Surfing hasn’t been in Southeast Asia all that long and large swathes of the region still lie uncovered by surfing gurus. The good thing about surfing in Southeast Asia is the reliable weather, warm waters and the prices.
Indonesia is the undisputed king of Southeast Asian surf with some wicked left-handers and the popular holiday island of Bali. The Philippines is also an up and coming surfing destination though you will find the best breaks off the beaten track. Thailand also has something to offer too.
SURFING IN BALI, INDONESIA
Surfing in Bali began in the 1930s; from then on, Bali’s top surfing spots have been a major part of Bali’s cachet as a top notch tourist destination.
Bali’s small size and unique geography means you don’t have to go far to find the surfing conditions you like. The variety of surfing conditions also promises a good time for veterans and newbies alike.
Finally, Bali’s position in the southern Indian Ocean ensures the arrival of swells all year round – a godsend to surfers who desperately need an off-season fix.
Bali Surfing Seasons
In July, the water is cool, the skies are clear, and the western side of the island get favorable trade winds. Strong offshore winds contribute to the big swells rushing up to the west coast.
From December to March, the rainy season hits and the wind shifts to favor the eastern side of the island.
To reach Medewi you have to drive north west from Kuta for around 2.5 hours in hellish traffic conditions. As this is the main traffic artery between Java and Bali it is always clogged with cars, vans, trucks, buses and motorbikes so the best option is to leave very early in the morning and beat most of the traffic. There are also a number of good breaks at the river mouths along the way, and you will rarely see anyone surfing them. Leaving Kuta head through Denpasar and follow the signs to Tabanan and keep following the main road north west.
Season – Wet & Dry Seasons – Early mornings are best as the winds can blow the surf out by midday.
Swell Direction – South
Ideal Wave Size – 4 – 6ft
Best Winds – Early morning with light winds
Break Popularity – Usually no crowd problems, probably due to the distance from the main tourist areas on the Southern Peninsula. Also many only make a day trip as there is no nightlife available but the locals are very friendly – even in the surf. When working the Medewi waves will give you long ride but does not offer many tube sections.
Kuta Reef is located approx 800mtrs offshore, just to the left of the Discovery Kartika Plaza Resort. Hire one of the local boats to get out to the break. For a few dollars they will take you out and then return and pick you up when you’re finished surfing (sometimes best to make a pre arranged time for a pickup with the boat operator that takes you out).
Season – Dry Season (May – September)
Swell Direction – South
Ideal Size – 4 – 5 ft is the best and also better on a middle to high tide
Best Winds – South East Trade Winds
Break – Kuta Reef is a very popular break and due to its convenient and central location it is not hard to find 60 – 70 surfers in the water. Have patience and pick you times and you will end up with a fun surf. When conditions are right, Kuta Reef produces a world class lefthander with waves traveling for up to 200 mtrs or more with some good barrel sections
To get to this reef you have to drive in to the town itself and then weave your way south, there are a couple of other good waves in this area also so it pays to do a bit of exploring. Nusa Dua is a popular break in the wet season so can get crowded. Best thing with this break is that the actual reef stretches over a very large area and there are at least three or four take off spots to surf. Even though this is a popular break in the wet season it is not as crowded as the popular dry season breaks as it is also a low season for visiting surfers. The waves are powerful with good tube section but be warned that the break usually has a very strong current running and this usually works against you and gives you a lot of work to do to stay on your take off point. The reef is almost a kilometer offshore so it is better to hire one of the local boats to reach the break in comfort.
Season – Wet Season (October – April)
Swell Direction – South
Ideal Size – 4 – 8 ft
Best Winds – West North West
Uluwatu is situated almost at the southern tip of Bali. Once it was quite a trek to reach the break but these days you can drive or ride all the way to the warungs and steps on a sealed road. There are 4 different sections to surf at Uluwatu. Temples has a long, hollow wave that works well on a middle to high tide. The Peak is right in front of the warungs on the cliff and in line with the cave and this break is also best on the high tide. Racetrack is a super fast but makeable barrel that works on a low tide, but does get seriously shallow. Outside Corner is considered by many surfers to be one of the best waves anywhere in the world, The Corner won’t even begin to break until the swell is at least around 8′ then, if your game, you are in for one long, fast ride.
Season – Dry Season (May – October)
Swell Direction – South
Ideal Size – 3 – 10ft Uluwatu always seems to have waves and rarely goes flat. All conditions seem to work.
SURFING IN THE PHILIPPINES
If you’re the type of person who loves the beach and if you’re always up for some adventure, then surfing just might be the best activity for you. The rising popularity of surfing in the Philippines may come as a pleasant surprise to some, who are more used to surfing in other countries such as Australia and Indonesia. Local and international surfers flock to these spots in the Philippines every year to surf. Check them out and ride the waves yourself!
