After 15 years travelling the world as a surf journalist, I’ve spent many a month holed up in surf camps under the guise of work.
Some surf camps are great, some good, others are just plain grotty. Here are nine of the best camps that can give you a surf trip of a lifetime*….
G-Land Bobby’s Surf Camp, East Java, IndonesiaLine -up shot of Money Trees afternoon from Bobby’s camp. Photo: G-Land Bobby’s Surf Camp
Established in 1975, Bobby’s is the world’s first surf camp and in my humble opinion, still the best. The success of Bobby’s is down to two things: the wave and the isolation.
Located on the very eastern tip of Java in the middle of a national park, Grajagan stretches for a kilometre down a coral reef, offering seven different sections including some of the most perfect waves on the planet.
Being so isolated, it also evokes a pure surfing feeling. There are no nightclubs (the generators and the lights go off at 10pm), no shops and nothing at all to do but surf your brains out, have a few beers in the evening and press repeat for two weeks. Pure surfing bliss.
Namotu, FijiPerfect barrels in crystal clear water. Photo: Namotu Island Resort ,Fiji
Namotu is a wave rich Fijian surf camp that was one of my favourite destinations on earth – and that was before 2009, when due to ownership restrictions you were unable to surf the neighbouring wave of Cloudbreak off Tavarua.
Namotu is managed by legendary Australian couple, Mandy and Scott O’Connor whose ability to put you at ease in their lodge is a massive part of the appeal.
Well, that and the fun lefthander out the front, the incredible fishing, great kite surfing facilities and one of the world’s deadliest house cocktails, the notorious Skull Drag.
Now with access to perhaps the best wave in the world at Cloudbreak, one of the world’s best surf camps just got better.
Shaka Beach Retreat, Costa RicaPhoto: Shaka Beach Retreat
Costa Rica has warm water, a Caribbean and a Pacific Coast, consistent offshore winds, uniform swell and a stable democracy.
Basically anywhere in Costa Rica is better than most place everywhere else, but Shaka Beach Retreat is my favourite in all of Costa Rica.
Private beachside villas are nestled in the tropical gardens with fruit trees which spill onto the ridiculous pretty beaches and great waves on the Nicoya Peninsula.
Great for intermediate and beginner surfers, you can also try one of their yoga packages which adds flexibility to one of the most chilled surf camp experiences on the planet.
Nihiwatu, Sumba, IndonesiaPhoto: Ari Sääski/Nihiwatu Resort Sumba
Located in the middle of the remote Indonesian island of Sumba, calling Nihiwatu a surf camp might be pushing it.
Surfers are limited to just ten, meaning you have exclusive access to the world class wave (known as Nihiwatu or Occy’s Left) which sits right in front of your luxury villa.
Throw in world-class diving, fishing, yoga, horse rides, five-star food and you see why staying in Nihiwatu goes far beyond surf experiences anywhere else in the world.
Chill In Ericeira, PortugalPhoto: Chill In Ericeira
In 2011, World Surfing Reserve status was given to the iconic waves around the Portuguese town of Ericeira, placing it alongside other legendary surf centres such as Santa Cruz, Malibu and Australia’s Gold Coast.
The new Chill In Ericeira Surf House, run by former Portuguese national champion Joana Rocha, has taken advantage of that and plunges visitors right into the heart of the town’s historic surf culture.
The amenities are fairly basic, with shared bathrooms, dining areas and a communal kitchen, but the vibe is pure, chilled out surf.
Whether you’re a beginner or an expert, the camp’s guides will take you to the best waves, be that the crunching tubes of point breaks such as Coxos or the benign beaches closer to the camp.