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Catch Your First Wave! A Complete Guide to the Best Surfing Destinations for Beginners

September 4, 2018

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When was the last time you packed up and left for a new destination, leaving routine way behind you? If you’re reading this, you’re already taking the first steps towards discovering your passion. Kudos to you! But if you’re going to learn to surf, make sure you do it the right way!

You’ve probably heard that any beach break is a good place to learn. While that is partially true, some beach breaks can become behemoths only pro surfers know how to handle. And there are point and reef breaks that are friendly enough for beginners to feel safe and comfortable. To complicate things even further, some spots can be mellow on one day and go full throttle the next. You need to know exactly where and when to go.

There are other aspects that you should consider when planning your first surfing trip too. Good vibes, highly rated surf camps with experienced instructors, the crowd factor, localism, the food, and the nightlife are just as important.

We’ve rounded up the best beginner surf spots on the planet where you can have all of the above in just one place. Read our complete guide to find out where to begin your awesome new journey and catch your first wave.

 

1. Lagos, Algarve, Portugal

lagos-portugal

Think surfing in Portugal and epic waves immediately come to mind. Nazaré, Ericeira, and Peniche are on every die-hard surfer’s bucket list. But if you want easy waves, warm water, a gorgeous natural backdrop, and great food in just one place, then head south!

The warmest coast in mainland Europe, the Algarve picks up swells from every direction; there’s always a spot to surf, any time of year. Lagos is an old fishing town that is renowned for its dramatic beaches with archways, coves, and colossal limestone cliffs that seem to drive straight into the Atlantic.

Just in front of town, Meia Praia is a long sandy beach and a heaven for beginner surfers. But Lagos is also a great base camp for the other surf spots in the Algarve, like the nearby beginner-friendly Praia da Luz, or Praia do Amado and Praia da Arrifana near Aljezur.

 

Best time to go if you are a beginner:

Summer, between May and August, brings smaller waves and warm water, between 22 to 25°C (72 to 77°F), so you’ll only need a shorty at most at dawn or dusk. The beaches can get crowded in summer, and you can avoid that by choosing early autumn or late spring for your surf trip, when the water is slightly colder and a 3/2 mm wetsuit is required.

 

Our recommended surf school:

The Surf Experience

the-surf-experience-lagos-portugal

Photo credit: The Surf Experience

Stay in the heart of the charming seaside town of Lagos, in the immediate vicinity of the happening restaurants and nightlife. Available throughout the year, the camps will take you to the best waves in and around Lagos. Equipment rental plus breakfast and homemade lunch included.

 

2. Taghazout, Morocco

anchor-point-taghazout-morocco

Morocco has been on the surfing map ever since the 1970s, who escape the cold winters back home and take on the legendary waves that hit it’s Atlantic coast, often described as freight trains. But that doesn’t mean beginners cannot have fun too. Just north of Agadir, Taghazout is at the core of Moroccan surf culture and has plenty of mellow waves for first-timers.

In Taghazout and the nearby Berber village of Tamraght, there are more surf camps than surf spots, so finding the right one for you should not be a problem. What else? Over 300 days of sunshine per year, warm weather, long-period groundswells, and offshore winds. Simply put, that means excellent surfing conditions. Did I mention it’s cheap too?

 

Best time to go if you are a beginner:

All year round! Early autumn has smaller waves and warmer water, between 20 to 22°C (68 to 72°F), and you can surf in a shorty or a spring suit. Expect big swells from November till February, when the water is at its coldest, between 16 to 19°C (61 to 66°F), and you’ll need a 4/3 mm wetsuit. That being said, you can still find sheltered breaks during winter in Morocco.

 

Our recommended surf camp in Morocco:

Surf Coast Morocco

surf-coast-morocco-taghazout

Photo credit: Surf Coast Morocco

The surf house overlooks Panoramas surf spot and has a huge rooftop terrace where you can join in on yoga sessions and sip mint tea as you watch the sun go down over the Atlantic. All meals are included, as well as a visit to the souk in Agadir and at a traditional local hammam.

 

3. Tamarindo, Costa Rica

surf-tamarindo-costa-rica

Embrace Costa Rica’s pura vida lifestyle and learn to surf in a real-life tropical paradise. The Guanacaste region and the Nicoya Peninsula are home to the largest concentration of surf spots in the country, suitable for all levels of surfers.

Tamarindo is already synonymous with surfing in Costa Rica. The long beach in the center of town is great for beginners, and there are several other breaks nearby for all levels. Also worth checking out are the less crowded beach breaks at Santa Teresa and the main beach break at Jaco, the country’s biggest surf town.

