Surfing Southeast Asia6 Mar 2017
Southeast Asia boasts some spectacular beaches offering visitors everything from calm cerulean waters to the kind of waves that entice surfers of all levels to their vibrant shores. Consider our list below as gentle encouragement for you to leave that hammock and hit the waves. The East Coast of Malaysia also has a nascent surfing scene during the monsoon season starting October/November to February/March and is a good place for beginners to learn.
While not exhaustive, the line-up here will give you an idea of what surfing spots are beginnerfriendly and easily accessible, and those which will challenge surfers with more experience.
Indonesia’s surf season is between the less humid months of April and September. What draws surfers here are the year-round waves on the south and east coasts of the island of Sumbawa, which is known for its massive tube-like waves and its beachfront hotels, cottages and resorts. One of Sumbawa’s most famous surf locations is Lakey Beach in the central southern coast, accessible overland from Bima Airport.
The main reef breaks (areas where waves emerge) closest to accommodation are Lakey Peak – great for new surfers – and Lakey Pipe, Nungas and Periscopes for more experienced surfers. But don’t stop here: the little island of Nusa Lembongan contains surfing spots like the Playgrounds and the rather dauntingly named Lacerations within paddling-distance; while Sumba Island to the west offers spectacular waves against a backdrop of jungle and limestone hills, including the exclusive God’s Left area, accessible only to guests at the Nihiwatu Resort, which limits the break to only ten surfers at a time.
In the Philippines, surfers head to Siargao Island, known for its barrel-shaped waves at the Cloud Nine surf break. Siargao’s surfing season starts from October to May, and its reefs on the east coast produce the high-tide reef breaks that have made this destination the hub of the annual governmentsponsored surfing championship, the Siargao Cup, attracting surfers from all over the world.
The Cloud Nine spot is recommended for advanced surfers only, as its waves roll over notorious coral reefs. Rated among CNN Go’s Top Eight Best Surf Spots in the world, Cloud Nine’s flawless blue waters, relatively cheap surf resorts and thriving beach cafés make it a haven for surfers and also visitors who want to dive, snorkel or kayak in this lazy tropical island paradise. Siargao Island can be reached by air from Manila (via Cebu) or via ferry from Surigao City.
This is a surprising addition to the list but the months of November to March sees terrific swells on the east coast rolling in uninterrupted from the Pacific Ocean. The result is great waves for advanced surfers and for learners trying to catch some of the action. Typhoons occur regularly in the east and northeast, and it’s said that the southern coastline of Taiwan enjoys the groundswells from this typhoon season, minus the downpour. Taitung City in the south coast is one of several Asian venues selected by the Asian Surfing Championships tour, and is the sole venue of international surfing tournaments held in Taiwan.
If you’re looking for a fuller introductory experience to surfing here, keep in mind that the Taitung County government is working closely with the Association of Surfing Professionals to promote Taiwan’s surfing scene through an exciting round-up of training, performances, competitions, and other activities within the Jinzun Harbour and Donghe Township areas. It gets colder during the winter months of December to February so a wetsuit is advisable.
Arugam Bay on the east coast of Sri Lanka is unequivocally popular among surfers who frequent this region. Throughout the months of May to October, the waters here swell to the tune of shifting sandbars at the end of the northeast monsoon season. Surfing experts at the Arugam Bay Hideway Resort say that the biggest surf breaks happen between July and September, adding that early morning is the best time to catch the waves before the winds rush in around noon.
From its barrel waves to tall and imposing walls of blue water, the variety of waves at Arugam Bay is one of the reasons why it remains crowded with both veteran surfers and newbies. However, a little solitude among the waves can be yours for just a tuk-tuk ride away to less crowded areas of the beach. The Main Point surf break at Arugam Bay is a hotspot for experienced surfers and the site of
Sri Lanka’s only international surf competition. Other surf breaks like Baby Point, Whiskey Point and Elephant Rock are ideal for beginners.
Tucked away in the luxurious southwest coast of Hikkaduwa are many reef breaks that have enjoyed widespread attention in recent years. Hikkaduwa’s shallow waters and short waves are great for beginners, and the overall vacation atmosphere here is wonderful, with beach-front guesthouses and hotels, cafes, restaurants, and – for surf junkies who need a little more excitement – there are larger waves further south at the Unawatuna and Mitigama beaches.
About 20km south of Vietnam’s Nha Trang city is Bai Dai Beach, a 7km-long sandy white stretch that’s a favourite amongst Vietnamese celebrities and travellers. Located near Cam Ranh International Airport, it has attracted a host of surfers of all skill levels, but it’s best for anyone who wants to put in surfing practice without the pressure of too many on-lookers. During surfing season, which is between October and April, board rentals are available at the Shack Surf School on the beach where you can also get great seafood, burgers, ice-cold drinks and great music.
Other glistening white beaches with waves worth visiting in this country include Nha Trang beach, Vang Tau beach, Mui Ne beach and Da Nang’s China Beach, the last of which was a surfing haven for US soldiers in the 1960’s during the Vietnam War.
There’s a reason why the picturesque island of Thulusdhoo (a 90-minute ferry ride from Malé International Airport) in the Maldives earned a spot among the Top Ten in CNN’s Top 50 Surfing Destinations in the world. Also known as Coke Island thanks to the Coca Cola factory it once housed, the island has some great surf spots to offer from the tremendous Cokes point reaching up to eight feet high on a good day, to other breaks like Chickens, Pasta Point or Honky’s, which cater to more advanced surfers. You’ll see the best of these reef-coral breaks between the months of March to October. While the consistency of waves here is best during the months of July and August, there are plenty of other activities to indulge in including fishing, snorkelling and dolphin-watching.