International Surfing: A Dozen Countries You Must Add To Your Surfing Bucket List

A surfer’s bucket list will most probably include places to surf before his passing. Although you can find world-class waves in many places where you can enjoy a burrito or beer in a restaurant or pub near the beach after a surf session, it is natural for surfers to have that desire to be able to surf waves that break in remote and isolated places where there is literally nobody in the lineup.

The thrill of being one of the privileged few to surf high-quality waves in different locations around the globe is something that many seek to pursue. And in this search for that most wonderful experience, we give you a list of some of the best waves on the planet you must add to your bucket list. Although not all surfing countries in the list are completely isolated, the fact that there is amazing surf makes these destinations worth traveling to.

1. Iceland:

Iceland surfing | Source: Grindtv.com

If you have never before seen a beach with perfect surf and ice chunks on the shore amidst a beautiful scenic location, then you must surf in Iceland. Several years ago it was deemed impossible to surf such cold waters despite the perfect surf. Today, thanks to technological advancements, it is now possible to take on Iceland’s waves in a wetsuit.

The Waves:
Point break on large swells, violent currents, and thick shelves. Expect nothing subtle in this place. If you’re well prepared, you can reap the rewards.

Best Time To Surf:
It is best to surf during the winter. It will be chilly but the waves are better.

Gear:
Have a variation of boards with you. You will find a variety of waves in different conditions, so it’s best to be ready. You will also need a 6mm wetsuit with thick gloves and booties especially in the winter.

Sharks:
Greenland sharks are known to inhabit the North Atlantic.

Locals:
There is a small group of surfers and the surfing culture in this place is relatively young. Try to hook up with the local surfers to save you the trouble of searching for the best spots to surf.

Food:
Iceland is known for traditional lamb dishes and a great selection of fish dishes. But you better be prepared to bring packed or canned food with you especially when you plan to camp near the surf locations, as these waves are usually found in remote areas. If you can find a good restaurant near a surf spot then you’re lucky. It’s best to work with a local who will help you plan for these things.

Nightlife:
There are good bars in the cities, but there isn’t much existence of bars in remote areas where the best waves are. It would be better to drink canned/bottled beer while sitting around the campfire. If you happen to stop by for a party in the cities, be sure to dress well. Icelanders like looking nice so it is important to look good when you go to the clubs and bars. The bouncers in Reykjavik are not shy about denying entry at the door for people wearing ill-thought-out outfits.

2. Mozambique

The long stretch of beach along the country’s Indian Ocean coastline has popular surf beaches like Tofo, Ponto do Ouro and African Kirra. While there is an abundance of waves on offer in Mozambique, it also boasts of being the Caribbean of Africa where warm tropical blue water and beautiful scenery make surfing a very wonderful experience in this part of the globe.

The Waves:
You will find a variety of waves in Mozambique, from beautiful open face waves to picture-perfect tubes. There is a right-hander reef break in Tofinho Point and a left-hander in the African Kirra.

Best Time To Surf:
You can get waves all year round, but the best ones are in June to August. April, May, and September have decent waves too.

Gear:
Regular shortboards are needed. You may want to bring sunscreen and choose a wax that is meant to last in water temperature ranging 23-28 degrees Celsius.

Sharks:
South African waters have a lot of sharks. Bull sharks are common in the area, but no recent encounters or attacks have been reported.

Locals:
There are some local surfers in Ponto do Ouro and Tofo areas. Some have great skills and talent but there is nobody else when you go beyond these popular breaks.

Food:
The staple food in Mozambique is ncima. It’s a thick porridge made from maize (corn) flour. Cassava and rice are also eaten as staple carbs, which are good for recharging after a long day of surfing.

Ncima | Photo Credit: AFKTravel

Nightlife:
There are good bars in the resort-rich areas. Pick one that is near the place you’re staying so it is easier to crawl back after a lot of alcohol.

3. Philippines

The archipelagic country of over 7000 islands is a great surfing destination. Although it is less popular than its neighbor, Indonesia, it can pump good waves in the right season. Philippine waves can be as good as its neighbor’s but with fewer crowds in the lineup.

