World’s 20 Best Surf Spots
Banzai Pipeline, Oahu, Hawaii
You need to be a little bit of a daredevil to want to tackle the famous waves at the Banzai Pipeline, but diehard surf enthusiasts say it’s worth it. The Pipeline (or simply Pipe) is one of the most famous surf spots in the world, but also the deadliest one. Here waves easily reach 9 feet and sometimes get even bigger.
A large number of serious injuries and deaths have occurred at the Pipe, but the reef break has also propelled many surfers to fame. There are four different waves associated with the reef, each one posing different challenges and offering unique satisfactions. All you have to do is train very well and just pick your favorite Pipeline wave, or conquer them all one at a time!
Important surfing competitions that take place at the Pipe include Pipeline Bodysurfing Classic, Volcom Pipe Pro, Pipe Masters and IBA Pipeline Pro.
Supertubes, Jeffreys Bay, South Africa
Located southwest of Port Elizabeth in South Africa, Jeffreys Bay is a town in the Eastern Cape Province. The thing that it is most famous for is, you’ve guessed it, surfing. It is often referred to as J-bay, and what was once an isolated hippie hangout is now one of the country’s fastest growing urban areas.
The name of the town is said to come from the first man who settled and opened a store here. Today most people come to this spot to experience the waves, because this is reportedly one of the top five best surf spots in the world. Every July professional surfers and their fans come to the Billabong Pro ASP World Tour event at Supertubes, which is actually the best part of the wave.
While the Supertubes section is surrounded by false myths, such as 5-minute long rides, when in fact they rarely last for longer than 2 minutes, there are also plenty of true rumors surrounding the spot. One of them is the fact that waves can break for over 300 meters (985 feet). Interestingly, J-bay was discovered only after a less consistent and fun nearby spot had been made famous in The Endless Summer surf movie of the ‘60s.
Teahupo’o, Tahiti, French Polynesia
Another deadly wave that is adored by surfers from around the world is Teahupo’o on Tahiti’s south-west coast. If the “heaviest wave in the world” reference doesn’t scare you off, then you might just find the adventure of your lifetime here.
Be sure that you are ready to handle the challenges of 7 to 10 foot (sometimes even 21 foot) heavy waves, with lips often as thick as their heights, combined with dangerously shallow shorelines. Here experience is a must and so is top physical condition. After all, the name of the place itself is not very encouraging, as it translates to “place of skulls” or “to sever he head”.
The Billabong Pro Tahiti competition takes place here every year, as part of the World Championship Tour. Teahupo’o is a place of legend and experts say that it has raised the bar for the whole surfing world.
Uluwatu and Kuta, Bali, Indonesia
A perfect spot for beginner surfers, the smooth Kuta beach on the famous Bali Island attracts wave lovers from many different countries. It is a 3-mile long beach with no threatening corals or rocks, which makes it excellent for slightly more timid surfers. Popular all year round, Kuta is most attractive during its surf season that lasts from April to October.
Also on the same Indonesian island, at its southernmost point, the beloved Uluwatu reef awaits you. It has a number of sections, with the last one, known as The Peak, breaking in the front of a cave that is also the exit/entry point of Uluwatu surfing.
As a side note, you should also visit the Uluwatu Temple if you want to meet cheeky monkeys that often like to steal people’s belongings and then bargain with them for fruit.
P-Pass, Pohnpei, Federated States of Micronesia
The largest island in the Micronesia, Pohnpei is also the most developed state of the country. Here rain occurs almost every single day, but it is mostly a welcomed phenomenon, because of the really high temperature and humidity levels.
People come here for different reasons, one of which is surfing. After having been featured in various different surf magazines, people began to come to the island more often, which means that you might find yourself in the middle of a swarm of surfers. However, sometimes the island is really quiet and serene.
The best waves are only accessible by boat, but there are plenty of local people with boats who are accustomed to taking surfers out to sea. With sizes that vary between 2 and 8 feet, the P-Pass wave in Pohnpei is mostly appropriate for beginners and intermediate-level surfers. It is actually one of the friendliest surf spots in the world.
The risks that come with surfing the big waves at Mavericks represent a deterrent for many surfers and an irresistible attraction for others. The Californian spot is most famous for its crazy winter waves that can sometimes rise to 50+ feet.
