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Feature photo: goodsurfers2009 / Photo above: Gustty

You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure out why surfing is so popular.

IN AN INCREASINGLY BUSY world, going for a surf is a chance to get back to nature, test yourself against the ocean, have fun and get some exercise. And these days learning to surf doesn’t have to be the fearful, difficult proposition it once was. Forgiving foam surfboards and qualified surf instructors mean standing up and riding a wave in your first session is very likely — and then you’re hooked.

Read on for Matador’s list of the best surf spots to start your new addiction…

Byron Bay, Australia

This onetime sleepy dairy town turned hippie-surfer-stockbroker enclave is quite possibly the best place in the country, maybe the world, to learn to surf. There’s a variety of waves to suit different levels, from gentle rollers off Watego Beach to the beach breaks of Tallows and The Wreck (in small swells).

Byron Bay Surf School offers both lessons and accommodation. Or stay at the Byron Bay YHA (formerly J’s Bay), complete with pool.

Best time to go: March to May for warm weather and consistent swell .

Kuta, Bali

On an island famous for its grinding left hand reef breaks, Bali still offers great options for learners. The long sandy stretch of sand in front of the famous Kuta and Legian tourist strip can turn on fun waves for beginners in small swells – but watch the currents when its bigger.

Various beach huts rent old surfboards for about 20,000 rupiah per hour. For complete novices try the School of Surf.When the wind picks up in the afternoon there’s a bunch of options to keep you busy, from practising yoga in Ubud to partying late at Ku De Ta in Seminyak.

Best time to go: May to September for offshore winds and a party atmosphere.

Photo by mikebaird

Lagos, Portugal

While there are rarely waves in Lagos itself, this picturesque Algarve town is the base for many surf schools in the region, and it’s not hard to see why. A variety of great waves are within a 30 minute drive, including the protected break at Arrifana – a favourite for learners at low tide.

Among the surf schools based in Lagos, Surf Experience is the longest established and one of the best.

After a day spent learning to surf, refuel at one of Lagos’ cheap but delicious restaurants, from cook-your-own €8 steaks at Retiro da Trinidade to fiery hot piri piri chicken at O Franguinho. After 10 PM, the clubs come alive, the clientèle spurred on by cheap cocktails and refreshing bottles of Sagres beer for just €2.

Best time to go: Northern hemisphere spring and autumn to avoid the summer crowds and higher prices.

Surfer’s Point, Barbados

Located on Barbados’s more protected southern coast, Surfer’s Point in Inch Marlowe is the perfect location to learn to surf in an idyllic, tropical setting. Former competitive surfer and Barbadian local Zed Layson runs the popular Zed’s Surfing Adventures. Zed offers two hour lessons on easy-to-ride foam surfboards, plus a range of accommodation options near the point.

Best time to go: Anytime, although the rainy season from June to October may limit your tanning time.

Photo by marcodede

Waikiki, Hawaii

What better place to learn to surf than the home of surfing itself? Hawaii’s ancient kings rode the surf on crude wooden boards before missionaries in the 19th century frowned on the sport for being a godless activity.

Thankfully, surfing is back bigger than ever. The gentle rolling waves of Waikiki are perfect for beginners, offering long rides and a (mostly) fun, easy going atmosphere. Canoe’s is the most popular, and consequently most crowded, break but you’ll be among beginners so catching waves is relatively easy.

Boards can be rented from the shacks on the beach by the hour or take a lesson from one of the many surf schools in the area.

Best time to go: There’s waves year round although the Hawaiian summer from June to August sees consistent south swells.

Taghazoute, Morocco

Thanks to its long, righthand point breaks, Morocco has been a popular winter destination for European surfers since the 1970s, with convoys of VW campervans parked beside the various breaks.

These days, you don’t need to be a hardcore surfer to enjoy the waves, with a variety of surf schools to choose from. Pure Blue Water, between Casablanca and Rabat in the north of Morocco, offers a range of beach and point break waves.

In the south, Taghazoute almost has more surf camps than surf spots, so you’re bound to find one that suits your budget. Hash Point and the beaches around Agadir can throw up an easy wave for learners. If it’s flat, the chilled port town of Essaouira is just three hours north by bus and makes a great day trip.

Best time to go: The big swells roll in from November to February, but early autumn has smaller waves and warmer weather.

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About The Author

Rhys Stacker

Rhys Stacker is an Australian surfer currently based in landlocked London. When he is not on surf trips abroad he enjoys photography and riding his bike in the city.

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  • somefoo

    What about Oceanside, California? Not too crowded, no rocks to smack you head on, sandbar, smaller rolling waves, plenty of life guards should you take a board to the head.

    • Courtney

      Hell yeah oside all the way! Waves get pretty big after a storm!