The country has several swell sources and the coral reef waves found on the country’s eastern coast are reputable for quality. The surf breaks on the western side of the Philippines along the West Philippine Sea are more popular among Filipino surfers and have the most local surfers by far. A popular surf break called Cloud 9 on the island of Siargao is gaining popularity and has been part of WSL-sanctioned QS events in recent years.

Despite being a Spanish colony for 400 years, they speak Filipino. There are regional dialects such as Tagalog, Ilocano, Cebuano and several others but the common ground is the national Filipino language.

Many Filipinos speak good English, some with a distinct accent. If you are in the cities you will find people who really speak good English because of the recent boom of the Business Process Outsourcing industry. This makes traveling in the Philippines easy, as there is always someone who can speak English in most surf spots. This country is also one of the most Catholic countries in the world and the most westernized country in Asia.

The Waves:
The Pacific side of the country offers powerful hollow reef breaks. There can be absolute world-class waves with a solid typhoon swell and seasonal offshore southwest winds. There are softer point, reef and beach breaks in the West Philippine Sea coast.

Best Time to Surf:
August to November along the Pacific side of the country. November to February along the West Philippine Sea.

Gear:
A nice board that shoots through tubes. Be ready for the major typhoon swells on the Pacific side. Go for a standard quad or thruster for West Philippine Sea waves. Be ready with a longboard too for the points. Also, prepare a tropical-ready surf wax for the warm waters. It is never a good time to wear a wetsuit in the Philippines.

Sharks:
Not many sharks left. With fishermen regularly fishing for sustenance, marine creatures in the Philippines have shorter lives. And you will see someone selling shark meat on the market once in a while.

Locals:
There are many local surfers on the western side of the country. They are more friendly to visitors and are an enthusiastic bunch.

Food:
Like most Asian countries, the Philippine staple food is rice. Most of the time it is steamed and served with meat, vegetable, and fish dishes. You should try famous Filipino dishes like adobo (chicken or pork dish cooked with soy sauce, vinegar, and some spices).

Pork Adobo | Photo Credit: dopaminejunkie

Nightlife:
Nightlife in the Philippines is vibrant. There are many bars, clubs and “beer-houses” as locals call them, that are abundant throughout the archipelago. A lot of surf destinations in the country have bars and clubs nearby. Best to ask a local where to party.

Valkyrie Club in Manila | Photo Credit: Manilaclubbing

4. Angola

This country offers some of the best and least-surfed breaks on the continent. Now that the civil war is over, there are opportunities for surf excursions that will be worth checking out. The country’s culture is rich in Portuguese and local Angolan influence.

Note for surfers:
Surfers need a letter of invitation from a person or organization in Angola to secure a visa. Be sure to talk to your nearest Angolan embassy and find out what they require. You are recommended to obtain your visa before booking any flight.

The Waves:
Angola boasts of long, left-hand, sand bottom point breaks. Some of the popular breaks include Cabo Ledo, Ambritz Beach, Barra da Kwanza, Buraco and Shipwreck.

Best Time to Surf:
Between July to October during winter months. This is when the surf is awesome.

Gear:
Bring your go-to regular Shortboards. You may want to bring sunscreen. Choose a wax that is meant to last in water temperature ranging 21-30 degrees Celsius.

Sharks:
Plenty of them! Watch out for the crocodiles too.

Locals:
No local surfers. You might bump into some surfing expats.

Food:
Food in Angola is of Portuguese influence. One famous dish is Cabidela, a dish cooked in blood, served with rice and funge. Frequently Galinha de Cabidela, served with vinegar, tomatoes, onion, and garlic.

Nightlife:
Not much of a party place. Unless you are staying in the capital, Luanda, for a few nights – then you might explore on your own.

5. Oman

You might read this from the list then have a second glance to double check if you read it right. And yes you did, there is surf in Oman. And it’s pretty awesome.

The country is relatively safe too, with a stable government, good roads and infrastructure for progress, and there are a lot of foreign residents. So surfing excursions should come easy for you if you plan to tick this off the list.

The Waves:
Oman enjoys a coastline blessed with considerable wind swell from the Arabian Sea and occasional long-period super swell from the Indian Ocean. It has some famous right-hand points and some reef breaks at Masirah Island.

