March 29th, 2013

The Best Surf Spots for Beginners (International)

The Best Surf Spots for Beginners (International)


With a ticket to a friendly, exotic surf spot and these tips, it turns out it’s never too late to find your own endless summer. Here are a few tips for a successful surf trip:

  1. Choose a surf holiday spot that’s got more than just surf for days when you need a break from lessons.
  2. Go when the weather is warm. You’ll have much more fun if you’re not blue and shivering in a chilly surf spot.
  3. Size matters. Gentle, 1-to-2 foot waves are best for beginners, so know when to go for the smaller swells.
  4. Make sure you get a good instructor.

Our top beginner surf spots feature all of the above – consistent waves, great weather and plenty to see and do when you’re not hanging ten.

1. Bali, Indonesia

Warm weather and consistent waves are a must for anyone breaking into surf culture, and Bali’s surf spots offer both. In Kuta, Seminyak, Legian and Nusa Dua, you can hire a private teacher or join up with a surf school who’ll even take photos and videos of you standing up on your first wave. Known for long rollers, Kuta’s crescent beach is protected by a reef at one end, making it safe from large waves and strong currents. Nusa Dua also has a protective reef and good beginner waves, while Seminyak offers many options for schools. Though it can be a bit crowded at times, the best waves for beginners can be found from March to July. And there’s much to do aside from surfing, from volcano hikes to village bike rides to yoga in Ubud.

Tamarindo, Costa Rica

Take your surfing safari to Tamarindo for a taste of Costa Rica’s famous pura vida lifestyle and always pleasantly warm conditions. Located on the Pacific coast, Tamarindo offers the perfect mix of varied waves, accommodations, restaurants and nightlife and its logistically the easiest place to use as a home base to explore the most local breaks in the shortest amount of time. On Playa Tamarindo, there are usually excellent waves near the estuary mouth, but take note of currents and observe other surfers to ensure safety. Playa Jaco is considered to be a world surfing capital, suitable for beginners and advanced surfers alike, as are nearby Playa Guapil, Playa Hermosa and Playa Ventanas.

San Sebastian, Spain

You might imagine your first surf holiday to take place in a tropical setting, but don’t dismiss the joy of urban surfing! In San Sebastian, you can catch consistent waves while soaking up the beauty of the historic architecture along La Concha Bay, in the center of Old Town, and La Zurriola, a 5-minute walk from the city center. Due to its protected location, the waters in La Concha Bay are calm, shallow and mostly rock-free. Summer is the ideal time for beginners, as winter waves can be epic (15+ feet). There are a handful of surf schools in the area, and they’re often paired with lodging options so you can eat and sleep surfing even when you’re not in the water.

Muizenberg, South Africa

Cape Town’s Muizenberg is known as Surfer’s Corner, and for good reason! It’s not only the birthplace of surfing in South Africa, but also one of the friendliest breaks in the world for those just learning. There are plentiful surf schools and teachers should you require assistance, and so much to do in the area on non-surf days, from hiking Table Mountain to exploring local wineries or whale watching.

Hanalei Bay, Kauai

Ok, so Hawaii isn’t exactly an international surf spot. It is, however, the home of surfing, as Ancient Hawaiian kings caught waves here long before locals like the amazing Bethany Hamilton began shredding the pro scene. While many (many, many, many) opt to learn the ropes on the shores of Waikiki, those in the know are drawn to the mountainous North Shore of Kauai. Learning to surf in Hanalei Bay is like surfing in a postcard. Late spring through late fall is the best time to learn here, as the waves during the winter are legendary and massive.

Surf Etiquette for Beginners

If it’s your first time surfing, you may be surprised to learn that there are actually codes of conduct used on the water (just like there is in skiing, driving and boating). They’re not only meant to show respect for other riders—but following the rules can also help you stay safe.

  1. Respect the Right of Way: The first person to catch a wave has the right of way—that means you should avoid paddling and standing up right in front of them (it’s nearly impossible for another surfer to stop or go around you if you cut them off).
  2. Paddle Around the Break: Avoid the spots where you see all the surfers. That’s called the “line-up” and where other surfers are most likely to be traveling (plus, you’re sure to get knocked around if you paddle right into a break). Go to the right or to the left of that area.
  3. Study the Waves and Currents: If you feel that the sea might be too rough for your first few solo rides, don’t push yourself. It’s better to be safe than to put yourself—and someone else—at risk by requiring a rescue.
  4. Hang Onto Your Board: Try to maintain as much control as possible of your surfboard…it’s easy for it to come flying out of your hands and clock someone in the head (plus, that person is usually you!).

While Eagle Creek is here to provide tips and insights on travel, we cannot accept any responsibility for any potential consequences arising from the use of this information. Always conduct your own research and use your best judgment.   

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Related Links: 

Hiking in Hawaii: Top Trails on Every Island

Your Intro Guide to Stand-Up Paddleboarding (SUP)

Flying High: The Best Zip Lines In The World


by Angie Orth