While it might take a handful of days out on the water to learn the ropes, being dumped by wave after wave and swallowing mouthful after mouthful of salty water, it's all worth it when you finally stand up, catch the break, and cruise back to shore on your board.
From the Land Down Under to the USA's West Coast, Indonesian islands and even the south of France, there are elite surfing spots scattered all across this big blue world of ours. Some of them are world-renowned, while on the other hand, some are thriving in their seclusion. So, without further ado, grab your board, slip on your wetsuit, and let's ride this wave!
10 Eisbach, Munich
99 out of 100 of the world’s most notorious surfing spots would be on sandy beaches, or at least near a shoreline. Well, Munich is the home to that one outlier. In the Bavarian capital city in Germany, keen surfers don’t have many (or, in fact, any) coastlines nearby to ride the waves. So, what do they do? Well, they surf down the Eisbach river.
Just north of the city center, the Eisbach is a 2km long man-made stream, which has one man-made wave zone in the middle. It’s just as much a popular local surf spot as it is a snap-happy tourist attraction. The waves aren’t the biggest in the world by any means, but the environment is as unique as any.
9 Uluwatu and Kuta, Bali, Indonesia
Sitting a few hours north of Australia, nested in the middle of the thousands of islands that make up Indonesia, sits the popular tourist island of Bali. Referred to locally as the Island of Paradise, Bali welcomes tourists from near and far who can’t wait to witness the unique culture, friendly people, low prices, and pristine beaches.
While there are worthy beaches to each side of the island, Uluwatu and Kuta and the two that attract the keenest surfers, and deservingly so. Kuta is an ideal spot for beginners to learn the sport, and depending on the wind and swells, the experts can ride some rather large waves as well.
8 Superbank, Gold Coast, Australia
As the world’s biggest island, the number of surf-worthy beaches is simply too high to fathom, and over on the nation’s east coast in the sunny state of Queensland, there are some of the country’s best. While Surfers Paradise attracts the most international attention, a beach by the name of Superbank is where some of the best swells are really hiding.
The unique element of Superbank is its isolation - it’s a 2km walk from the car park to the water. But that means fewer surfers and most of a chance to be one with nature as you ride a few tubes on the way back to shore.
7 Tofino, Vancouver Island, Canada
When we hear the name Canada, it takes a fair bit of thinking to conjure up mental images of anything other than snow, skiing, snowboarding, dog sledding, and hockey. However, believe it or not, there’s actually some world-class surfing up in the Great White North.
Over in the most western region of the country, Tofino on Vancouver Island offers a truly picturesque surf break. What’s unique about this area is the looming rainforest that surrounds you as you ride the waves. Of course, the mercury doesn’t rise too high over in Canada, so make sure you’ve slipped on a thick wetsuit before you dive into the water.
6 Byron Bay, New South Wales, Australia
After a stint in the Great White North, we’re headed back to the BBQing, thong-wearing (also known as flip flops to the rest of the world), Pavlova-munchin’ Land Down Under. Over in Australia, nestled to the north of New South Wales just below the Queensland border, is a very popular backpacker and tourist destination - Byron Bay.
We know what you’re thinking: aren’t there sharks swimming around? Fear not, however, because the council has set up shark nets, just in case. Sharks aside, backpackers and locals thrive on the waves along a picturesque 70km shoreline before heading to one of the many reggae-loving bars in town.
5 Hossegor, France
Europe doesn’t usually come with a surfing association - in fact, in most parts, it’s either football (soccer) or nothing. However, this seaside resort commune in the southwest French region of Nouvelle-Aquitaine is trying its best to put its continent’s surfing culture on the map. Hossegor is a popular destination for the wealthy and often welcomes famous national and international stars.
As far as the surf goes, the title of the "surfing capital of Europe" should say enough about the quality of the waves. In the right conditions, Hossegor churns out rideable wave tubes - just watch out for the intimidatingly shallow sandbank.
4 Supertubes, Jeffreys Bay, South Africa
With a name like Supertubes, you’d go into Jeffrey’s Bay on the southern coast of South Africa with some seriously high expectations. With its fast barrels, intense break, and reputation as one of, if not the, best right-hand breaks in the world, Supertubes certainly lives up to its hype.
Surfers who are game enough can grab their freshly-waxed board, slip on their wetsuits and catch wave after wave back to shore, some of which last as long as 300 meters. The waves aren’t the tallest in the world, but they’re up there with some of the most long-winded for sure.
3 Mavericks, California
There are no two ways about it - Mavericks is not for beginner surfers. In fact, it’s not even for intermediates or those who walk around, board in one hand, Powerade in the other, saying they’re ‘pretty darn good.’ No, not for a second. With the area’s Day After Tomorrow-esque storms, Mavericks' waves can reach a pants-wetting height of 25 meters. You won’t be seeing us anywhere near them.
If that isn’t intimidating enough, the only way to actually reach the waves is by jet ski or boat, and a misguided captain could wind up sleeping with the fishes. This one is only for the elite.
2 Montanita Beach, Montanita, Ecuador
As the only South American shore to make it onto this list, Montanita Beach, which sits on Ecuador’s west coast, is the definition of underrated. The majority of surf and sea enthusiasts flock to the Galapagos Islands and completely overlook Montanita Beach, only to their own detriment.
Not only are the right-hand breaks some of the best in the world, but the people and the culture of this tiny town make the entire experience heaven on earth. There are only about 1000 locals, so they’re very welcoming and friendly to visitors, and you can often find them alongside the surfers smashing down a drink or two at one of the village’s atmospheric bars.
1 Pipeline, Oahu, Hawaii
Realistically, Hawaii could have taken ten out of ten of the spots on this list, but for diversity’s sake, we’ve given the rest of the world a chance to strut their stuff. With beaches that go by the names of Jaws, Backdoor, and the spot in question - Pipeline - it’s clear that Hawaii lives and breathes the ocean.
Beginners should stay far away from Pipeline if they want to make it home for dinner, but advanced surfers will thrive in the six-meter waves that offer up perfect tubes and unmatched views of a sublimely-crested shoreline. There’s simply nothing like it.