6 Must-Do Winter Surf Trips
Jack Frost running a sinister icy finger up your inside leg?
The North Shore in winter is NOT ‘the Mecca of surfing’ as previously, erroneously, reported.
Mecca, Saudi Arabia, is actually the Haleiwa of Islam. It’s that way around.
Whereas every able bodied muslim is expected to go to Mecca once in his or her life, every self-respecting surfer should do at least six North Shore pilgrimages, funds permitting, before they perish and rot silently back into the cool, dark humus.
Between November - Xmas particularly (but also right up until March) it’s fairly crowded. It’s much windier than Indo, the waves are considerably shorter and generally way less perfect, and it’s much, much more expensive.
You are even more likely to get hassled for waves by a Brazilian, Israeli, Aussie, Italian, Frenchie, or any other kind of blow-in than at Canggu.
Nevertheless, every self-respecting surfer should do at least six North Shore pilgrimages, funds permitting, before they perish and rot silently back into the cool, dark humus.
"The North Shore in winter is not ‘the Mecca of surfing’ as previously, erroneously, reported. Mecca, Saudi Arabia, is actually the Haleiwa of Islam"
I’m not going to go into the ins and outs of why here, because I don’t need to. That would sound desperate. I don’t need to plead a case for the North Shore, to twist arms, to cajole via a barrage of boasts and claims.
I don’t need to say ‘Kammies is really good on a north swell’ or extol the many virtues of Backyards. I shall merely calmly repeat that at least six times, yes six, you should visit the North Shore and elevate your surfing, your quiver and your consciousness, to all new heights.
Please note: You do not “do" Hawaii, ever. The phrase “I’ve decided; I’m gonna do Hawaii this year," should never pass your lips, your impertinent, uncouth, heretic lips.
You will never ever “do" Hawaii. But if you’re lucky, sensible and wholesome, Hawaii will do you.
Big unruly Atlantic storms that might batter much of Europe’s western frontier have propagated sufficiently far south to order themselves into long period belts of refined juice, which then taper and bend into the coast in such a majestic fashion as to make a regularfooter leak a bit of wee wee out of his (or her) pee pee, into his canvas slacks.
"Your sloppy, unruly local beachbreak and its unsightly oncoming sections will be but a bad memory, like a long-ago flushed turd"
After a few decades of surf exploration, Morocco has became the no 1. destination for those who cannot afford a long haul trip to Indo, Hawaii, Maldives, but yearn for quality surf in warm weather. And even those who can afford a long haul.
When you get there, the main attraction of Moroccan surfing is quickly understood; when you set eyes on Killer Point, Safi, Immousane, Boilers etc etc reeling off into the distance, promising tube time followed by thigh burn of the highest order, your sloppy unruly local beachbreak and its unsightly oncoming sections will be but a bad memory, like a long-ago flushed turd.
The proximity of cities like Agadir, Essaouira, Casablanca to the surf spots is nice when it’s flat, and you want to visit the souk, get into a bit of culture, show off on Instagram etc
Take your normal board plus a roundpin step up with the fin position pulled 1⁄2" back, a slight vee under the front foot and 1/16" more thickness and wid... Just kidding!
If you’re a hipster, take one single solitary 7’4" egg with a fabric deck inlay that you can surf in anything from 1ft to 8ft.
Serious, even if you’re not a hipster, do that. Quivers are so try hard!
p.s. Beware of hash that has hash as only a minor ingredient, and stuff like bits of plastic, vinyl etc as its main.
Australia is a riddle, isn’t it? For a start, it’s upside down.
If it’s not, and the universe is actually the other way up, well then we’re upside down.
It is also summer in winter there, but that is also cyclone season for the Goldie. Cyclones! Of course, their cyclones spin anti-clockwise (the wrong way!)
The Gold Coast is some people’s idea of hell on Earth. Babylon with performance fibreglass. Byron is some people’s idea of hell on Earth. Babylon with hair. Yet somehow, the combination of it all, it’s great!