Best Time to Surf:
Between May to August

Joe’s Point in Oman | Photo Credit: List25

Gear:
Bring your regular shortboard.

Sharks:
There are many of them but are generally small.

Locals:
Only a few Omani local surfers but there are many surfers from Dubai.

Food:
Most dishes across Oman have a staple of curry, cooked meat, rice, and vegetables. Soups are also common in the country and are usually made from chicken, lamb, and vegetables.

Nightlife:
Not much nightlife but there are some imported dancers in nightclubs in the capital.

6. Japan

Japan is probably one of the most fun places to surf on our list. The country is popular for efficient transportation, amazingly advanced technology and robotics, a solid economy, and a whole lot more. There are just so many interesting things about Japan that talking about it in detail here wouldn’t do it much justice. But since this is a surfing post, let’s focus on Japanese surfing.

The Waves:
A lot of beach breaks can be found throughout the coasts of Japan and some river mouths that come to life occasionally.

Best Time to Surf:
July to September, when the typhoons come.

Gear:
Small wave surfboards and a step-up board. Go for the board with more volume if you are chasing a storm swell.

Sharks:
Japan isn’t notorious for sharks.

Locals:
There are several local surfers. Some are very friendly and accommodating. Yakuza members control some surf spots, so you better ask before you surf a break.

Food:
Japanese food is one of the most exciting you will find in a surfing country. If you have tried Japanese food being served in Japanese restaurants in a western country, you may find a difference when you try the same food in Japan. Rice and noodles are the most popular staple food here.

Japanese Food| Photo Credit: Financesonline

Nightlife:
There are thousands of bars and clubs in Japan. It wouldn’t be difficult for you to find a place for entertainment. Just make sure to read up before visiting a particular club to know what to expect.

7. Israel

The Holy Land as many would call it is not just a melting pot of religion, culture, and history. It is also a place to be if you want a good surf. Israel, a country surrounded by not-so-friendly neighbors, is rich in heritage and in good waves. If you’re in the country for the waves, then Tel Aviv is your target destination.

The Waves:
Beach breaks! Sand-bottom breaks are yours to enjoy.

Best Time to Surf:
There are waves all year round and waves are around 1.5-3 ft. in height during summer time. During the winter, between late October to mid-March, waves can reach up to ten feet. January to February is the best time where waves are more consistent.

Gear:
Prepare wax for 14-29 degrees Celsius water temperature. Go for trunks and small wave boards.

Sharks:
Nada! Nothing to worry about, bro!

Locals:
They are welcoming, but expect different surfing etiquette here. Drop-ins are usually common because it isn’t considered a bad thing to share a wave with another surfer in this area.

Food:
Mediterranean food at its best! Expect hummus and falafel, grilled meat, and seafood.

Nightlife:
It is a great place to party! Lots of beautiful women! There are amazing clubs and bars that you can explore. Just be sure to show women respect – many of them have been trained in the military.

Tel Aviv Nighlife | Photo Credit: Touristisrael

8. Norway

If you are looking for a place where you can surf in isolation amidst beautiful scenery, then Norway is the place for you. If you love the idea of surfing under the northern lights then it should please you to know that this is the country where Mick Fanning did just that.

The Waves:
Pointbreaks and some fun beach breaks. Conditions are harsh with strong offshore winds but there are some really good waves to find here. The Lofoten Islands is the most wave-rich spot in the country.

Best Time to Surf:
August to November is the best time of year for the North Atlantic Swells.

Gear:
Be prepared to surf in cold water. Have a 6mm wetsuit ready. A regular shortboard would work here too. Make sure you use wax for cold water.

Norwegian Scenery. If you like being close to nature, Norway is the place to be. | Photo Credit: Visitnorway

Sharks:
Not something to be concerned about when you surf here.

Locals:
Very few.

Food:
Go for the fish. Be ready to be offered whale too by locals. Be sure to come prepared.

Nightlife:
Not much if you are in the Lofoten Islands where the surf is. Of course, there are bars and clubs to try in the cities.

9. Namibia

Namibia isn’t a new surfing destination. It has been very popular especially among goofy footers because of Skeleton Bay, a remote spot in one of the least-populated countries in the world. Skeleton Bay is known for its long sand-bottom pits.

