Surfing and travel are like strawberries and cream - they just go together.
There’s a whole world out there just waiting to be explored.
But it can be scary, overwhelming, not to mention intimidating if you’ve never done it before.
We get it, and that’s why this surf travel guide is going to put your mind at ease and give everything you need to know for the trip of a lifetime.
Ready for takeoff?
WHAT’S YOUR LEVEL & WHERE TO GO
Different locations have different times of the year where conditions are optimal.
Use the guide below to find beginner friendly locations, and the best time of year to visit and surf:
JANUARY - MARCH
APRIL - JUNE
JULY - SEPTEMBER
OCTOBER - DECEMBER
SURF TRAVEL ESSENTIALS: 10 TIPS TO AN EPIC TRIP
If you want your surf trip to go smoothly, it’s important to plan things ahead of time to avoid getting stuck in any sticky situations, getting ripped off, or making any rookie errors that could ruin your trip.
Below, are 14 hard-earned travel tips from over 40 years on in-house surf travel experience:
1. CHOOSING THE RIGHT DESTINATION
We broke down the best surf travel destinations for beginners above, now it’s time for you to decide where is right for you.
Choose a destination fit for your surfing level, that’s in your budget, and has the type of waves your looking to surf.
And remember, the surf season for different destinations will vary, so pick a spot that’s in-season for your travel dates.
2. KNOW YOUR AIRLINE, KNOW THE FEES
Now that you know where you’re going, you’ll need to book a flight, but beware, as not all airlines treat surfers equally…
Airlines have cottoned on the the idea that surfers love to travel, and in recent years have hiked up the fees for surfers travelling with surfboards - so this is definitely something to investigate before booking your flights.
Some airlines charge per board, some per board-bag, and some don’t charge at all.
The fees for this can add up, so do your research before booking to avoid getting smashed with fees at check-in.
Here’s a list of airline surfboard fee charges to help you along.
3. PACKING THE RIGHT STUFF
Oftentimes the best surf travel destinations are off the beaten track, in third world countries, with less than ideal access to travel essentials, so you’re going to want to pack everything you need before you go:
Here’s a surf travel essentials checklist for you.
4. SURF CAMP, OR GO IT ALONE…
If this is your first surf travel experience you might be considering a surf camp as an option, or you may be considering going it alone.
Either is fine, but it’s important that you know the pros and cons of each to make the right decision for you:
Surf Camps are great because they take a lot of the stresses out of your travel experience, they’re safe, and you’re surrounded by other surfers just like you - immersed in the travel vibe.
Going it alone is usually reserved for the more experienced surf traveller. They like this option because it’s cheaper, more flexible, and puts them in control of their every move.
If this is your first ever surf travel experience it might be wise to go the surf camp route purely to put your mind at ease, but for the intrepid traveller amongst you going it alone could be the best thing you’ve ever done.
5. SURF TRAVEL INSURANCE
I know what you’re thinking, boring!
And you’re right, there is nothing more boring than insurance, until you really need it that is..
I’ve known countless people that have needed medical help on their travels and without appropriate cover they would have been screwed.
I get it, it feels like a waste of money as you’ll likely never need it, but for the one time you do, it’ll be worth every penny you’ve ever paid.
If you’re looking for some retubale insurance brokers that cater well for surfers, go check these guys out:
1 Cover: Surf Travel Insurance
World Nomads Travel Insurance for Surfing
6. CULTURE VULTURE
Immersing yourself in different cultures is what makes surf travel so frickin cool, but each culture you go to will have their own set of customs, rules and traditions - that need to be respected.
And it’s important that you know what you’re getting yourself into before you go.
For example in Muslim countries like Indonesia, women are expected to cover up with their clothing in and out of the water.
In other countries outward signs of physical intimacy like kissing etc. is prohibited too, so it’s worth checking in with the local cultural norms before you go, so that you can go about your business without causing a fuss with the locals.
Pretty much every country you visit will require a visa for entry.
Some will require visa’s to be granted before arrival, and some you can get at the airport when you land.
Either way, find out what the visa situation is ahead of time so that you don’t get caught out.
Here's a good resource for more info: https://visaguide.world/
8. GETTING JABBED UP
Certain destinations require you to be vaccinated before entry.
These can be for things like Yellow Fever, Tetanus, Typhoid, Rubella, etc.
And now too there can also be restrictions for the covid vaccine too.
Most countries are pretty laid back on all this stuff, but some aren’t, so do some research beforehand to see if there are any mandatory vaccines needed for entry.
Here's a good resource for more info: https://www.kayak.com/travel-restrictions
9. SURFBOARD QUIVER
A lot of the best surf locations oftentimes don’t have a lot of infrastructure, or a lot of access to good surf equipment, especially surfboards.
So, it’s well worth packing an extra board or two in case you snap or damage anything on your trip.
Sure, there’ll be surfboards around to buy, but much of the time they’ll be old beaten up pieces of crap that are not fit for purpose.
If you’ve got an extra board in the garage be sure to bring it along with you.
10. BOARD PACKAGING
Surfboards and aeroplane baggage handlers are not the best of friends, in fact there have been numerous occasions whereby surfboards have been absolutely trashed during transport.
So it’s important to pack your boards as best you can to avoid damage.
Some people go absolutely nuts and wrap everything in bubble wrap, but in my experience that’s overkill.
And if you get the wrong baggage handler no amount of bubble wrap will save you.
In short, buy a good, thick travel board bag, remove the fins from your board, back your boards tightly, and stuff towels, wetsuits and clothes around the nose, tail and rails for padding.
Then cross your fingers and hope for the best.
11. FOREIGN CURRENCY
Undoubtedly, wherever you travel to they’ll have their own currency, so you’ll want to make sure you have a little local currency on you for when you arrive.
You don’t need to go crazy, but you’ll want enough to get you out of trouble should any issues pop up with taking money out of local ATM’s.
Usually around $200-$500 is more than enough.
You can get access to the currency at any airport at a currency conversion desk.
12. ARRIVE EARLY
When travelling to a new country, in a completely foreign land, the last thing you want to do is arrive late at night.
Arriving late is when bad stuff happens.
If a late arrival is unavoidable book yourself into an airport hotel for that night and pre arrange airport pickup to avoid having to deal with taxi drivers and finding accommodation late at night.
Your best off booking flights that arrive in daylight hours to avoid all of the above.
13. LOCAL SIM
If you’re staying somewhere for a while it might be worth buying a local sim card.
The fees will be super cheap, and it’ll save you a lot of money in overseas roaming fees.
If you’re planning on travelling for a number of weeks/months it’s absolutely vital to have a budget.
Oftentimes, when first arriving in a third world country where everything is a third of the price the tendency is to splash out and go wild.
If you're just travelling for a week or two that’s fine, but if you’re going the long-haul it’s important to stick to a budget.
Here’s what you should do.
Get the total amount of savings, divide it by the number of days on your trip, the total is the amount you have available each day.
If you overspend on one day, be sure to pay it back the next, that way you won’t get caught out, or worse still be in dept at the end of your trip.
WRAPPING IT UP
If you’re about to embark on your first ever surf travel experience, lucky you.
You’re in for the trip of a lifetime.
Travel is at the heart of surf culture, and always will be.
Once you start on this journey, a world of possibilities and adventures open up for a lifetime of discovery.
“Every adventure requires a first step”, and this guid may well be yours.
Rowan is the nerd behind the scenes. But when he's not knee-deep in code, you'll find him immersed in the crypto-world or sending it at his local beachie.