Ever wanted to surf but worried where you could learn? From Cornwall to Australia we cover the ten best places around the world
Margaret River (Western Australia) and Bells Beach (Victoria) are two of the classic breaks Down Under, but on such a vast coastline choosing a beach is almost as hard as surfing itself. One of the safest places to learn is on the sandbars of Noosa (Queensland), where Merrick Davis and his team will teach you the basic skills in gentle, waist-high waves. And once you’re on your feet you can move onto the reef points or the heavier peaks at neighbouring Sunshine Beach.
Gone are the days of surfers having to rough it in tents and vans in order to seek out the best surf spots. Baja Surf Adventures has opened a rustic-style resort, complete with the nice-life amenities of hot water, three meals a day, a sand courtyard with hammocks and expert tuition on an uncrowded point break.
Given five-star approval by the British Surfing Association (BSA), the Sennen Surfing Centre lies at the tip of the West Country and picks up the swell even when the rest of the Cornish breaks are as flat as a millpond. Cornwall might not have the same ring as Hawaii, but I have seen dolphins in these waters and the surfing lifestyle is enhanced with guitar-playing on the beach as the sun goes down.
Bali’s Kuta Beach is thronged with stands hiring out longboards (and offering beach massages for afterwards), but one of the area’s most reputable schools has been set up by former World Masters champion Cheyne Horan. You’ll get a second lesson free if you’re not standing by the end of the day and, once you’re feeling as confident as the legend himself, Kuta’s funky surf stores are a great place to get kitted out in the latest surf gear at bargain prices.
Popular for its laid-back surf scene in a tropical paradise, Costa Rica’s better-known breaks are becoming increasingly crowded, which encouraged Safari Surf School to take its pura vida attitude and professional set-up off the beaten track to Nosara. Surrounded by howler monkeys and jungle you can enjoy sharing the line-up with the local turtles instead of hordes of tourists.
Oahu’s North Shore is home to Pipeline – one of the world’s most powerful waves, and no spot for a learner. But it is also home to the Kelea Surf Spa, which offers a more tranquil surfing experience: lessons on the mellow waves of Laniakea Beach, massages, snorkelling, hiking and gourmet meals. A sure route to becoming a surf goddess.
A destination that is in the surfing limelight for two reasons: the world-class barrels of Jeffrey’s Bay – and sharks. If you can shake off fears about the latter (bearing in mind that the number of shark-related incidents is minute in comparison with horseriding accidents) then head to Transkei’s Wild Coast, where Buccaneer’s Backpackers runs a well-established day-course on the stunning beaches of Cintsa. On the uncrowded waves, you are more likely to encounter a pod of friendly dolphins than a great white.
At the Willis Brothers school of surfing, the acclaimed watermen implement the highest standards of water safety and ocean education as well as teaching surfing technique. Whether you’re an absolute beginner or want big waves and professional training, their knowledge and experience promises to ‘perpetuate the spirit of surfing’ and get you making the most out of the west-coast waves.
Set off the coast of north Africa, the Canary Islands offer an accessible destination for surfers but, characterised by volcanic terrain, many of the reef breaks are too risky for the beginner. Surf School Lanzarote has set up its BSA-approved school on one of the island’s sandy beaches – Playa de Famara – so you can enjoy all the benefits of expert tuition, a sunny climate and spectacular scenery.
Not content with the Welsh weather all year round, the GSD team takes its set-up to the coast of south-west Portugal during the autumn (September to November) and spring (March and April). Based in the Alentejo and the Algarve, you can battle the learning curve in a balmy climate, although some surfing experience is required for these trips.