My first encounter with the vastness of the ocean, all those questions rolling in my head, will forever remain a vivid and much cherished memory. How will I fit into that tight wetsuit? Am I strong enough to fight the current? How on earth will I ever manage to lift myself up on the board when my hands are still desperately clenched to it? It took me a while, but I finally got the hang of it. I found my balance. Both on the board and in my life.
The ins and outs
I don't want to fill your heads with technicalities, but there are a few things you'll always overhear surfers talking about. First and foremost, we have different types of breaks, depending on the ocean floor. Beach breaks are excellent when learning the basics. Point breaks are formed when the wave breaks onto a rocky point. Reef breaks, when the wave breaks over a coral reef or rock seabed, are those spectacular barrels we see in videos and posters, the very embodiment of perfection. But they come with a price – they are treacherous and unforgiving.
The direction in which the wave breaks is also important. Depending on which leg you keep first, you will want to face the wave. Those who stand with their left foot in front will want the wave to break to the right – right-hand wave. Those who keep their right foot first will look for left-hand waves.
There are places in the world where there's simply no surf, and there are legendary destinations that have earned themselves a reputation as surfing hotspots. So grab your board and let's ride those waves like there's no tomorrow!
Oh, the simple things in life: the beach, waves, a surf board and a nice tan. There's nothing quite like riding those curly crests in a pair of shorts or tiny swimsuit, the water kissing your bare skin, palm-fringed beaches and swinging hammocks awaiting your return.
Between the months of April and September, consistent swells and warm waters welcome surfers to the sun-bathed island of Bali. The variety of waves and numerous surfing schools make Kuta beach the most popular and most crowded on the island. Luckily, the best waves are far from the crowds and within driving distance from Kuta: the five nearly perfect breaks at Uluwatu, the demanding Bingin, the racy Impossibles and beginner-friendly Padang Padang.
The volcanic island of Tahiti is a famous big-wave destination. But more importantly, it is a warm-water spot that offers something for every taste and level, with nearly constant swell all year round from the South Pacific. Teahupo'o, with its seven high-quality reef breaks, is the site of the annual Billabong Pro Tahiti Surf competition.
Sandy point breaks, powerful barrels, and right-hand and left-hand beach breaks await wave surfers in southern Mexico between March and December. It was the Mexican Pipeline that put Puerto Escondido on the surfing map. The beach break is considered one of the best in the world, with waves that can reach 19 feet and break close to shore.
Less crowded than California and Hawaii, Costa Rica is a warm-water surfing paradise. Surrounded by tropical jungles, with cheap lodging and crowded with howler monkeys messing on the beach, the consistent yet varied left-hand waves of Playa Tamarindo are excellent for rookies and pros alike. Between April and October, the legendary Playa Grande turns into an epic surf spot, with right and left hand beach breaks only advanced surfers know how to handle.
Florida's Cocoa Beach is the East Coast's unofficial surf city and the shark-bite capital of the world. Its six miles of fine sand beaches receive fairly consistent swell from the Atlantic all year round. Between November and March though, the right and left hand beach breaks are ideal for beginners, while the cyclone season between August and October produces waves up to ten feet high.
Surfing is generally associated with basking in the sun. That's about to change. Wherever there's swell, there's bound to be a wave worth catching. As long as you don't mind the cold weather, nearly freezing water and the occasional rain and drizzle, the northern seas are the surfing world's final frontier.
The cold island of Iceland is on the brink of becoming the Hawaii of the Arctic, with over 300 miles of surf-worthy coastline. And you'll be sharing all of it with only a handful of surfers. Surprisingly, winter in Reykjavik is not as cold as in New York, the more reason to head north for Christmas and surf in freezing natural beauty.
Ireland is cold, I give you that, but you can't help but love the isolated landscape and green waters of the North Atlantic. A few hours' drive from Dublin, Bundoran is one of Europe's finest surfing destinations, a big-wave mecca with consistent 10 foot waves, barreling beach breaks and treacherous reef breaks.
Surfing Thurso. Photo by Dylan Fogarty-MacDonald[/caption]
The tranquil town of Thurso on the north coast of Scotland is a cold-water surfing hotspot. If you're looking for gentle waves, you're in for some disappointment. Thurso East is referred to as Europe's best right-hand wave, a long-walling and fast reef break that can swell up to 15 feet.