The Waves:
Left-hand points, reef and beach break.

Best Time to Surf:
May to September during the winter.

Gear:
Have a wetsuit ready for the cold water. Bring warm clothes for protection from wind in the winter and protection from the sun in the summer. Your regular shortboards will work here.

Sharks:
There are sharks all right, but have not been a concern for surfers in recent years.

Locals:
A few locals in Swakopmund, Walvis Bay, and Luderitz.

Food:
“Pap”, a maize meal porridge, is a staple food for most Namibians. It is usually paired with vegetable and fish.

Pap and Cabbage | Photo Credit: blogs.fco.gov.uk

Nightlife:
There are a few good bars in Swakopmund to check out.

10. Chile

Chile is one big coast of a country. The country is long and narrow that stretches down to the edge of South America. It has a long stretch of Pacific Ocean coastline so there is definitely some good surf. The country is quite safe enough that you can jump into a car and drive along the coast where you can explore and look for great surf spots waiting for you to paddle into.

The Waves:
Dreamy pointbreaks, amazing reef breaks and fun beach breaks.

Best Time to Surf:
September to November is the best time of year when those point breaks come to life.

Gear:
4/3mm wetsuit, fish surfboards and step-down boards will work their magic here.

Sharks:
There are great white sharks, but not much of a concern because of the relatively low number of recorded attacks.

Locals:
There are local surfers but you will always find waves to yourself. Localism is not an issue at this time, although it may change as Chile gains more popularity as a surf destination.

Food:
Fresh fish is a must try! Congrio (conger or kingclip) is Chile’s favorite fish and the batter-fried Congrio is a popular choice.

Congrio Frito | Photo Credit: Chilean Recipes

Nightlife:
The major cities such as Santiago, Valparaíso and Viña del Mar are rich in nightlife options. There are bars and nightclubs to try out. It is best to hit the clubs in the wee hours of the morning when the real show begins.

11. Italy

Yes, Italy is not just a country of fine cuisine and a rich cultural heritage; it is a place for surfing too! Sardinia is the best place to find good waves. There are other options in Puglia, Tuscany, and Rome.

The Waves:
Pointbreaks, ledges and beach breaks. They’re all on offer. Sardinia can get up to eight feet tall waves.

Best Time to Surf:
November to December and March to April.

Gear:
4/3mm wetsuit in March and April, 3/2mm wetsuit in November. An all-around shortboard works best here.

Sharks:
The Mediterranean Sea doesn’t top the list in shark attacks. There’s nothing to worry about.

Locals:
There can be a lot of locals near Rome but in Sardinia, you can get spots to yourself.

Food:
Is this something you should ask about? Italy serves the best pasta and pizza! You can’t miss it! Seafood is great too if you’re tired of pasta and pizza, which is highly unlikely.

Authentic Italian Pizza | Photo Credit: CNTraveler

Nightlife:
No doubt there are good party places in Rome. You just have to do some research and you can find yourself in the best Italian party.

12. Taiwan

Decades ago, surfing did not exist in Taiwan. The entire coastline was controlled by the army and was a national security area. Today, with political tensions easing, the coastline has become more accessible and so have the waves.

The Waves:
Taiwan has several swell sources, which include the western Pacific typhoons and northeast monsoon.

Best Time to Surf:
Typhoons in the Western Pacific are prevalent from July to November and the northeast monsoon prevails from November to March. This is when the waves are good.

Gear:
Standard shortboards work here. Be ready with a step-up board too for the bigger waves caused by the typhoon swells. No wetsuit needed during the summer, but the winter can be chilly.

Sharks:
Not many sharks in these waters, considering how huge the Taiwanese fishing industry is and their appetite for shark fin.

Locals:
There are thousands of local surfers in Taiwan. The breaks near Taipei are filled with beginners and intermediate surfers every weekend.

Food:
Chinese food. Taiwan has a wide array of Chinese food options to choose from. Taiwan is famous for great food, so be ready to explore. Dimsums are must-try items!

Taiwan Street Food | Photo Credit: Roughguides

Nightlife:
There are lively clubs and bars in Taipei. Not much in the rural areas.

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