 

Best time to go if you are a beginner:

Between November and May. Throughout the rest of the year, Costa Rica receives bigger swells. The water is warm all year round, ranging between 26°C (79°F) in September and 29°C (84°F) in March.

 

Our recommended surf school:

Selina

selina-surf-camp-tamarindo

Photo credit: Selina

Budget-friendly and available all year round, the surf camps are based in Tamarindo and other beginner-friendly spots like Santa Teresa on the Nicoya Peninsula and Jaco in the Puntarenas Province. Selina’s packages are adapted to your every need, offering the latest and most advanced surfing equipment, with all meals included.

 

4. Weligama, Sri Lanka

surf-weligama-sri-lanka

Boasting the highest biodiversity density in Asia, Sri Lanka is a startling and yet unbelievably affordable destination. When it comes to its surf, it is renowned for its incredibly long waves that even first-timers can handle.

There are two surfing seasons in Sri Lanka, one for the south coast and one for the east coast. Therefore, surfing is possible all year round. Towards the southern tip of the island, in the Matara District, Weligama is quite possibly the best place to learn to surf in the country. Less crowded than Arugam Bay, Sri Lanka’s surfing mecca, the surf town offers many lefts and rights and long rides on slow waves.

 

Best time to go if you are a beginner:

November through April is prime surfing season in Sri Lanka. To beat the crowds, go in September, October, or May, when the waves are still working well. The water stays warm all year round, and never goes below 26°C (79°F).

 

Our recommended surf school:

Elsewhere Surf Camps

elsewhere-surf-camps-weligama-sri-lanka

Photo credit: Elsewhere Surf Camps

Want to have a taste of authentic Sri Lanka? These affordable surf camps in Weligama are surfer-owned and run, and available from September till March. Tuk Tuk transfer from your lodging to the surf beach, free use of surfboards, plus breakfast and dinner are included.

 

5. Canggu, Bali, Indonesia

surf-canggu-bali

Bali is renowned for its legendary reef breaks, but beginners can still find a place to learn to surf in this exotic paradise. The island receives constant swell all year round, the water is always warm, and there are plenty of surf schools.

By far the most popular beginner spot in Bali is Kuta, a beach break with long rolling waves, both lefts and rights, and a sandy bottom. Unfortunately, its popularity also means that it gets seriously crowded. Next to Kuta Beach, Canggu is not as packed. There are three reef breaks here, throwing both lefts and rights, that are suitable for beginners at low tide.

 

Best time to go if you are a beginner:

During the dry season, between May and September. If you wish to avoid the crowds, October and November are still good months on the west coast. The water stays warm throughout the year, around 27-29°C (80-84°F).

 

Our recommended surf school:

Base Guest House and Hostel

base-guest-house-and-hostel-bali

Photo credit: Base Guest House and Hostel

Budget-friendly and available all year round, the surf school is based on Canggu Beach, within quick and easy reach from the restaurants, bars, and the vibrant nightlife that Kuta is famous for. Access to entertainment facilities and daily snack box included.

 

6. Byron Bay, New South Wales, Australia

surf-byron-bay-australia

Mainland Australia’s easternmost tip, Byron Bay, has been synonymous with surfing in the Land Down Under since the 1960s. What was once a quiet hippie surf enclave has now become a city in its own right. It hasn’t lost its charm, though, and it is still considered one of the best surf towns in the world.

There are eight main surf spots at Byron Bay, with perfect peeling beach and point breaks set against a lush backdrop. Most of them never get too big, which is why it is so good for beginners. That being said, there are certain breaks that can get hollow and tricky when the swell is big. 

 

Best time to go if you are a beginner:

All year round! The weather is nicer, the waves are consistent, and the water is warm at 25-27°C (77-80°F) between February and May. The water temperature does not go below 19°C (66°F), so you can get away with just a spring suit during the Southern Hemisphere winter.

 

Our recommended surf school:

Mojosurf Australia

mojosurf-australia-byron-bay

Photo credit: Mojosurf Australia

Experience the real Aussie lifestyle by embarking on an exciting surf trip on Australia’s southeast coast, starting in Sydney and ending in Byron Bay, as you discover all the coolest breaks in between. The camps are available all year round and offer daily surf lessons and fresh local meals.

 

7. Zarautz, San Sebastian, Spain

surf-zarautz-basque-country-spain

Great food, spectacular beaches, lush hillsides, and a vibrant nightlife. What else could you ask for from your first surfing lesson? Spain’s food capital, San Sebastian is at the heart of Basque culture. It is also a short drive from Zarautz, the country’s surfing capital and biggest surf town.

