The best and most unexpected surfing destinations
Watch and ride the waves in these salt- and fresh-water destinations
The waves are calling, and these epic surfing locations – mixed with a few unexpected places – are perfect for wipeouts or “hanging 10.” Grab your board or watch from shore; either way, it should be “far out.”
Get in the water
Easy, rideable waves mean everyone can get in the water to have fun. Waikiki Beach in Honolulu is one of the top surfing destinations in the world. The famous beach offers easy water access and gentle breaks. If you’re worried about crowds or dropping in on someone else’s wave, try the less packed Barbers Point in Oahu or Pops, also known as Populars, just beyond the iconic pink Royal Hawaiian hotel. Uninterested family members can lay back and watch beach boys do tricks in the waves.
Pro tip: While your chances of being attacked by a shark in Hawaii are very low, take simple precautions to reduce your risk. Don’t swim alone, stay clear of murky water and be alert if turtles and fish are fleeing the area (you probably should be, too).
If you’re an outdoorsy family who prefers camping over resort stays, Tofino, British Columbia, is Canada’s surf capital. While it may sound crazy, this charming “surf” village has 35 kilometers of beaches and exposed coast, attracting surfers of all skill levels. Surf camps and private lessons are offered year-round, and most rentals are free to use for the day.
Is it cold? Yes. Wearing a wetsuit is necessary, but the majestic views will leave you forgetting about your numb fingers and toes. Plus, cozy cottages with roaring fire places and hot beverages are sprinkled everywhere. In addition to accounting for the water temperature, plan to wear attire that stays on your body when riding the waves. Online communities like Noserider Surf Club provide plenty of functional fashion inspiration.
Michigan – America’s third coast – has more coastline than its friends to the east and west combined. The waves are training-wheel sized for most of the year, making it perfect for beginners. Again, wetsuits are crucial for safe surfing, but you can “hang loose” all four seasons. Fresh-water waves may take longer to spot, but you don’t have to worry about sharks.
Enjoy being a spectator
Learning to surf can be as hard as it looks. That doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the sport from the shore.
Big-wave surfing is one of the most thrilling shows on the planet. Giant, sometimes 25-foot waves, are impressive in themselves. Add a tiny human on a board, and you’ve got yourself captivating entertainment. Guinness World Records recorded the largest wave surfed at 78-feet by Garrett McNamara in 2011.
The 60-foot waves in Half Moon Bay, Calif., may seem small after that record, but these surfers aren’t rookies. Titans of Mavericks is a one-day, invitation-only surfing competition during the winter season. Twenty-four TITANS from all over the world wait for the most treacherous conditions, to prove their athleticism and skill. And, you bet there’s a crowd to watch from the beach.
Here’s another wildcard: Surfing in Munich, Germany. The Eisbach, a small channel of the Isar River, runs through the center of Munich’s central park. A small dam and the channel’s abundance of water, results in a so-called standing wave that lasts forever. Dare devils in wetsuits have visited the watering hole since the 1970s (even though it was illegal until 2010). There are more spectators than participants, as the conditions can be dangerous.
So, surf’s up!