HawaiiLet’s not pretend that the insane non-stop wave generating elephant isn’t sitting in the corner. Hawaii is the Mecca of surfing, the hallowed center of the wave riding world. Besides being universally recognized as the motherland of our sport, Hawaii has served for decades as the ultimate proving ground for both professional surfers and big wave thrill seekers. With over 800 miles of coastline along its four largest islands (Hawaii, Kauai, Oahu, and Maui) and a temperate climate all year round, it's an obvious attraction for beach goers, but add massive swells from the North Pacific that arrive right on schedule each winter and clean South Pacific waves that glide in each summer, you've got the center of the surfing universe.
As far as waves are concerned, the only question you need answered when traveling to Hawaii is when, not if. More importantly, you might want to know, “Will it get too big?” You will get waves in Hawaii, but be careful what you ask for when the buoys hit 25 feet and you find yourself searching for a mellow nook on the opposite side of the island to stay safe from open ocean sneaker sets that will put a gray streak in your hair and a load in your pants. There is nowhere in the world like Hawaii for a surfer.
IndonesiaSince the 60’s, Indonesia has been a target for Australians surfers. But with some 1,700 islands and a wide open swell window facing out to the Indian Ocean, Indo’s vast reef network, warm tropical climate, and rich local culture have enticed several generations of surfers to explore ever deeper and ever farther out to the surfing frontiers of the region. Bali, Java, G-Land, and Sumatra and the Mentawais have all become synonymous with magazine spreads and epic boat trips that make for the wettest of all surf dreams.
It’s a pretty expensive and extensive trip for most surfers (Aussies have it a bit easier than most), but the surf makes the travel factor all worthwhile. The waves in indo can get big, but an average day can accommodate intermediate surfers as well. Crowds have become a factor in recent years, but surf forecasting and unimaginable Google mapping of the region have given surfers many options for exploring new wave fields.
MaldivesAs a surf destination, the islands and atolls of the Maldives were discovered by a couple wayward Aussies on their way to Africa. The waves are perfect, the islands are remote, and the possibilities are endless. Billed as mellow perfection for intermediate surfers, the main waves can get populated by ever growing surf resort and charter companies, but the vast field of play includes some 1200 islands and 26 atolls that offer even the moderately inspired surfer to go one better and find a little slice of solitude.
TahitiThe island of Tahiti is a paradise. And I don’t use that term loosely. A sub-tropical swell magnet packed full of reef passes and shallow slabs that offer serious barrels for serious surfers. While there are some novice nooks available, the bulk of Tahiti’s allure comes from heavy South Pacific drainers like Teahupoo. For traveling surfers, Tahiti is expensive, but the culture and surf more than make up for the prices. From October to March, you can expect small but consistent waves, but the South Pacific lights up from April to September.
AustraliaAustralia has become the world’s most powerful force in surfing. A land once ruled by its aboriginal population and seen as a haven for criminals and pirates, the continent is perfectly suited for wave riding as its location places it square in the path of the planet’s most powerful and consistent surf energy.
A rich and storied surf history and world class waves have cultivated a veritable surf star breeding ground. Lineups run deep with talent and the waves are relentless. A laundry list of classic waves like Snapper Rocks, Kirra, Margaret River, Bells Beach, Lennox head, and …the list is almost endless (if that’s possible).