With the waves gently breaking on the beach, the sun setting over a majestic ocean, and the soft swaying motion of the sea, it’s easy to understand why surfing is such a popular pastime. While other sports get competitive quickly, may involve other people, or contribute to injury, surfing is a sport where it’s only you and the ocean – and this is exactly why it speaks to people on a level some describe as spiritual.
Until you get out there and experience what it’s like to contend with the waves, there simply is just no describing the feeling that comes with catching your first set. So if you’re looking to get into the sport, here are some of the best places to get your feet wet.
1. Byron Bay, Australia
Once a sleepy dairy town, this bustling surf town has developed into something of legend in surfing culture. Known to have waves to suit a variety of skill levels, from beginner to expert, Byron Bay, Australia has all the necessary infrastructure to safely and comfortably promote the sport to anyone who may be interested.
From equipment shops to surfing schools and even little cafes to watch the waves break, Byron Bay has got it all. To start out, head over to Watego Bay and catch the beach breaks – they’re easier to ride than the longer, more powerful point breaks.
Read about Surf Events in Australia
2. Surfer’s Point, Barbados
Though the West Indies aren’t famous for their surfing breaks, a great time can still be found if you know where to look. Surfer’s Point in Barbados is one such spot. Located in Barbados’ southern coast, Surfer’s Point is a more sheltered break and becomes an idyllic spot to learn how to surf.
The tropical weather means no wetsuit required, the clear blue-green water points out the conch shells inching along below you, and the weather is just about perfect year-round. Not a bad way to spend your days learning how to walk on water, no?
Read more: Barbados Top 10 Things to Do
3. Waikiki, Hawaii
Where better to learn how to surf than the island upon which it was created? In Waikiki on Oahu’s south shore, there’s no shortage of surfing schools, resorts, and long rolling gentle waves. It was here that Duke Kahanamoku, later dubbed the “Father of Surfing,” first wowed the tourists with his famous wave riding technique. The beach has now become a favorite spot for novice surfers and experts alike.
Read more: Waikiki on Honolulu
4. Muizenberg Corner, South Africa
Also known as Surfer’s Corner, Muizenberg in Cape Town, South Africa has one of the longest and gentlest beach breaks in the world. Here you can learn how to “pop up” amongst soft crumbly sand, a beautiful landscape backdrop and live African music playing from the beach. An additional plus: if you get tired of riding the waves, there’s 20 kilometers of white sandy beach just waiting for your blanket and picnic basket.
5. Cocoa Beach, Florida
Florida is something of an enigma when it comes to good surf. In some locations the waves are hardly classifiable as waves at all; the water is as brown and brackish as the coastal shelf is long. Still, blessed surfing spots are found here, and a precious gem they are.
Cocoa Beach has some nice friendly sub-tropical waves, warm water which negates the need for a wetsuit, and it just so happens to be the birthplace of surfing’s grand-master, Kelly Slater. As you might expect, there’s quite a surf crowd here.
6. Cowell’s Beach, Santa Cruz, California
Cowell’s Beach is a great cold water beginner spot. All the energy of the Northern California sea mellows out by the time it gets to the beach. This results in a long, gentle ride for those beginners. For the more advanced set, there’s the Lighthouse Point just up the way, and it’s here that you can watch and learn from those who have been at it longer than you.
Read about more things to do in California
7. San Onofre, California
San Onofre is a nice long beautiful beach, perfect for packing up the van and bringing the whole family to vacation and picnic. Though the water might be cold, the waves are long and ride-able and the vibe here is friendly. The best waves are found here in the winter months, but the water is warmer in the summer.
I leave it up to you to choose which you’d prefer. Look for a nice south swell and jump on in. You’ll be living the California surfing lifestyle in no time.
8. Lagos, Portugal
While Lagos isn’t generally well known for being a good surf spot, there are plenty of them in just a short drive from this seaside Portugal town. Arrifana is the name of the surf break you’re looking for. It’s a great spot for beginners, nestled in a rocky cove with pellucid blue waters and long rolling breaks. Definitely worthy of the drive, even if you never get out of the car, the coastline here is stunning.
Read about more things to do in Portugal
9. Bundoran, Ireland
Bundoran is something of a new hot spot for surfers. Though the waters are cold, the west coast of Ireland boasts many a great surf spots, for all levels of surfer, and a relatively new surfing culture is sprouting up there.
Didn’t think you’d be hitting the beach while in Ireland? Think again. There are several surfing schools to choose from in the area, and the swells vary from large to minute, giving you the best of all worlds.
Read about more things to do in Ireland
10. Hossegor, Aquitane, France
This little corner of southwest France is the longest uninterrupted stretch of sandy beach in all of Europe. In addition, the energy coming from the Atlantic is built up and released by the Gouf (a deepwater canyon) which reliable serves the area with consistent surf.
Hossegeor is the name of the town along this stretch of beach, and is a pretty nice sleepy surf town to boot. It is a great stop, particularly in June or September when the swell is good, the water its warmest, and the crowds are minimal.
Read about more things to do in France