Eight lesser-known surfing spots around the world
Mention travelling to surf enthusiasts and the same places are bound to come up in conversation. Spots such as Oahu in Hawaii, Byron Bay in Australia, Ixtapa in Mexico and Bundoran in Ireland are world famous for their ripping waves and beautiful beaches, and rightly so.
But what if you want to catch a wave away from the crowds? From jungle-flanked point breaks in Colombia to secluded New Zealand coves, a global array of lesser-known surfing destinations are waiting to be discovered – you just need to know where to find them…
New Chums Beach – Whangapoua, New Zealand
Wave type: point and beach breaks; Level: all
New Zealand is home to some unforgettable beaches. This secluded strip of white sand and cerulean water is one of them, and requires a 40-minute hike from the north end of Whangapoua Beach, which is found on the east coast of the Coromandel Peninsula. A trickling stream gives way to a stony coastal trail that passes over the headland and through a forest of native nikau and pohutukawa trees before the beach is revealed.
Wainuiototo Bay has several peaks along New Chums offering both right and left handers, including a small cove with a pearly right that peels around an outcrop, and a beach break in the centre of the strip. Due to its sheltered location, the bay requires decent swell to break and is best enjoyed around mid-tide.
Halawa Beach Park – Moloka’i, Hawaii
Wave type: point and beach break; Level: advanced.
Legend has it that early Moloka’i chiefs once surfed at Halawa Bay, where two beaches, Kaili and Kaiwili, are separated by a rocky outcrop.The island as a whole is known for its rich heritage and pride in its indigenous culture.
Today, residents ride the strong winter waves that crash onto the black sand, backdropped by sweeping views of mountains and waterfalls. While summertime swimming is enjoyed by visitors, both coves can be subject to dangerous rip currents. Showing respect is definitely necessary at this unspoilt, low-key location, both to the locals and to the untamed waters.
Praia da Amoreira – Aljezur, Algarve, Portugal
Wave type: beach and point break; Level: all.
Nestled along the western coast of The Algarve in the middle of Parque Natural do Sudoeste Alentejano e Costa Vicentina, a gorgeous park that stretches over 100km from Porto Covo to Burgau, Amoreira Beach sits at the mouth of the River Aljezur, which forms a tranquil lagoon system right beside the incoming waves.
The unique beach is perfect for swimming, kayaking and surfing, and although it has fairly consistent waves, it’s rarely crowded, even in the best conditions. Praia da Amoreira features a beach break with left and right hand waves, as well as two point breaks that peel into the middle of the bay from the cliffs on both sides.
Philippes – Ngor Island, Dakar, Senegal
Wave type: reef break; Level: professional.
Peaceful Ngor – a tiny island just off the tip of Dakar, Africa’s most western point – offers a range of reliable surf options. Despite being featured in the iconic 1966 documentary The Endless Summer, Ngor island hasn’t been overrun by surfing enthusiasts, and Senegal remains an often overlooked destination, despite having some world-class waves.
Philippes is a very heavy wave that picks up swell directly from the north Atlantic Ocean. It’s more than 50m deep in front of the spot, so the waves stand up only a few metres before breaking, presenting a short, rocky ride with a heavy barrel. While this unique spot is definitely one reserved for the pros, Ngor Island offers a dozen other locations suitable for all levels.
Aoshima Beach – Kyushu, Japan
Wave type: beach break; Level: all.
Shrouded in palm trees and surrounded by sheets of wave-like rock formations known as the Devil’s Washboard, Aoshima is a tiny island – complete with Shinto shrine – located on the southeastern coast of Kyushu, Japan. The coastal area on the mainland (also called Aoshima) includes a town, beach park and strip of idyllic white-sand shores perfect for surfing.
It is a popular spot in spring and summer, hosting various international competitions, but it’s never overrun by crowds and is quiet compared to the likes of Okinawa or Chiba. With laid-back waves and a clean, sandy beach, the easily-accessible location is perfect for beginners, while choppier conditions for more advanced surfers can be found further down the coast.
Pico de Loro – Nuquí, Colombia
Wave type: point break; Level: advanced.
With staggered outcrops jutting from the sea and strong waves that break onto a rocky shoreline before a dense jungle thicket, Pico de Loro is definitely a spot reserved for advanced surfers and those with key knowledge of the area.
The beach – which is only accessible via a short boat ride from Nuqui – offers consistent swells and rideable waves, as well as opportunities to spot colourful birds and humpback whales. Surfers seeking the spot can take a plane from Medellín to Nuqui and make arrangements through local guides or hotels.
Ballyhiernan Bay – County Donegal, Ireland
Wave type: beach break; Level: all.
Although it’s located only 30 minutes by car from Letterkenny, County Donegal’s largest and most populous town, Fanad Peninsula is a striking example of the hardy, unspoilt charm on offer in abundance in Ireland. The area is a highlight of the Wild Atlantic Way coastal route, featuring undulating emerald knolls and sprawling, world-class beaches – ideal for surfers looking for peace, tranquillity and, quite possibly, completely private wave-riding sessions.
Consisting of a long sandy beach backed by low-lying sand dunes fringed by rocky headlands, Ballyhiernan Bay in particular is a must-visit for surfers, swimmers and casual coastal ramblers.
La Saladita – Guerrero, Mexico
Wave type: point break; Level: all.
Ixtapa was a pastoral coconut plantation up until the late 1970s, when the Mexican Government launched an initiative to transform the area into a family-friendly resort. But a 40-minute coastal drive north brings visitors away from the more densely populated hotels and apartments, to La Saladita, a pristine beach that offers some seriously stunning swells. Its smooth, long-peeling left point break is said to provide one of the longest rides in Mexico and is good for longboarding all year-round, with waves being smaller in winter.