You’ve already heard of all the big names. Pipeline. Cloudbreak. Teahupoo. But what good does 10ft of heavy reef break do for you when you are still learning how to get to your feet, or trying to figure out where to paddle out without spending an eternity battling the shorebreak!
With several decades of combined surf experience behind us, along with a broad reader survey, GSN has come up with our ultimate beginners and learn-to-surf spot guide! Some spots may already be familiar, but we are sure you will find something unique and original for your next (or maybe your first) surf experience!
10) Manhattan Beach, Los Angeles, USA
Low Down: Not to be confused with its New York counterpart, Manhattan Beach in Southern California is all sand and sunshine. With numerous surf shops and schools all on location, all you have to do is bring your Hollywood smile and you will be standing up in no time. And if you have any energy left after surfing, visit the world famous Manhattan Pier or dress to impress with the endless shopping options available.
How to get there: 20 minutes south of Los Angeles International Airport, car is king in California.
Time of year: Spring and Autumn
Just for fun: Keep your eyes open, the area is known for its beachfront million dollar mega mansions. You never know when you might spot a famous surfing celebrity like Cameron Diaz and Mathew McConaughey…
9) San Juan, La Union, PHILIPPINES
Low Down: Learning to surf shouldn’t cost an arm and leg, and that’s why the Philippines is a hotspot for budget conscious beginner surf travellers (of course those with Chanel and Champagne tastes can also find plenty of luxury options in the area!) Board hire and lessons are a cinch, the water is warm and the crowds are significantly smaller than the more highly publicized beginner spots in Asia.
How to get there: 5-6 hours north of Manila International airport by Car or Bus.
Time of year: October to March, but generally consistent year round.
Just for fun: Don’t forget to visit the local artisan pottery or basket stalls to take home a beautiful piece of traditional local culture.
8) Main Beach, Noosa, AUSTRALIA
Low Down: Just mention Noosa, and the image of a beautiful peeling longboard wave comes to mind. Home to the world famous Noosa Festival of Surf held in March, Noosa is surrounded by natural beauty, with lush tropical national park complimenting the crystal clear water. Make your way to Main beach for your choice of surf lessons and experience one of the most picturesque learning spots on earth!
How to get there: Fly to Sunshine Coast Airport (Maroochydore) for a quick 30 minute drive north to Noosa or fly into Brisbane International Airport and take a bus/shuttle/car approximately 1.5 hours north to Noosa.
Time of year: Enjoy learning to surf here year round.
Just for fun: Shopping, restaurants, hiking and diving? Noosa has it all. Don’t miss the Sunshine Coast International Fashion Festival held every October!
7) Zarautz, SPAIN
Low Down: Tapas and tradition! Visiting Zarautz feels like you’ve taken a step back in time, with historic buildings lined up against the Atlantic ocean. But unlike other more famous surf breaks in Europe, this Basque gem faces north avoiding the brunt of the massive Atlantic swells that pound the western facing coastlines, and produce more enjoyable sized waves for beginners. Surf camps and surf schools aplenty, Zarautz booms in summer!
How to get there: Fly to San Sebastian Airport and it’s a quick 30 minute car drive west to Zarautz. Bus and train transfer are also available taking approximately 1-1.5hours from San Sebastian.
Time of year: June to August offers more beginner friendly Summer swells, but try Spring and Autumn for less of a crowd.
Just for fun: Don’t miss the Semana Grande mid August in Zarautz where the town turns it on with festivities for all! For Jazz, film and theatre, visit nearby San Sebastian for a host of International events including the world famous International Film Festival held in September.
6) Tamarindo, COSTA RICA
Low Down: Bikinis! What colour? And how many to bring!? Leave the thick neoprene wetsuits at home, because you won’t be needing them with an average water temperature of 28 degrees (82 degrees F!!) in Tamarindo! With your choice of hotels, resorts, camps and spa retreats, Tamarindo is located on the Northern Pacific Coast of Costa Rica, and offers a wide variety of beginner surf spots, with plenty of tuition and guides available.
How to get there: Fly to Liberia Airport Costa Rica (Officially called the Daniel Oduber Quiros International Airport), Tamarindo is a 70km drive Southwest.
Time of year: November through April for smaller and cleaner waves.
Just for Fun: Pack your heels, because the nightlife in Tamarindo is ON! You will find a variety of bars, restaurants, discos and lounges, so get the girls together and dance the night away! For the nature loving gals, keep your eyes out for leather back turtles!