  • benjy gale

    funny, my first surfing experience was in puerto escondido and i did indeed smash a surf board and just about killed myself, that was five years ago, i have yet to get back on a board.

  • Mama G

    Costa Rica has some of the best places to learn to surf. Also some of the most intense.

  • KKRain

    Yeah, that happens… were you at Zicatela or down at the point? I live in Puerto part of the year and Have snapped some boards, but I definitely wouldn't discourage everyone from coming here to learn, as long as you're careful!

  • joshywashington

    I tried surfing in Costa Rica and all I got was sore nipples… ;( I guess I will stick to sand castles!

  • Arising

    Hoorah – I have been similarly land-locked in Europe for a few years. Glad to hear I am heading back to Aus via the best place to (re-)learn – Kuta. I've heard it is even ok in the wet season…

  • christine gilbert

    Anyone know of good places in Nicaragua or Costa Rico? I'm heading down there in a month, and looking for a spot to learn.

    • http://www.sunsetsurfdominical.com dylan park

      Dominical in Costa Rica is the most consistent beach break in all of Costa Rica very good for beginner surfers and when it gets big just 5 min south in Dominicalito where its very protected so the surf won’t be too big. check out http://www.sunsetsurfdominical.com they can set you up with anything you need!
      Pura Vida

  • Paul

    you can surf in Port Elizabeth, and be quite safe, no cage diving here. To see great whites you have to travel 800km down the coast to Cape Town. Sardinia, Pipe, and Noordhoek to name few is great spots to surf.

  • advocate

    Bali!!!!!!! that was the first place I learned, right at Kuta Beach, and it is flooded with novice surfers, mostly asians, but you will def find the locals here tearing it up as well. Good days of swells and bad days as well, but all in all a great learning experience. and a great party atmosphere!

  • roo

    you forget Jeffreys Bay, one of the best right hand breaks in the world, is right next to PE. Sharks are there, but then again the whole ocean is they're home so they're basically everywhere. :)

  • Kasia

    Muzinberg in Cape Town, South Africa. the top ten for beginners. I totally agree with the above for the best spots though.

    • billy

      I WISH I KNEW HOW TO SURFF:(

  • Angie

    For Byron Bay, check out Surfing Byron Bay, ” target=”_blank”>http://www.gosurfingbyronbay.com/ Best surf school in the town.

  • Jack

    Dude: Port Elizabeth, I have stayed here for 26 years, There is now shark diving here.Best swin beaches,

  • Morgan

    WTF !!!! Dude No3 on your places to avoid Port Elizabeth S.A. people go swim with shark cages Are you DOF or what Bru. There's no shark cage diving here. You thinking about Gansbaai in Cape Town.

  • http://alexhapgood.co.uk Alex

    Great article. One correction re Fistral: Watergate Bay is the most exposed of the beaches in the Newquay area. The Bay beaches (Towan, Great Western, Tolcarne and Lusty Glaze) – which all link up at low water – are the place to go if the wind (as is often the case!) is blowing from the SW. Also Cornwall gets waves pretty much year round, although July/August can be pretty flat…

  • Tania

    No shark cage diving in PE – waters warm, gentle breaks and great for beginners…… Great whites are further down towards the Western Cape. And then they rarely bother any surfers!

  • Jake

    Could anyone give me some good beginners surf spots in the US? I am currently stuck on the continental United States and learning to surf is one of my dreams. You’ve gotta start somewhere.

    • Surfer

      Tory Pines in SD CA

  • Steph

    I’ve been surfing in Port Elizabeth for nearly 20 years. obviously sharks are all over the ocean but you’re more likely to get eaten by a shark in the sahara desert than in Port Elizabeth.) So to whoever wrote this list, please update it with MORE accurate info. but otherwise, very cool site :-) oh and btw, PE’s waves aren’t that good anyway, only once in a while do we get some really cooking waves coming thru.

  • Surfer

    I started surfing at Tory Pines in San Diego and the good days were awesome and turns out im a great surfer.

  • Surfer

    wat up

  • Jess

    Tamarindo, COSTA RICA. – loong beach with sand bar.
    also a great place for a family vacation, not too popular yet, but still able to find nice resorts, if thats what your looking for. great hostels too!!!

  • chato

    If you’re interested in learning in Costa Rica, Jaco is a great place. I’ve been in the country for 3 months and just started to surf myself. ‘The Corner’ is a great learning spot in Jaco and just down the road is Playa Hermosa, which has world class waves for advanced surfers. The ISA Billabong World Surfing Games were just there, and it was gnarly.

    Jaco beach has something for every level of surfer, and the original Carton shop is just a couple hundred meters up the street from The Corner. Definitely worth a shot.