Big wave surfers sometimes come here to sharpen their skills, but the hazardous conditions of Mavericks keep many experienced riders away. Very interestingly, an annual winter surfing contest is held here, but its organizational staff, name and date change every few years. Contestants need to be invited to participate, and they only find the dates of the event 24 hours before it actually takes place.
The select few need to pack their bags and get there within this short timeframe, because nature doesn’t wait for anyone with humongous waves. Tens of thousands of spectators also come to see the adrenaline-inducing show, and they find out the date by visiting the official site of the contest. Right now the name of the event is Mavericks Invitational.
Soorts-Hossegor is a nice commune in south-western France that is most famous for its surfing center. Its entire economy is actually based on this exciting sport, boasting world-class surf spots like La Nord and Gravière. There are also other nearby beach breaks that promise a really good time to wave lovers.
The Quiksilver Pro France contest is held here annually in September as part of the ASP World Surfing Tour. Hossegor is also an excellent place for beginners, who can enjoy customized surf lessons from pros.
Puerto Escondido, Southern Oaxaca, Mexico
Arguably the best beach break in the world, Puerto Escondido boasts massive waves of high speed and force. Also known as the Mexican Pipeline, it breaks both left and right and can rise as high as 20+ feet.
The weather here is really hot and the water so warm that you might need to grab an ice-cold drink when you return to the beach, just to cool yourself down. Many boards get broken at Puerto Escondido, so be ready to have several more at hand.
Mexico’s most popular surfing contest is held here annually and is called The Mexpipe Challenge. The first Quiksilver Pro event took place at Puerto Escondido in 2009.
Cloud Nine, Siargao Island, Philippines
Cloud 9 is a right-breaking reef wave that was discovered in the late ’80s. It is a relatively affordable destination, with low food, drinks and accommodation prices. Siargao Island has a number of good surf spots, but Cloud 9 is the most famous of them all.
Named after a chocolate bar, the wave boasts thick hollow tubes. It is also the only one in the area that can be accessed without a boat. After being featured in Surfer magazine (US) in 1993, the spot gained popularity, and Siargao quickly became The Surfing Capital of the Philippines. The Siargao Cup annual competition is an exciting event that takes place here every year.
Lance’s Right, Sipora, Mentawais Islands, Sumatera Barat, Indonesia
The Mentawai Islands in Indonesia are famous among surfers, boasting breaks that come very close to perfection. It is a place for the experienced, though, because underneath those exciting waves there are shallow reefs with sharp corals.
Here the water is warm and pleasant, the waves are consistent, and the views are stunning. It may take a little bit of effort to reach this amazing spot, but when you ride that powerful right tube you instantly forget about all the expenses and troubles you went through to reach it.
Trestles, Orange County, California
Another beloved Californian surf destination is Trestles in Orange County. It is a highly popular spot because of its consistent right and left hand waves. There are several good spots in the area, but the one with the best waves is Lower Trestles. An annual ASP World Tour competition and the NSSA Nationals happen here.
Some experts believe that Lower Trestles allows for the best high-performance surfing experiences in the world, so if you are looking for amazing memories, California awaits you! Get ready for easy paddle-outs, long exciting rides, and loads of fun both on water and on land!
Sultans, North Male, Maldives
Looking for consistent waves that never close out? Sultans offers exactly that. You need a boat to reach this awesome spot in the Maldives, but there are plenty dhonis (local small boats) that regularly take surfers away at the rear of the breaks.
When spring comes, the fun starts! The surfing season lasts from March until October and the best and largest waves reportedly happen in the summer months.
The Maldives are the world’s lowest country, with a maximum natural ground level of almost 8 feet. Interestingly, that’s also how high you can expect some waves at North Male to be!
Rincon, Santa Barbara, California
What would Rincon say if it could talk? “I don’t always break, but when I do, I’m the best break point in the whole of California!” Expect long and steep right hand waves here, as well as loads of fun. The spot is rightfully often referred to as the Queen of the Coast.
The best time to come here is in winter, when the tide is low and the excitement is high. Most of the Rincon beachfront is part of a gated residential community, but public access is also allowed at the two parking lots that flank the community.