5) Onjuku, Chiba, JAPAN
Low Down: Longboard? Check! Shortboard? Check! Stand Up? Check! Boogie Board? Check! Whatever you want to learn on, Onjuku has it all! Yes, you CAN learn to surf in Japan! Chiba is the famous surfing district near Tokyo, where waves often break gently, perfect for learning to surf. Historically a fishing town, Onjuku is now famous for its beginner friendly waves, with hotels, surf schools and board hire easily available! Japan is also famous for its technologically advanced wetsuits, make sure you go surf shopping for new gear here (especially since the best beginner surf is in winter!)
How to get there: Fly into Tokyo International airport, and Onjuku is a 1.5hour drive southeast.
Time of year: November through March, although extremely cold, produces smaller sized surf.
Just for Fun: Check out the Onjuku Monolith which represents the friendship between Mexico and Japan after a Spanish ship ran aground nearby in the 1600s. Tech and fashion savvy ladies won’t be able to resist heading into Tokyo for all the latest and greatest!
4) Canoes, Waikiki, HAWAII
Low Down: This is where it all started. Aqua blue waters. Palm trees. Hawaiian royalty. Gently sloping waves. Duke Kahanamoku learnt to surf and swim here, and no other beach worldwide holds as much surfing history as Waikiki. You will be spoiled for choice here. Surf schools. Hotels. Restaurants. Though famously crowded, Waikiki is the go-to spot for learning to surf in Hawaii.
How to get there: Fly into Honolulu international airport. Waikiki is a quick 20 minute drive east. Bus transfers are also easy.
Time of year: Year round, though winter is great for beginners as Waikiki on the south side of Oahu is very protected from the famous big north shore winter swells.
Just for fun: Lots of genuine local Hawaiian goods are on show on the streets of Waikiki. Or visit the famous North Shore of Oahu in March to catch the ladies battle it out on the ASP World Qualifying Series surf tour, or pop on over to Maui late November to catch the final stop of the elite ASP Women’s World Championship surf tour.
3) Clarkes, Byron Bay, AUSTRALIA
Low Down: Byron Bay is famously free spirited. Nestled between the advanced cross stepping ladies at The Pass and the barrel hungry grommettes at Main Beach, Clarkes at Byron Bay is a one-of-a-kind learning spot. There is less current at Clarkes than other Byron hotspots, and the waves roll gently over sand, making it an ideal spot to learn. Best to book a lesson in town, and have your gear transported by bus right to the shoreline.
How to get there: Fly into Ballina Airport, Byron Bay is 30 minutes north in car or bus. Or fly into Gold Coast International Airport for an easy 45 minute car or bus transfer south to Byron Bay.
Time of year: Year Round. Bikinis in summer, wetsuits in winter.
Just for fun: The list is endless. Visit the Byron Bay Farmers market or the Arts Market at Bangalow. Don’t miss the Bluesfest music festival in April!
2) Kuta Beach, Bali, INDONESIA
Lowdown: The endless summer could easily refer to Bali. Nowhere in the world is it easier to hire a board, get a lesson and get to your feet. The water is deliciously warm, the food is cheap, and the shopping is plentiful. Kuta beach is the easiest and most gentle spot to learn in Bali. Breaking on sand, with lifeguards and instructors aplenty, most visitors will find their dollars go far in Bali and one on one instruction is easily affordable.
How to get there: Fly into Bali Denpasar Airport, it’s a short 15 minute taxi ride to Kuta Beach.
Time of year: April through July for consistent swells that aren’t too powerful.
Just for fun: Visit Ubud in the mountains for yoga and meditation, or Seminyak for some unique shopping. Otherwise get into the hustle and bustle of Kuta with your party dress on.
1) Manly Beach, NSW, AUSTRALIA
Low Down: The city beach that isn’t. That is the beauty of Manly beach, and why it is the best spot to learn to surf in the world. Manly beach offers everything that any beginner surfer could ever need. A world class surf school. High quality learner surfboards available for hire (and plenty of shops to buy when you’re ready!). Lifeguards for safety everywhere. Gentle waves- and the option of other learner locations on bigger days. Every convenience of a city beach is available, yet Manly remains immune to the stresses of other famous city beaches. If you are serious about learning to surf, Manly is top of the list.
How to get there: Fly into Sydney International Airport. Manly beach is a 40 minute drive north. Shuttle bus transfers are also available.
Time of year: Year Round.
Just for fun: Go for a snorkel or dive at Shelley Beach, cycle the Manly dam, or take a wander through the beautiful North Head National Park. Manly showcases some of the best dining in Sydney, so get active in the day and enjoy your evening dining on either side of the harbour.
Happy surfing girls!