Don't be fooled by the white sandy beaches. The wild and rugged west Norwegian coastline is chilly to say the least. But as strange as it may sound, it has become an exotic winter surfing destination. The small fishing town of Hoddevik offers nearly consistent swell all year round and varied right-hand beach breaks suitable for all levels.
The west coast of Vancouver Island is Canada's surfing capital. Surrounded by a postcard-perfect rainforest, the small holiday town of Tofino on this intrepid unexplored coastline is the cold-water Costa Rica. The 21 miles of beach breaks receive nearly constant swell all year round from the North Pacific.
Surf spots for beginners
In surfing, size matters. Especially when you're new to the game. Warm water, soft rolling waves, easy access and plenty of surf schools are just the common denominators of these beginner-friendly surfing spots. The rest is unique natural beauty.
For a laid-back atmosphere and high-quality waves in Europe look no further than Portugal. The mild climate and gentle waves attract first-timers between April and August. Arrifana is home to a legendary right-hand point break, excellent for beginners at low tide. Sagres, at the southernmost tip of the country, has no less than 22 surf-delicious beaches, while the waves near the picturesque Algarve town of Lagos are a surfing wonderland. Be advised that waves swell between September and April, when seasoned surfers head here looking for that perfect ride.
Some of the world's oldest cities and best waves can be found in Morocco, the African California. But unlike its American counterpart, Morocco is inexpensive and uncrowded. To the north of the country, between Casablanca and Rabat, gentle beach breaks and long right-hand point breaks await those who wish to improve their surfing. The long, rugged coastline in southern Morocco welcomes beginners between September and April, with warmer weather and smaller waves in early autumn. Expect big swells from November through February though. The right-hand point breaks at Taghazout are ideal at all tides, while the Boilers, just as the name implies, is Morocco's most challenging break.
These are the great wonders of the surfing world. Even though they pose a challenge even to the most experienced of surfers, they are definitely a show worth seeing at least once in a lifetime.
Supertubes. Photo by Sunova Surfboards[/caption]
Northwest of South Africa's Port Elizabeth lies Jeffrey's Bay, where Mick Fanning was attacked by a shark during the 2015 J-Bay Open finals. He punched the beast and escaped unharmed. But that's not what it's famous for. The Supertubes right-hand point break is the highest wall of water in the area. Considered the perfect, longest and fastest wave on the planet, Supertubes receives year-round swell and some of the best surfers have been known to enjoy rides exceeding 1,000 feet between June and August.
Australia's Gold Coast, with its 43 miles of beaches, is a warm-water surfing paradise. Yet no break can live up to the reputation of the Superbank, with its consistent tubes and solid walls. Four point-breaks are joined together by one massive man-made sandbank to form a Superbank. Considered the best right-hand wave on earth, this intense part beach break part point break is one of the hollowest and longest rides in the world.
The tropical climate and welcoming waters of the Hawaiian island of Oahu are on every surfer's bucket list. But if you're looking for some serious wipeouts, Oahu's North Shore swells between June and August. Here, the Banzai Pipeline awaits daredevils with deadly 30-foot waves and perfect barrels. Riding the crest of the Pipeline, one of the heaviest waves in the world, may be out of reach for some surfers, but it is the flawless tube we all dream of riding someday.
Welcome to California, the capital of US surfing. These world-class beach breaks swell from all directions, offering something for everyone, from complete beginners to pros. If it's hardcore surfing you want, you can try your luck with the legendary Mavericks south of San Francisco, with waves that can reach 50 feet. Ride this deadly cold-water point break and join an exclusive club.
If that sounds like too much to handle, there are plenty of more tangible breaks to hit, like the world-class right-hand point break Steamer Lane in Santa Cruz. Or the exposed right and left hand beach breaks at Black's Beach in San Diego. Grab your shortboard and get ready to test your wits.
There you have it, an insight into the legendary surfing spots our planet has to offer, where you can hang ten at any time of year and chase those perfect barreling waves. We are all unique, therefore each crest looks and feels different from one person to the other. You may have your own perfect wave that's not even on our list, so let us know more about it!
We do have something in common though. We can't tame the waves. All we can do is learn to ride them in style!