  • http://www.nievemarketing.com Catherine

    Hi,
    We are looking for a place to go surfing in February. We are beginner – intermediates,
    can pretty much go anywhere but would prefer a warm place, with yummy food, great culture and kid friendly (travelling with a 6 year old-mini surfer).
    I was all into Bali but not too sure now after reading about the weather for February-humid, rain etc…

    Thank you so much!

    Catherine

  • Jack Ware

    Seconding Costa Rica. There are some really good beach breaks for beginners. http://costaricavacationpackages.org/surfing.php has a pretty good writeup on the Tamarindo area.

  • Juni Grimes

    I have surfed many places, and San Onofrey (trail 6) has always been my favorite. There is so much coastline, hardly any surfers and really is an amazing break. I did get stung by a sting ray there, but even with all the pain that sting brought me, I still have to say it is one of my favorites!!!

  • Elle

    Coolangatta, and the whole coast may be crowded, but its a great place to learn to surf, anywhere along the coastline strip.
    And anyone who lives there knwo that when it goes off, you dont want to miss it at any cost.
    Best place to live if you love to surf

  • Meg

    Safari surf camp in Costa Rica is amazing. They have extremely consistent waves and the waves are created by a sandbar not a reef, which makes it more safe. The people were also extremely good, and at most there were 3 people to one instructor.

  • http://www.ibnibnbattuta.com Andrew Farrand

    Yes to surfing in Morocco!

    Like Portugal, it’s good year-round (and the two could even be combined into one trip very easily).

    Some accounts: http://www.ibnibnbattuta.com/2009/12/the-final-countdown-surfing-mehdiya-in-winter.html and http://vieaumaroc.blogspot.com/2009/07/surfing-south-and-other-adventures-with.html .

  • Ozgur Polat

    I have just been to Fuerteventura and surfed in El Cotillo and La Pared. I was there for two weeks and I think the surf was quite nice, did not see any sea urchins, wind was OK and swells were quite good as well especialy an the 9th of January 2010, waves were perfect. I don’t see why a beginer should avoid Fuerteventura. I am a beginer and I enjoyed it. Off course you need common sense and you need to be careful. Don’t do anything stupid, you will be OK in Fuerteventura.

  • Alex Mackison

    Jaco down in front of hotel 9 had the smoothest waves when I was there end of January. I fell in love with surfing and Costa Rica. My girl friend and I took a lessons in Tamerindo which was also a great place for beginners but Jaco was sick and the waves were bigger and smoother and it had a better night life.

    • Been There

      Jaco is cool but it will destroy the bottom of your board.

  • Been There

    Stay away from Puerto, was there for ten years. Found a severed head in the highway near the beachbreak La Grava in Santa Elena (political that was running for mayor in San Pedro (Puerto Escondido). Kidnapped twice by police, they tried a third in 2009. The same police killed my swiss friend about 2005. Most of the people I know have to pay extortion fees. I have in the long run had to pay 15,000 dollars a year to the police. Thing is I stopped paying after the first time, they just came and stole it at gunpoint and from the bank. They also stole all the taxes I paid for ten years. Somehow after the tax money left the bank (by the accountants online transactions) to go to the department of finance they had some people inside the bank system that then rerouted the money.

    The same police tried kidnapping me a third time as I was on my way to a U.S. Embassy safe house. Stole 30,000 dollars and stabbed my wife. This all happened within two hours after a puerto escondido attorney called my home, family members, attorney and friends for two days telling them to give me a message to pay extortion fees, which we did not and still will not.

    I could tell you more really grusome things they do but its so crazy you would not believe it. DO NOT GO THEIR EVER or ANY OF MEXICO. Frontier, middle Mexico, Southern Mexico, whatever they tell you its all the same. They just dont publish the news in the southern states or the reporters would be killed. The police tell you they will kill your kids if you try to turn them in.

    • http://matadortravel.com/travel-community/vagabonderz Carlo Alcos

      I find this extremely hard to believe, but let’s give you the benefit of the doubt for a moment. I was just in Oaxaca state and in Puerto Escondido and the coast south of it for a few weeks. There is no danger, it is perfectly safe. One of the Matador editors has lived in Oaxaca city for years. We cycled from Puerto Escondido to Zipolite and survived! No extortion, no stabbings, no muggings, no kidnappings. Just a whole lot of perfectly friendly people selling tasty food and waving hello as we biked past. The police were fairly indifferent to us. I’m not sure what you would get out of posting a comment like this, my money is on you’re just a troll, which makes me stupid for even responding.

    • Been Their

      Puerto Escondido may be safer for at least a little while. Word is their is a federal investigation into kidnappings, murder and extortion of foreigners living their by local federal and municipal police and the federal Immigration Service I.N.M for human trafficking in that city.

