"Surfing is very much like making love. It always feels good, no matter how many times you've done it." - Paul Strauch, the Hawaiian graceful surfer and winner of the 1963 Peru International Surfing Championships.
Indeed, if you can’t get enough of the rushing adrenaline while riding along on the peak of a wave, then Southeast Asia might be the place to be. This region offers incredible choices for an oceanic experience. Bali - the Asian version of Hawaii - is the surfing hub in Southeast Asia and home to a thousand miles of island coastline with powerful swell waves and reef breaks, capturing the hearts of surfers from any level. However, you have way more options than that. Follow our guide to explore some of the best beaches for surfing in the whole Southeast Asia.
1. Kuta Beach, Bali, Indonesia
Speaking of Balinese surfing, one must mention Kuta Beach, the renowned beach that has been introducing surf culture to the public since the 1930s. Among all the best surfing spots in Bali, Kuta Beach stands out thanks to its wave diversity and high accessibility, making it a tempting destination for many surfing lovers around the world, whether pros or newbies who want to give it a try at a fair beach break. It’s most recommended for surfers to pay a visit from May to October, which is the optimum time in the year for waves. The beach also offers both left and right breaks. Surfing classes are plentifully available so it’s no doubt a fitting place to learn for beginners. Additionally, as Kuta Beach is the surfing hub in Bali, it’s useful to remind yourself that it can be quite crowded at certain times. However, you can always find a quiet spot if you walk towards the end of the beach.
2. Uluwatu Beaches, Bali, Indonesia
For a quieter retreat than Kuta Beach, the beaches of Uluwatu are truly the gems of Bali. With their cleanliness, photogenicity and particularly robust waves, surfers may find many reasons to stay excited. For any professional surfer who is looking for a thrill in Bali, Uluwatu Beach is where you may want to end up with. The Uluwatu coastline extends as far as the west side of the Bukit peninsula. As most of the beaches are located below a cliff bank, you wouldn’t be surprised to encounter swift, powerful surfs; plenty of barrel waves; long swell as well as left breaks and right breaks. This is where you’ll be surfing with many local experienced surfers, making this a perfect opportunity to mingle with the surfing spirit with the Balinese! The generally recommended months for surfing are from April to August.
Besides the great waves, Uluwatu is also a place where dynamic cliffs scatter around the beach scenery with wonderful sandy beaches below, making it a delightful landscape for you to surf, especially during the spectacular sunset!
3. Siargao Island’s Cloud Nine, Philippines
In everyday use, “cloud nine” means feeling extremely happy and elated, but for surfers, the name means more than that.
Frequently listed in the top 10 surfing sites around the world, Siargao Island is the one that can make your surfing experience feel like you’re on the top of the world. The island’s most recognizable signature is Cloud Nine in the Municipality of General Luna. The name refers to the most renowned and most accessible wave break in the Philippines. Featuring clean barrels, wide hollow tubes and persistent high waves, Cloud Nine has made many international surfers and local surfers alike fall in love with the waves. Cloud Nine is also commonly accompanied by its renowned 300-meter boardwalk, from which viewers can enjoy the performance of the surfers. The name also implies multiple meanings in the surfing world. According to some locals, “Cloud Nine” comes from the shape of a “9” that is formed as the wave begins to ascend and the breaks, delivering a perfect barrel. Meanwhile, for others, it’s simply explained by the elated sensation that makes them feel like on top of the world during the surfing experience.
As the home to an annual fierce surfing competition - the Siargao Cup, Siargao Island may be best visited in September as the competition usually takes place during the month. In any case, whether you’re a casual player or a professional, you’ll ultimately find your water paradise here in Siargao Island.
4. Nihi Sumba Island, Indonesia
For a more exclusive retreat, Nihi Sumba Island is where you want to be. The island harbors one of the most desirable private waves in the world, known as the “God’s Left” or “Occy’s Left”. God’s Left has left breaking waves which exceed 300 meters with Nihi’s Sumba beautiful outstretched reef underneath. It is also exclusively preserved for only ten surfers a time, making it a much more private experience in surfing. Yet for the most adept surfer, the wave can still pose some challenges in certain conditions depending on tides, size, strength and direction. It might be tough to catch a ride, but once you make it through, you’ll be lavish in the thrilling 200 to 300m long down the ripple walls and swaying barrels.
While the wave is favored by avid and experienced surfers for decades, beginning surfers are welcomed to try their lesson with the God’s Left, depending on the wave’s swell. For surfers that prefer some light surfing, calmer waters can be frequently founded at nearby Coconut Cove. The south-eastern side of the island also comprises of mixed types of waves, ideal for both amateur and professional surfing.
5. Pansea Beach, Phuket, Thailand
For those that choose Thailand as their surfing destination, Pansea Beach in Phuket should be the top of the list. Pansea Beach stretches for nearly 400 meters in length on the west coast of Phuket. Situated north from the spectacular Surin Beach, Pansea is seperated from Surin with a little rocky cape. The beach is surrounded by an abundance of coconut trees as well as many exotic plants. While Pansea Beach is commonly assumed to be the private beach owned by both The Surin Phuket and Amanpuri Phuket, the beach is actually free and open to the public. Despite still remaining unknown to many surfers, this hidden little beach may surprise some of the most skilled surfers. With regular frequency, Pansea provides good wave quality and many tough point breaks. Dry season (from May to October) is usually the best time to go for the waves in this secluded beach. Generally, you will encounter local windswells, but groundswells also occasionally occur. The optimal wave direction is from the southwest.
