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Surfing in Thailand – The Best Waves in the Land of Smiles

by Octavia Drughi

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A world of extremes, where noisy cities meet authentic street markets and luxury seaside resorts are intertwined with deserted beaches, Thailand is a popular travel destination for many reasons but, unfortunately, surfing is not yet one of them.

Before the late 1990s, surfing in Thailand was an obscure activity. Other than a few locals, no one knew that something like this could exist in the country. It all changed over the past two decades and, although it does not yet enjoy the popularity it truly deserves, Thailand has become a go-to surfing destination to escape the crowds and enjoy the friendly vibes and virtually empty lineups.

Perhaps not on top of the list for many seasoned surfers (although it should be, as the pictures below will reveal!), Thailand generally gets small waves, which make the country an excellent destination for beginner surfers and longboarders.

Evade mainstream surfing and get your share of yoga on the beach, Thai food, Muay Thai classes, riding barely touched waves, and, of course, plenty of Thai smiles. It’s all pretty cheap too. Check out these awesome surf spots in Thailand, which should convince you to grab your surfboard the next time you travel to this fascinating Southeast Asian country:


Surfing in Phuket


Often associated with traveling in Thailand, postcard-perfect Phuket has long made it on the covers of magazines. In the Andaman Sea, 70 percent of Thailand’s largest island is covered in mountains and forests. It certainly has a lot to brag about, but it’s not just the Thai food and dreamy beaches that keep visitors coming back. Phuket is the epicenter of surfing in Thailand.

Thailand’s west coast takes full advantage of the southern monsoons that originate in Sri Lanka and Indonesia. The Andaman Sea is connected to the Indian Ocean, and has the potential to generate some bigger waves. Unfortunately, very little groundswell manages to reach Phuket’s coast, as it is blocked by North Sumatra. The swell is consistent and reliable, but the waves don’t seem to get any higher than 3 meters (10 ft) in this part of the world.

April to October is a great time of year to be surfing in Phuket. You will not have to worry about the crowds, as the peak tourist season is from November to February. When the best waves hit the island’s west coast, the beaches belong to the surfers.


Bang Tao Beach


Photo credit: surf-sup.asia

Considered the best beach to learn to surf in Phuket, Bang Tao is an 8-kilometer (5-mile) crescent-shaped bay dotted with luxury hotels and vacation homes. The swell is not as reliable as in other spots on the island, which is why the beach is also very popular among windsurfers and stand-up paddle boarders.

When the swell does kick in, it can produce some epic right and left handers, up to 3 meters (10 ft) tall. To the south end of the beach, the waves are generally smaller. In the middle of the beach, the waves get bigger and can be quite unpredictable, with steep drop-offs. On a good day, the north end is where you want to be.

Best for: beginner to intermediate surfers


Pansea Beach


Photo credit: Pinterest

Between Bang Tao and Surin Beach, Pansea is a secluded little palm-fringed beach that is only 250 meters (820 ft) long. This hidden gem and secret surf spot is home to a left-hand point break that can hold waves up to 2 meters (6.5 ft) tall, which break over a shallow coral reef. The take-off is about 100 meters (330 ft) out, alongside an exposed rock. The waves get faster and faster until they close out on the reef.

Best for: experienced surfers


Surin Beach


Photo credit: thphotoseals.com

If you want to catch the biggest waves on the island, Surin Beach is your best bet. These turquoise waters hold both right and left-handers. On some days, the waves can get heavy, posing quite a challenge even for experienced surfers.

There are two surf spots here, at both ends of the beach. There is a rock formation in the center of the beach, visible at low tide. To the south, the sandy bottom makes for a safe landing and a great place for beginner and intermediate surfers, as well as for bodyboarding. To the north, the waves are fast and short, and even though they rarely get any higher than 2 meters (6.5 ft), they do offer some nice barrels.

Best for: all levels


Kalim Beach


Photo credit: [email protected] via Flickr

Just north of Patong Beach, Kalim Beach is one of the best-quality surf spots in Phuket. This right-hand coral reef break offers some long rides of up to 100 meters (330 ft) and waves up to 3 meters (10 ft) tall. Beware of the shallow coral reef at the end of the ride, which can make this spot quite dangerous below mid-tide.

