives it such a unique reputation. Also making it unique is the fact that the only way to access the wave is to take a boat out to it, and to do this you must in turn check out the Tavarua Island Resort Cloudbreak page. The resort’s essential owning of and controlling of access to the wave make no difference to your experience: you’ll still get to surf the clearest water and the near-perfect left of the wave. Check out the videos and detailed description on the Big Wave Blog for a deeper look into the incredible Cloudbreak experience.
Teahupoo - Tahiti, French Polynesia
Another stunningly scenic place, Tahiti has clear waters and golden sands to offer you, but its surf is the most appetising thing that you will find on the menu. Teahupoo has been described as the “world’s heaviest left”, and this description isn’t far from the truth. The barrel wave here is the standard that all others should be judged against. Professional surfers make it their aim to travel here on a frequent basis, which means that aspiring experts will also want to check this one off their list before they can truly call themselves well-surfed.
The wave itself doesn’t look too spectacular until it reaches about 6ft, at which point it may very well lose its back and continue to grow in size, not to mention in length. There are many videos of people successfully surfing great lengths of the wave, such as this one by Kailani Jabour which gives you an incredible look inside one of the most beautiful and challenging barrels in the world.
Hossegor – France
If you’re going to be called the “Surfing Capital of Europe” then you’d better have some kind of substance to live up to this reputation. Luckily Hossegor in the Atlantic more than provides the substance for the justification of this label; it is the surfers themselves that need to produce the skill needed to be able to tackle these waves.
The surf at Hossegor can be compared to Hawaii: the tubes in particular bear a great resemblance, only with a little less danger. The reduced danger is due to the lack of razor-sharp coral waiting under the surface, but don’t let this make you feel completely secure since Hossego has some pretty terrifying walls that break onto surfaces that are extremely shallow in nature. Sand may be soft, but when you’re deposited on it from the heights you are likely to reach at Hossegor, you can expect to be treated roughly as a minimum. Hossegor Surf Resort or the Koala Surf Camp are great places to start when looking to make your mark on the waves here, though you can travel there by taxi or hire car from Biarritz airport and do your own thing.
Cloud Nine – Siargao Island, Philippines
You don’t know the meaning of surf-based danger until you’ve travelled to the Philippines and experienced the terrifying yet exhilarating action of Cloud Nine. This is a reef break that has all the danger of the shallow, razor-sharp reefs of Hawaii, only there are more of them. Venturing too far either side of Cloud Nine or wiping out at the wrong time will result in some pretty painful dismounts. It isn’t uncommon for people to require medical attention when being thrown around by the waves here into the coral beneath the water; one awkward landing or loss of your board won’t result in anything less than a painful experience.
Autumn and Winter are ideal times to visit Cloud Nine if you wish to catch the best waves, though you will find yourself having to venture further on the rare occasions when Cloud Nine becomes overcrowded. There are many resorts allowing you to set up camp and experience Cloud Nine with convenience and ease including the Sagana Cloud 9 Resort.
Montanita Beach - Montanita, Ecuador
The final surfing destination on this list is also probably one of the least well-known of them all, though going by the quality of the waves alone it really should be more popular than it is. This one is of course for experienced surfers only since the waves are of the point-break type with sand and rock waiting for you under the surface should you wipe out.
Montanita truly is one of those undiscovered gems, with about 1,000 locals living there and almost all surfers heading straight for the Galapagos Islands and leaving this one begging for experts to surf it. You’ll find a little more information about the area on this travel blog, but the best way to become accustomed to the waves there is to simply go and surf them, though only if you think you have the skill.