Surfing holidays: Chasing the perfect wave off an empty beach

Demi Taylor explores up-and-coming destinations

For decades, the surfing dream has been of crystal seas, boardshorts, bikinis and palm-fringed beaches. It's paddling into the line-up as dawn's light cracks the mountain tops, the air still, the morning's offshore wind yet to kick in, arms clad only in factor 50, machine-like barrels tapering down the coral fringe. Nowhere delivers this reality, year round, better than Indonesia. Waveriders have been drawn to this idyll since the 1970s, lured by the promise of adventure, escape and perfect surf. Stories of empty line-ups and sun-kissed barrels around every headland ignited a wanderlust in surfing's collective consciousness.

Over time, the spotlight drifted to new destinations as surfing's insatiable search rumbled ever onwards. However, the region is undergoing a renaissance, having starred in some high-profile surf films, including the award-wining The Salt Trail. While the Bali bubble may have burst – its fabled reef breaks becoming overrun – the vast Indonesian archipelago still offers plenty of room for exploration.

Search further afield and the islands off North Sumatra and Indonesia's southern reaches can still deliver uncrowded perfection – and the spirit that drew the original surf pioneers. With rugged terrain and sparse infrastructure, large tracts of coastline require time to explore, so boat charters can be perfect for those looking to maximise their water time. Tradewinds Adventures (tradewindsadventures.com) runs 11-day charters from February to November to Sumatra and nearby islands aboard the Jiwa – a 23m, double mast, traditional wooden phinisi; the price of £1,550pp includes 10 nights' accommodation in an air-conditioned cabin, transport to the best breaks, meals and transfers, but not international flights. Keep up-to-date with local travel advice for Indonesia with the Foreign Office (fco.gov.uk).

However, perfection cannot be judged by warm-water barrels alone – cold zones are quickly becoming surfing's new hotspots. Britain is a nation of year-round, wetsuit-clad waveriders, so the concept of cold-water surfing is nothing new to us, but some places that are opening up might raise an eyebrow. While surfing in the Baltic is best left to the hardy locals, regions such as British Columbia, Nova Scotia, northern Japan and even Alaska are popping up on the surf map. A couple of extra millimetres of neoprene is a small price to pay for grand vistas and thumping surf.

Closer to home, Norway's boulder points and vast beaches around Stavanger regularly serve up classic conditions in autumn and spring. For those seeking a spectacular backdrop, Iceland's jagged, volcanic Reykjanes Peninsula delivers an experience unique in the surfing world. Straddling tectonic plates, this active landscape is bombarded by swell, producing an exciting proposition for intermediate and experienced surfers. The sea temperature hovers around 6-9C in the spring but what it lacks in degrees centigrade, it compensates with degrees of separation from the rest of the surfing world – there are only around 20 local surfers here. Conditions can change rapidly and local knowledge pays dividends. Ingo Olsen of Arctic Surfers (00 354 562 7000; arcticsurfers.is) will take you to the best breaks; Isk49,000 (£250) includes six to eight hours of guiding, lunch and equipment.

Get your first break

Lamiroy Surf Academy (07926 581500; lamiroysurf.com) in Perranporth, Cornwall, offers a "club house" approach to coaching novices through to elite wave-riders. A £120 annual membership buys three, three-hour coaching sessions with British champions, plus unlimited access to the on-site test centre featuring a wide selection of boards from the UK's best shapers.

Surf Sistas (07779 099770; surfsistas.com) specialises in trips for female surfers, from complete novices to improvers. Courses are offered in Cornwall, France, Morocco, Bali and Costa Rica. In the latter, the beaches of Santa Teresa are perfect for catching your first ride, or improving your technique and confidence in warm waves. A week costs £749pp, including transfers, breakfast, daily tuition, equipment, yoga and a gift bag, plus photos of your exploits.

Splash out in style

While there's no shortage of accommodation aimed at surfers on a budget, many want more than a back-to-basics experience. As the wave-riding demographic has changed, resorts have risen to the challenge.

The private-island resort Tavarua in Fiji (00 679 776 6513; tavarua.com) is fringed by the world-class reef breaks of Restaurants and Cloudbreak. When it opened in the Eighties, the island was one of the first luxury surf camps and while it no longer has exclusive access to the breaks, it is still one of surfing's elite spots. Prices from $2,300pp (£1,533) per week include a stay in one of 16 private burres, meals and boats to and from the breaks.

Set in pristine cedar forest overlooking Cox Bay, the Long Beach Lodge Resort on Canada's Vancouver Island (001 250 725 2442; longbeachlodgeresort.com) delivers the cold-water dream – door front surfing, miles of breaks, grand scenery, a wet room for equipment, an open fire and sauna for when the surfing is done. Private cottages with Jacuzzis cost from C$329 (£180) room only.

Surf in the city

City breaks can deliver a weekend hit of classic waves, culture and cool cafés. San Sebastián, in northern Spain, offers an irresistible mix of promenade-front peelers close to the heart of the old town with glorious architecture and busy pintxos bars. Urban House Lolo (00 34 943 42 81 54; urbanhousesansebastian.com) is five minutes from Zurriola beach's breaks and offers board rental. Dorm beds from €12, doubles from €40, B&B.

A late night in the bar-filled lanes of Lisbon's Bairro Alto can be easily remedied by a quick trip to the pumping sandbars of nearby Costa da Caparica, Guincho and Cascais. The Independente (00 351 21 346 13 81; theindependente.pt) is near the Bairro Alto and within walking distance of Cais do Sodre train station. Dorm beds from €12; doubles from €79.