Kalim is a popular surf spot among expats, and can get a little crowded at times. However, the lineup is always friendly. If you’re looking for an authentic Thai beach experience, this is the place to go, with a nice little street food market selling all sorts of delicacies just as you exit the surf.

Best for: intermediate to advanced surfers


Kamala Beach


Photo credit: kurtheck.com

North of Patong Beach, the 2.5-kilometer (1.5-mile) long Kamala Beach is one of the most picturesque beaches on the island. The enclosed bay is lined with palm trees and blessed with consistent rights and lefts. The waves here can get fat and slow, which makes this beach an excellent longboarding spot.

There are three distinct sections here. To the south, there is the beginner’s area, with small waves no higher than 1 meter (3 ft). In the middle, waves can reach 3 meters (10 ft), challenging the more experienced surfers. To the north, a reef break awaits advanced surfers with some tricky waves, the best Kamala has to offer. This is the venue of the Kamala Go Surfing Contest, held each August in the northern end of the beach.

Best for: all levels


Kata Beach


Photo credit: phuketsurfing.com

On the south end of Phuket, Kata Beach is Thailand’s surf hub, with numerous beachside surf schools and surf shops, hosting annual international surfing competitions for years. When above knee-high, this stunning white-sand beach gets crowded. But don’t worry, there’s still plenty of room for everyone to enjoy the waves.

The southern end is where all the action is at, an A-frame beach break with a sandy bottom, which produces waves that can reach around 2 meters (6.5 ft). The swell can be challenging enough for advanced riders, but it is also gentle enough for beginners to feel comfortable in the water. The waves are fast and punchy, often heavier than in other spots, offering some hollow barrels for the more experienced riders.

Best for: all levels


Nai Harn Beach


Photo credit: [email protected] via Flickr

In the immediate vicinity of Promthep Cape, the southern tip of Phuket, Nai Harn is perhaps the best surf spot on the entire island, being able to hold a bigger swell when the tide is low. It is also far less crowded, as most people often travel only as far as Kata Beach.

There are two surfing spots on the beach, each offering a different riding experience. To the south, there is a left-hand beach break. Even when the swell is not so big, this spot still offers some fast and long rides. To the north, there’s a fun A-frame peak that can hold a larger swell, producing waves up to 3 meters (10 ft) tall.

Best for: all levels


Surfing in Koh Lanta


Photo credit: Iin Judy via Flickr

Also on the Andaman coast, Koh Lanta benefits from the same groundswell that manages to make its way past the northern tip of Sumatra. Waves are less consistent than on Phuket, but offer some good rides nevertheless. The swells kick in between May and October, with the peak season in June and July.


Klong Dao Beach


Photo credit: Anders Lejczak via Flickr

The most spectacular beach and the best surf spot in Koh Lanta is Klong Dao. Located to the north of the island, the 2-kilometers (1.2-mile) bay offers some gentle right and left handers with a shallow sandy bottom that are just perfect for beginners.

Windswells are more common than groundswells at Klong Dao Beach, but it does get fairly consistent swell nevertheless. Furthermore, the breaks are surfable at all tides and can offer some long rides. Crowds are never an issue here, and the spot is also recommended for longboarding and SUP surfing.

Best for: beginner to intermediate surfers


Surfing in Koh Samui


When the surf is no longer working in Phuket, Koh Samui could be the answer. It might be one of the last places you’d consider for your surfing trip, but it does get surfable waves between October and December. You should take note that, being located in the Gulf of Thailand, it gets no groundswell whatsoever and solely relies on the wind to create surfing conditions. This means that waves don’t come in every day, which is why Koh Samui is more popular for windsurfing and kitesurfing.


Chaweng Beach


Without any doubt, this is the most popular surf beach in Koh Samui, with board rental shops near the beach and friendly locals willing to help and show you around. The reef break here is called ‘Left Alone,’ a long left-hander that is rarely ever ridden. It is recommended at mid to high tide, as it can get too shallow at low tide.

Best for: intermediate to advanced surfers


Thinking about adding Southeast Asia to your surfing itinerary? Wait no more and pick your next surf camp in the Philippines, Thailand, or Vietnam!

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