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The 5 best places to learn how to surf

The world is dotted with great surf spots. It’s easy to find articles about famous locations that feature “epic waves”, killer tubes and jaw-dropping breaks that regularly host professional surfing competitions. But as exciting and impressive as these locations may be, they don’t always sound like great places to learn how to surf.

Beginner surfers need places that:

  1. aren’t too dangerous
  2. are used by good surf schools that cater to new surfers
  3. have suitable waves for learning
  4. feature breaks that aren’t crowded with other surfers

In short, novice surfers need to feel safe, be in competent and qualified hands, and have stress-free access to some long, gentle waves so they can develop the proper skills and techniques in order to progress to more challenging breaks.

So where are the best places to learn how to surf?

We’ve compiled a little list of places around the world to help answer that very question.

Here are 5 excellent places to learn to surf, which are located in Europe, Asia, Central America, North Africa and Australia. That’s 5 places on 5 continents, which not only provide the surf trip of a life time, but are also sure to tick those all of those beginner surfer boxes.

  1. Portugal: European charm, world-class waves

photo by F H Mira (Flickr CC)

Ericeira, Portugal. Pic: F H Mira (Flickr CC)

An undisputed regional gem, European surfing doesn’t get any better than Portugal. With its 943 km (586 miles) of coastline and surf spots galore, Portugal is a surfer’s paradise. Home to Europe’s most unspoiled beaches; this beautiful Iberian country has 7 surfing regions, each with their own special character.

With only 8 km (5 miles) of coastline, Portugal’s smallest surf region and the one with the highest density of world-class surf breaks is Ericeira on the south-central coast. Ericeira is Europe’s only dedicated World Surfing Reserve and home to the ASP World Tour Surf Championship, held at Ribeira d’Ilhas beach.

Ericeira is also a great place for beginner surfers, with certified surf instructors and multiple spots that are suitable for those just starting out. Top beginner surf beaches in Ericeira include Foz do Lizandro, São Julião and Praia do Sul.

  1. Bali: Eat, Pray, Surf

best places to learn how to surf

Padang Padang Right. Pic: Brent Fitzgerald (Flickr CC)

The Indonesian island of Bali is home to some of the most beautiful tropical beaches in Asia and a whopping 50-plus world-class surf spots. It is the undisputed capital of Asian surfing. While Bali is well known for legendary breaks like Uluwatu and Padang Padang, which regularly host professional competitions, it is also one of the best places to learn how to surf.

Bali’s Bukit Peninsula is the island’s southern-most tip. Suitable spots for beginners on the Bukit include Dreamland and Balangan when surfing conditions are favourable. World-famous Padang Padang, however is right beside a gentler beach break (Padang Padang Right), which provides a nice long and unbroken wave. Padang Padang Right is a great spot to learn how to surf or hone your skills.

  1. Costa Rica: Surfing and “pura vida”

best places to learn how to surf

Costa Rica’s Nicoya peninsula. Pic: EladeManu (Flickr CC)

Famous for its beautiful and diverse nature, Costa Rica is also a popular surfing destination, with most of its best surf spots located in the province of Guanacaste. Situated in the north-western portion of the country, the weather is drier and the beautiful Pacific beaches lure surfers from all over the world, all year round.

In particular, Guanacaste’s Nicoya Peninsula is home to beaches that suit all levels of surfers. Though there are several spectacular big-wave reef breaks for the experts among us, surfing schools close to the gentler beaches of Santa Teresa, Playa Carmen and Playa Hermosa are ideally located for beginner surfers.

  1. Morocco: The best of all worlds

best places to learn how to surf

Surfing in Taghazout. Pic: Oskar Seljeskog (Flickr CC)

The Atlantic coast of central Morocco is surfer heaven — 230 km (143 miles) of shoreline, dotted with a variety of beach, point and reef breaks for all levels of expertise, from absolute beginner to seasoned pro. It’s also not too hard on the pocketbook, with accommodation, food and surf lessons all falling on the inexpensive end of the spectrum.

The small and cosmopolitan village of Taghazout is a centre for Moroccan surf culture and a great place to learn the art. Likewise, the nearby charming Berber village of Tamraght is perfectly situated for beginners and those who wish to combine a surfing trip with other activities like yoga, hiking, sight seeing or camel and horseback riding. Both villages are conveniently close to the busy regional capital of Agadir and its international airport.

  1. Australia: Experience the classic surfing lifestyle

best places to learn to surf

Learning to surf at Byron Bay. Pic: Andy Tyler (Flickr CC)

It is said that in Australia, 1 in every 20 people is a surfer. Though it’s hard to know whether or not that’s an accurate statistic, Down Under is without a doubt a huge surfing country and, along with Hawaii and California, one of the original homes of modern surfing. In particular, the town of Byron Bay, in New South Wales, has been a hub for Australian surfing since the 1960s. Home to several great surfing beaches, it is one of the best places to learn how to surf, especially during the months of March through May, which provide warm temperatures and consistent swell.

Surf schools are plentiful in Byron Bay as is the variety of waves in this world-famous “hippy” surf town. Recommended beginner spots include Clarke’s Beach and other spots on the actual bay. However, Byron’s most popular surfing beach, the Pass, can be a bit crowded and intense for novices, though its fame draws surfers of all levels. Due in part to its relative proximity to the cities of Gold Coast and Brisbane, Byron Bay is also a great place for a family-oriented surf holiday.

Lead image of surfing lessons by Heather Paul (Flickr CC)

About graham.land

Graham Land is a writer who grew up in the suburbs of Washington, DC, where he was part of the local hardcore punk scene. Through this musical movement he became involved in grass roots interests such as anti-racist activism, animal rights and Ecology. In 2000 he relocated to Europe, earning an MA in History from Malmö University in Sweden. Graham writes on a variety of topics including the environment, politics and history.
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