6. My Khe Beach, Da Nang, Vietnam
My Khe Beach (also known as China Beach) is no stranger to surfers when it comes to Vietnam. As the classic film “Apocalypse Now” has shown, the beach is where the surfing first began for Vietnamese people and now has become the most popular the surfer hotspot of the country. The beach plays a major role in the Vietnamese history: it’s where the US marines first entered the country through the shores, introduced and developed the culture of surfing which is later embraced by Vietnamese locals.
Acclaimed by Forbes as one of six most attractive beaches in the world, the sandy My Khe Beach stretches for around 30 km and is filled with clear five-foot water. There are plenty of dining points and bars scattered along the beach, making it an ideal snacking meal after a surfing day. While it’s not a secluded spot like Pansea Beach, it still delivers an enjoyable experience for anyone that is looking for casual surfing. Beach break is the most common type of wave in My Khe Beach and is meant for all surfers from all levels. However, it never hurts to stay alert of rips and undertow!
7. Mentawai Islands, Sumatra, Indonesia
Bali is not the only surfing point that should be taken into consideration in Indonesia, the Mentawai Islands group is also a worthy-visiting destination among surfers. Placed In the west coast of Sumatra, the Mentawais are made up with 70 islands and inlets, attracting swells around the year and has become one of the most wave-intense spots in the world. Mentawai has everything that a surfer could ask for: Warm and clear water, palm-dense beaches, outstanding right breaks (Lance’s Rights and Rifles) and great hollow lefts (Greenbush and Macaronis).
The average height of the waves is usually about 1.8 meters while the overall size varies from 0.6 to 3.6 meters. The biggest swell ever recorded in Mentawai is up to more than 4 meters. So whether you are a newbie or a veteran in surfing, the Mentawais has all the things you need.
The optimal season for surfing in the Mentawais is from March to October/November as this normally marks the dry season in Indonesia. From December to February, the waves are smaller and more soothing, which are more advisable for casual surfers.
8. Cherating, Pahang, Malaysia
Malaysia may fly under the radar when it comes to surfing, but it doesn’t always have to be the case. A small resort town in Pahang - east coast of Malaysia, Cherating is one of the few places that provides good waves and sightseeing with affordable and budget-friendly accommodations.
The Ministry and Culture Pahang (MOTAC) has been growing the surfing culture of Cherating since its first emergence in the 1990s. Now Cherating has become the center of local surfing community with high-profile events like Cherating International Surfing Competition and captivates bountiful surfing enthusiasts around the world.
Waves in Cherating has swinging moods on their own. Throughout the monsoon season, the waves are often small and the currents are relatively calm, which are perfect for beginners. Contrariwise, for the rest of the time, the waves are huge and unpredictable with tough currents, making it a hard time for inexperienced surfers. For more hardcore surfers, Cherating grants a 500m breaking point wave - one of the longest in Asia. Even if you have no clue about surfing, schools like the Cherating Boys Surf School (initiated by the Safari Xtreme) are always available for you to learn pick up some moves.
9. Weligama Beach, Weligama, Sri Lanka
Guess what? You shouldn't hesitate to add Sri Lanka on your hot list of destination for surfing goers. Weligama, located on the Southern Coast, has everything that Sri Lanka has to offer: Budget friendly, loving locals, magnificent waves on the coastline.
While Weligama has become a bustling beach town throughout the last several years, it was once a simple fishing village (or ‘sandy village’, as translated from the name ‘Weligama’). Weligama is the perfect heaven for any surfing novice who are looking to learn or sharpen their skills before heading for tougher areas. Because of the soaring length of the beach, it is able to hold many surfers at once without being too cramped. The waves in Weligama are usually and consistently small. Yet, if you prefer more challenging waves, you may have to wade a little further to catch yourself some bigger waves. There are also multiple advanced spots for intermediate surfers. Namely, take a 5-minute tuk tuk to Mirissa Right, where you can find great waves and experiences local surfers. Weligama also offers easy reef breaks for beginners, including Midigama, Mirissa Left and Plantation.
The surfing season in Weligama is from September until May, however you can still opt for the off-season by going for the tiny island spot “Taprobane”, where you can find basic
10. Baler, Aurora, Philippines
Like My Khe Beach of Vietnam, Baler is the birthplace of the surfing scene in the Philippines. The sport was made known to Filipino people thanks to the classic “Apocalypse Now”. After filming the US soldiers surfing scene, the movie crew left behind some surfboards for the local people to use and learn the sport, thus gaining the growing popularity as the surfing center of the country till this day. The stretching long black-sand beach is the most beloved surfing place of the locals. There are many peaks here, including both lefts and rights that are cut out for both high-level and non-experienced surfers. There are several significant spots that you can surf in Baler: Cemento is where the best break can be found. The hollow right reef break which can give heavy barrels will satisfy the adrenaline craving of any professional surfers. The second spot is Charlie’s Point, where non-advanced surfers can have fun with the small-sized swell and easy peaks with a sandy bottom. Another ideal spot for beginners is Sabang Beach, where you can expect to see glassy waves (waves without ripples due to the absence of local wind, thus making an extremely clean surf) from December to February. Whatever the spot, Baler is a major playground for any surfing addict that either simply wants to enjoy a good time or wishes to get lost between the vast waves.