SIARGAO, SURIGAO DEL NORTE
The unspoiled teardrop shaped island called Siargao is a Shangri-la for adventurers and nature lovers. It is the surfing capital of the Philippines. This surfing haven is located 800 kilometers Southeast of Manila. Siargao is now one of the world’s great frontiers for surf exploration. Its most popular break is “Cloud Nine.” Surfing is best from July to November when strong waves are in constant motion. The powerful wave-off “Cloud 9″ has been hailed as one of the world’s five toughest breaks and has been frequently compared to the famous surf of Hawaii and Australia.
Cloud 9 in Siargao Island is a powerful hollow right hander, featured in “Surf Magazine” as one of the ten best waves in the world. East of Siargao Islands lies the Philippine Deep that rises from over 34,000 ft to a belt of reefs. This Oceanic trench is the reason for the excellent surf in Siargao; because it is so deep and the continental shelf narrow, the waves break with juice straight out of deep water and focus the wave energy straight at the beach. This area is set to become Asia’s next hot surfing destination and is truly one of the worlds’ last great frontiers for surf exploration.
Siargao Island is Surigao Del Norte’s “last frontier” facing the Pacific Ocean. The island boasts of quite a number of untapped natural resources that tourists marvel. Aside from the white beaches that abound, the seas of Siargao are the fishermen’s choice to catch fish and other marine products.
Siargao Surfing Season
The surf season normally kicks off in September and continues until around March. However, you can catch a decent wave at any time of the year. The biggest and best months for surfing are November and December.
BALER, QUEZON PROVINCE
Baler, the capital of Aurora in Quezon Province, boasts of some interesting surf spots. The season generally starts in October and ends in February, but it is also possible to catch some good waves during the rest of the year. It really depends on the weather. Since this area faces the Pacific Ocean, you can expect some really big waves from time to time.
It pays to know the difference of one surf spot from another. Sabang Beach is one of the best choices for beginners, but even experts can still find this spot quite enjoyable to surf in. Skilled surfers who love challenging waves will perhaps do well to opt for Cemento Reef, where the waves tend to be much bigger.
Surfing supposedly started here in Baler, when crew members of Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now left their surfboards behind after the movie was finished.
SURFING IN THAILAND
Surfing in Thailand is quite a recent phenomenon. About 10 years ago Thai surfers in Thailand were very few and most people surfing in Phuket were foreign expatriates living and working in Thailand. The waves and surf spots were and many still are kept closely guarded secret surf spots.
Thai people generally became interested in the sport in the mid to late 90′s and in recent years the amount of Thai surfers has exploded. Phuket now holds annual surf contests and supports a growing and enthusiastic surfing fraternity.
Although Phuket is noted as having some of the best and most consistent surf in Thailand. Other places are now being discovered.
Places such as Rayong and Koh Samui and surrounding areas on the East side of Thailand get their share of waves too, but they are less consistent and come from the northern monsoons in China and Japan.
The west side gets well from the southern monsoons, the same monsoons that bring waves ti Indonesia and Sri Lanka. People are now exploring the mainland areas and outer islands finding some great surf locations.
Waves in Thailand
The surf in Thailand definitely does not rank as a world-class surf travel destination like Bali, Hawaii or Sumatra, but it definitely has its place. The waves are generally smaller and less powerful making it ideal for people learning to surf and for longboarding.
Phuket is Thailand’s largest island with beautiful sandy beaches, clear waters and an interior that is well worth exploring when the surf isn’t up. It is considered more expensive than most other parts of Thailand but it is still possible to find reasonably priced accommodation in good surfing areas.
The water temperature is a stable 28 degrees Celsius which makes surfing in shorts very agreeable. Waves of up to two meters can be expected but the average height is more like one meter. Surf board rentals are available right on the beach at most places and surfers find them well-priced compared to other surfing spots.
Nai Harn Beach Surfing
At the south end of this beach there is a permanent sandbank that gives a good and often fast ride, even in the smallest swells. At the northern end (right next to Le Royal Meridien Yacht Club) there is a beach-and-reef break in the corner. This break can hold large swells and can at times get pretty potent.
Details: Winds are variable with waves up to three metres.
Kata Noi Beach Surfing
Here, the good waves are usually off the northern headland and can be quite fast, but good at times. The right-hander main wave breaks near the northern headland.
Details: Winds are southeasterly to northeasterly with waves up to two metres. Beach break.
Kalim Beach, Phuket
Kalim Beach is one of the better surf beaches on Phuket and when other beaches are impossible many surfers head to Kalim as it is protected from the swell. On wild weather days there are waves to ride further out towards the headland. The wave ride is about 50-100 metres long and gets very shallow at the end. Quite a busy surfing location.
Details: Winds are southeast to northeast with swell up to three metres. Shallow coral reef break.