Zarautz is the birthplace of surfing in Spain. The consistent beach breaks attract all levels of surfers, and there’s no shortage of surf schools, surf shops, and beachside cafes and bars. Surfing is possible all year round thanks to the constant swells produced by the Bay of Biscay, but do keep in mind that the winter months bring in epic waves that are more suited for experienced surfers.

 

Best time to go if you are a beginner:

During summer, the waves are mellow and the water is warm, between 20 to 25°C (68 to 77°F). You’ll only need a spring suit to surf at Zarautz in summer. Winter months bring in powerful swells and cold water, and the waves become harder to tackle.

 

Our recommended surf school in San Sebastian:

San Sebastian Surf Camp

san-sebastian-surf-camp

Photo credit: San Sebastian Surf Camp

Stay in a traditional surf house in the heart of the Pagoeta Natural Park, overlooking the Basque countryside, only 20 minutes from San Sebastian. The camps cater to all levels of surfers between June and September, and offer daily chef-prepared meals, yoga sessions, and unlimited beer and sangria.

 

8. Biarritz, Basque Country, France

surfing-biarritz-france

In the Nouvelle-Aquitaine region, Biarritz is a small seaside resort teeming with holiday homes, turn-of-the-century charm, and is the epicenter of surfing in France. The beach in front of town is huge and offers several beach breaks with a soft sandy bottom, producing long and mellow waves, both lefts and rights. Only a few miles north of Biarritz, Anglet is home to several beaches with waves for all skill levels.

 

Best time to go if you are a beginner:

Summer and autumn, when the waves are mellow and the water is warm, between 20 to 25°C (68 to 77°F). You can surf with a long-sleeve shorty or a 3/2 spring suit if it’s windy. Big and powerful waves start to roll in during winter, and the water drops to 12°C (53°F).

 

Our recommended surf school:

Sofi 64

sofi-64-surf-camp-biarritz

Photo credit: Sofi 64

Live like a local and challenge yourself to learn a new language! Stay with a French host family in Biarritz or Anglet for two or three weeks, a whole month or more. You will have French lessons every morning, followed by afternoon surf courses. Breakfast and dinner during weekdays and all meals during weekends are included.

 

9. San Clemente, California, USA

surfing-san-clemente-us

There’s no better place to catch the surfing bug than California. And, if you want to experience the authentic surf lifestyle firsthand, San Onofre State Beach to the south of San Clemente is where you need to go. On any given day, you will see surfers chilling at the beach, never fighting for a wave, sharing stories, and waiting for the next lazy peak. It is an exemplary display of surf etiquette.

 

Best time to go if you are a beginner:

All year round! During summer, the water ranges around 18 to 22°C (64 to 72°F), and you can surf in a fully-sealed spring suit between July and September. During winter, the water is chilly, between 13 to 16°C (55 to 61°F), and you will need a 4/3 mm wetsuit or a 5/3 mm for longer sessions.

 

Our recommended surf school:

Nomads

nomads-surf-school-san-clemente

Photo credit: Nomads

Located in the heart of downtown San Clemente, the camps include daily guided surf sessions or surf lessons at the best surf breaks in the area, from Trestles and T-Street to San Onofre. Free board and wetsuit rental, as well as all daily meals, are included.

 

10. Muizenberg, Western Cape, South Africa

surf-muizenberg-cape-town

A suburb of Cape Town, Muizenberg is the birthplace of surfing in South Africa. Considered by many to be one of the best places in the world to learn to surf, Muizies is one of the most reliable breaks in South Africa, home to a bustling surfing community, clean and mellow beach breaks, and numerous surf schools.

Muizenberg is famous for another reason – its Great White sharks. However, their presence should not put you off. Cape Town has a shark spotting system that successfully keeps incidents at a minimum. There are many exciting things to do in Cape Town when you’re not surfing, such as whale watching, exploring the local wineries, going on a safari, or hiking Table Mountain.

 

Best time to go if you are a beginner:

All year round! December and January is peak tourist season. The water is at its warmest, between 19 to 21°C (66 to 70°F), and you can surf in a spring suit but the beaches are packed. August through October is a little less crowded. If you want to beat the crowds, February to June is your best bet, when the water is cold, between 14 to 16°C (57 to 61°F), and a 4/3 mm wetsuit and boot are imperative.

 

Our recommended surf school:

Cape Town Surf Yoga

cape-town-surf-yoga-school

Photo credit: Cape Town Surf Yoga

Combine daily surf lessons at Muizenberg with yoga sessions in a sea-view studio for a rejuvenating holiday at the southern tip of Africa. The surf house is only a 20 minutes’ drive from the city center, and the camps are available between August and December.

 


Now that you know where to go if you want to have all aspects taken care of, what are you waiting for? Join a budget-friendly surf camp in one of the best places in the world and get ready to catch your first wave!

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