New York has a thriving surf scene that encompasses the hip Saturday's surf shop (001 212 966 7873; saturdaysnyc.com), independent surf filmmakers and artists. The barrels that break at Brooklyn's Boardwalk are legendary, while Long Island can offer surprisingly quiet waves.

Virgin Atlantic (0844 209 7777; virgin-atlantic.com) carries surfboards free of charge on all its flights, including between Heathrow and JFK. The Surf Lodge Montauk (001 631 483 5037; thesurflodge.com), on Long Island, has doubles from $218 (£145), room only.

The best professional surfers on the planet battle it out on the beaches of southwest France The best professional surfers on the planet battle it out on the beaches of southwest France Watch and learn

If charging huge, gaping two-storey barrels is a little outside your comfort zone, the next best thing is getting up close to the action, feeling the spray on your face with sand still between your toes.

The annual Quiksilver Pro France in Hossegor (aspworldtour.com; 25 September-5 October; free) is the premier European leg on the WCT world tour and sees the best professional surfers on the planet battle it out on the beaches of south-west France (left).

The London Surf /Film Festival (londonsurffilmfestival.com; October/November) brings the best in the world of surf movies to the big screen in London, with talks and Q&A sessions, from legends of surf and film. Tickets from £7.50.

Close to home

Saunton in North Devon is firmly established within longboard circles. Neighbouring Croyde is famed for its challenging low tide barrels and The Thatch (01271 890349; thethatchcroyde.com; doubles from £60) – a pub, B&B and social hub. Nearby Braunton hosts the Museum of British Surfing (01271 815155 museumofbritishsurfing.org.uk; admission £4).

The Pembrokeshire coast sucks up the most swell in Wales. Quality beaches such as Freshwater West offer room to spread out. East Trewent Farm (01646 672127; easttrewentfarm.co.uk) at Freshwater East is an ideal base (left) and offers B&B doubles from £60.

With three large sandy bays, Scarborough is home to the East Coast's largest surf community. Secret Spot Surf Shop (01723 500467; secretspot.co.uk) is the font of all knowledge. One-to-one lessons cost £70, beginner group lessons are £45, with equipment.

Surf adventure

As the world seems to get smaller, and remote locations seem more accessible, it's refreshing to know that there is still scope for exciting surf adventures in relatively unexplored regions. Moroccan Surf Adventures (00 212 666 283 172; morocsurf.com) offers Saharan expeditions away from the bustling waves of Taghazout. The price of £600pp includes a week of surf exploration and full board (but not flights). Pushing south along the desert coastline in a 4x4, cresting a sand dune to see miles of empty coastline is certainly something to set the pulse racing.

India is opening up as a wave-riding destination with warm waters and a rich cultural experience. The cliff-top Soul&Surf (soulandsurf.com) in Kerala overlooks the Arabian Sea and offers week-long escapes from £189pp in a double room, with breakfast and daily surf guiding to the region's best spots. Flights are not included.

The Independent travel offers: Discover a world of inspiring destinations

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Dawkins: 'There’s a very interesting reason why a prince could not turn into a frog – it's statistically too improbable'
newsThat's Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome
Sport
Malky Mackay salutes the Cardiff fans after the 3-1 defeat at Liverpool on Sunday
footballFormer Cardiff boss accused of sending homophobic, racist and messages
Sport
Rodgers showered praise on Balotelli last week, which led to speculation he could sign the AC Milan front man
transfers
Life and Style
life – it's not, says Rachel McKinnon
Arts and Entertainment
Eye of the beholder? 'Concrete lasagne' Preston bus station
architectureWhich monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?
Arts and Entertainment
Arctic Monkeys headline this year's Reading and Leeds festivals, but there's a whole host of other bands to check out too
music(who aren't Arctic Monkeys)
News
Lizards, such as Iguanas (pictured), have a unique pattern of tissue growth
science
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Oracle 11g SQL 2008 DBA (Unix, Oracle RAC, Mirroring, Replicati

    £6000 - £50000 per annum + Bonus+Benefits+Package: Harrington Starr: Oracle 11...

    Recruitment Consultant (Graduate Trainee), Finchley Central

    £17K OTE £30K: Charter Selection: Highly successful and innovative specialist...

    SQL DBA/ C# Developer - T-SQL, C#.Net

    £45000 - £55000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Working with an exciting ...

    Sales and Office Administrator – Sports Media

    £23,000: Sauce Recruitment: A global leader in sports and entertainment is now...

    Day In a Page

    Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

    We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

    Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
    Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

    Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

    Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
    Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

    The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

    Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
    Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

    Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

    Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
    eBay's enduring appeal: Online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce retailer

    eBay's enduring appeal

    The online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce site
    Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

    'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

    Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
    Artist Olafur Eliasson's latest large-scale works are inspired by the paintings of JMW Turner

    Magic circles: Artist Olafur Eliasson

    Eliasson's works will go alongside a new exhibition of JMW Turner at Tate Britain. He tells Jay Merrick why the paintings of his hero are ripe for reinvention
    Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

    Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

    After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed
    Greggs Google fail: Was the bakery's response to its logo mishap a stroke of marketing genius?

    Greggs gives lesson in crisis management

    After a mishap with their logo, high street staple Greggs went viral this week. But, as Simon Usborne discovers, their social media response was anything but half baked
    Matthew McConaughey has been singing the praises of bumbags (shame he doesn't know how to wear one)

    Matthew McConaughey sings the praises of bumbags

    Shame he doesn't know how to wear one. Harriet Walker explains the dos and don'ts of fanny packs
    7 best quadcopters and drones

    Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

    From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
    Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

    Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

    The midfielder returned to the Premier League after two years last weekend. The controversial character had much to discuss after his first game back
    Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

    Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

    British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
    Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

    A descent into madness in America's heartlands

    David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
    BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

    BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

    Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home