The Annual Rincon Classic championship takes place here every January, but the exact date is always dictated by the weather conditions. Unfortunately for many surf enthusiasts, the championship is only open to area residents.
Honolua Bay, Maui, Hawaii
World-class rides and whale spotting directly from your board: that’s what you can expect to experience at Honolua Bay. Unfortunately, the place is not exactly famous for hospitality, so it may be a little difficult to find the break if you’re a first timer in the area.
Once you’ve found the right-hand point break, however, things become truly amazing. You should also appreciate the fact that you are in a precious marine preserve with beautiful coral reefs and spectacular vistas. The Billabong Pro women’s surf competition is held here every year in December.
Manu Bay, Raglan, New Zealand
About 4 miles away from a beachside town called Raglan, Manu Bay entertains surfers on a regular basis. Also referred to as The Point, it reportedly boasts the world’s most consistent and accessible left-hand breaks.
Surfers from around the world come here to catch perfect waves and enjoy rides that can last for 10 minutes over a distance of more than a mile. The spot was made famous in “The Endless Summer” film of the ‘60s, and it was also more recently featured in the 2010 Last Paradise. As it is with all excellent surf spots, Manu Bay is home to a number of international surfing competitions which gather numerous enthusiasts every year.
Montañita Beach, Montanita, Ecuador
The small village of Montañita in Ecuador is famous for its relaxed, liberal and multicultural atmosphere. It is a relatively recently discovered paradise with mountain natural reserves, lovely villages, amazing beaches and yes, world-class surfing.
What started out as an isolated beach with only several rustic homes gradually developed into a colorful community of free-spirited people and welcoming restaurants, cafes, bars and accommodation facilities for tourists. It is a surf heaven for both beginners and experts.
The Montañita Beach break can be ridden all year round, but the most fun happens between December and May. Once you’ve had enough fun on those right-hand waves, you can head back to the beach, where the super-friendly community is always ready to have fun in various after-surf events.
Jaws, Maui, Hawaii
The name itself should warn you about the nature of this point. It’s definitely awesome, but also quite deadly. Jaws is a place for the bold, with its winter waves sometimes soaring to 88 feet! They obviously have huge barrels to flaunt, but keep in mind that the dangers are just as big.
Jaws is Maui’s most popular big wave reef break and a place of legend. It’s where daredevils risk their lives to be featured onto the Surfer’s Hall of Fame. If you are not ready to face the regular 40 to 70 foot winter waves of Jaws, you can just watch the pros go at it from the cliffs above.
The Box, Margaret River Valley, Australia
The Box is pretty dangerous, but like all dangerous breaks, it is also super rewarding. It’s very easy to get completely hooked to this wave, but it’s definitely not easy to actually ride it. It’s a place for the pros only.
Even the best of surfers should know better than to venture into the Box when the conditions are not ideal. With a sharp and shallow reef, falling off can lead to really serious (or even deadly) injuries.
But all these aside, the wave is definitely one of the most exciting you’ll ever ride. The transition from deep to shallow is short, resulting in a really powerful and short right-hand barrel. It’s going to be a hard-core experience, but the satisfaction will be just as intense.
Superbank, Gold Coast, Australia
Superbank is the name of a man-made surf break, which resulted from the pumping of sand from Tweed River’s mouth to the nearby beaches. The process started in 1995 and its purpose was only to stabilize coastal erosion and to make the river safe for shipping. A side result, however, was the formation of the Superbank break.
Sometimes the crowds get so big here that the 1.2-mile distance of the break is filled with as many as 200 surfers at a time. A very rare but super exciting experience is that of a continuous ride on a single wave from one end of the Superbank to the other. Even if you don’t catch one wave all the way, you need to keep in mind that you’ll have to make a 1.2-mile walk back to where you’ve parked your car.
Cloudbreak, Tavarua Island, Fiji
Tavarua is a stunning heart-shaped island in Fiji, surrounded by a beautiful coral reef. There are seven world-class surf breaks nearby, but the most important of all is Cloudbreak. The left-hand wave can be found a mile from the island resort, showing off incredible force.
This surf destination is for experts only. The brutal wave soars as high as 33 feet and lasts for up to 1,640 feet. The ride is amazing and the journey back to the island is always marked by a sense of accomplishment. Professional surfing competitions take place here every year and they can be watched via webcast.