Australia can make a decent case for itself as the no.1 surfing destination in the world. In terms of an over-winter trip, for the whole package, it’s got much.
"The people are generally friendly but the animals generally more deadly than cuddly"
They kind-of speak English, which helps, and they’ve got the Queen’s head on their coins, in case you get homesick.
Oh yeah, 'sick'. It's such a riddle this Australia, that sick means good! 'Sick cunt' means 'top chap' or 'terrific fellow'. Wild, but true!
It has awesome cutting edge health food but also plentitudes of beer, pies and chips. It used to be cheap and good at cricket, but now expensive and not so much.
The people are generally friendly but the animals generally more deadly than cuddly. Sharks, snakes, spiders, jellyfish can all kill you dead. Murder you. Even kangaroos can rip your intestines out with their hind legs if they want.
It’s a topsy turvy world, alright.
The Canary Islands
A short hop south for northern fringe surfers stricken alongside chilly, sloppy, gruel hued winter lineups, the appeal of the Canary Island archipelago relates chiefly to its latitude.
Situated a few degrees north of the Tropic of Cancer, the chain of volcanic islands is located off the coast of Africa near the border of Morocco and Western Sahara, and is fully exposed to swells generated in the north Atlantic, which most famously break with power over steep shallow reefs mainly of the north and west coasts.
Alongside an abundance of hollow reefbreaks, the various coasts around the islands also offer points and beaches, often set in to a kind of desert/lunar/lava landscape that definitely lets you know you’re far from home.
With a variety of spots on offer in terms of technique and accessibility, the one constant is the year round sunshine and mild water temperatures.
Apart from all that, the best part is probably drying out the snot. You know how, in winter, like say by late February, you’re just sick and tired of having a snotty nose and ears?
Well the Canaries will dry that stuff out. Your 3/2 will feel mighty alrighty compared to the straight jacket feel of the hooded 5/4 and bootless feet will sing the tooties electric.
You will get an awesome farmer tan as if you duct taped your neck hands and feet, and you will feel better when you leave, than when you arrived.
Surf trips to the Caribbean are both under and over-rated in almost equal measure.
It’s the kind of place a surf mag will go last minute for a swell, drop 5 grand in doing so, score a mega fickle rarity that breaks a handful of times a year and then sell it back to you as if it were bread and butter. Sorry about that.
There are loads of islands and options, across a big geographical spread. English speaking ones, French speaking ones, Spanish speaking ones, hell even Dutch! As a general rule, the consistent surf is on the N/E facing coasts, where the wind also comes from.
If you can be fairly realistic about surfing in a bit of wind, well then tally-ho!
However, on periodic massive swells or even hurricanes, the much rarer, cleaner, point breaky style west coasts might light up, with that even dreamier turquoise lagoon style water colour, and in general, righthanders (swell from the north). Hell yeah!
While it is essentially a playground for mega rich folk from all over the world and thus heinously over-priced, you can snap up those all inclusive slightly chavy cut price package deals (e.g to Dominican Republic), and still score waves at a bargain price.
As you might imagine, the French tend to go on hols/surf trip to the French islands (like Guadeloupe), the Brits to the former British colonies (like Barbados), etc. It’s just the way things seem to work out.
The most consistent surf isle is probably Puerto Rico, as well as the most crowded. I’d also just like to point out that I’ve got to the end without mentioning rum or reggae, much less riddim.
You know the Algarve is good as it has ‘the’ in front of its name, meaning it keeps company with such esteemed venues as The French Riviera, The Hamptons and The North Shore!
It’s not the most pioneering surf trip ever undertaken, but might well be the
bestist! With two coasts (west and south) for different wind/swell options (small and clean go west, bigger and maybes more NW wind go south) you’re spoilt for choice. Accommodation ranges from surf camps to hippy camps to hotels to apartments, you will be doing a bit of driving but it will be worth it.
Home to pro surf rippers like Marlon Lipke and Alex Botelho, and temporary (winter) home to much of the surfing population of Germany, Holland, Sweden and the UK, The Algarve is also a great place to mingle... hell you might even get lucky!