      You know something is not right in a place when the federal Government of Mexico has to step in from the D.F. and investigate corrupt police actions.
      Lets wait and see if this takes any effect.

    • http://www.monicaprelle.com Monica Prelle

      I have only had wonderful experiences in Puerto Escondido! There IS a beginner wave there, not at the main beach break of Zicatela, but a kilometer north – they rent soft-top long boards and have lessons available.

  • Nuno

    I have to disagree about Portugal, Lagos…

    best spot is Ericeira… no wonder they do the world championship there… algarve is only for summer and enjoying the quiet ocean

  • treaclebob

    I agree with Bundoran and Rossnowlagh in Donegal. Also Tramore beach near Ardara and Dooey strand. Most times you will have the place to yourself!

  • larisa

    Me and a couple of friends are looking fofr somewhere super cheap and cheerful to learn to surf, can anyone recomend anywhere in Europe, preferable close to cheap airline airport?

    Thank you
    :)

    • Nuno

      well, Ericeira (Portugal) is close to Lisbon airport, about 35km, with direct connection in motorways. There are a few of cheap hostels, and some hotels. I know there are surf schools, but I don’t know their names. I have a house there but is going to be rented for the next year… but you can find plenty of private houses to rent, but probably they are expensive for the summer.

      Ericeira has a few beaches, but is a windy place, but lovely spot!

  • http://www.webkraftdesigns.co.za Martin

    I live in Port Elizabeth and there is no shark cage diving here, that is in Cape Town on the other side of the country. We have some of the safest beaches in the world to swim in and learn to surf, waves are perfect for beginners at clubhouse or at the pier, and can get good for experienced guys at lockness or the reserve.

    • Athol Strang

      You forgot to mention Miller’s which is by far the best right hand break in Port Elizabeth and the longest ride.Easy take-off, and lot’s of variety.I grew up in Port Elizabeth and surfed all the breaks loads of times. Loch Ness is no place for a beginner, get the take-off wrong on a out going tide and you will be chewing reef!
      I now live and surf in Australia and have surfed in Indonesia.As for sharks, there have been several encounters with great whites and attacks by other sharks.
      Surfers were attacked on the wild side near Sards, but got away with lacerations to the hands and a chewed up board.
      Raggie’s have bitten people at Denville’s and King’s Beach, one tourist receiving 50 stitches to his calf.
      Not to mention the fact that Port Elizabeth has the ominous title of having the first recorded fatal shark attack in South Africa, namely some poor bastard who came in on a rowing boat from a sailing ship.As he jumped off into waist deep water a large shark ”took him”.The body was never recovered.

  • Valentine

    If you are looking for the best food, green and natural landscape, cheap place to sleep and a lot of surf spots … you should tour all over Galician coast (northwest of Spain).

  • http://www.bodhisurfschool.com/company/gibran gibran

    There’s definitely some interesting picks on the list, including a number of cold-water spots. I find it hard enough to surf in cold-water, couldn’t imagine trying to learn and battle the cold at the same time, but kudos to those who do. A great place to learn is Bahia Ballena in Costa Rica, warm water, no crowds, and excellent waves for beginners. Some general info http://www.bodhisurfschool.com/surfing/bahia-ballena

  • HyderabadChick

    Visakhapatnam, India: Rushikonda beach. Ask for Mel

    Mangalore – http://surfingindia.net/

  • Plunko

    Anyone familiar with Colombia as a surfing destination? How about Nicaragua?

  • http://followyourtrolley.wordpress.com Trolleygirls

    Not only Im a passionate traveller, Im also a – let’s say – passionate wanna-be surfer. During my worldtrip I tried WAIKIKI BEACH which was more “stand up or get your money back”, it’s easy cause there’s no place on earth where a beginner is able to stand upright on his board any longer – yes, waves are gentle, temperatures in and outside the water always great! If you’re a pro go to the NORTH SHORE (no need to tell you that I guess ;-)

    OCEANSIDE in California is a great place, I love the atmosphere, It’s amazing just to watch all the surfers while the sun goes down..

    In Australia yes, BYRON BAY is THE place to be. I tried the Black Dog Surfschool. But it’s too crowed when the “schoolies” are out. I really enjoyed NOOSA HEADS. One of my favorite Places! Seems to be appropriate for beginners at the beach where you can find several surfschools, but also for intermediates looking for good surfspots near the cliffs and the nature park.

    Portugal is also great for surfing. Tried the Maximum Surfcamp in PENICHE and booked the Yoga-combination which I highly recommend! The entire place is great – everyone there is surfing or pretends to be a surfer!
    I also like SAGRES – “the end of the world” – it’s a sleepy little town with a lot of surfers, but up to now I didn’t dare to ride the waves there. Im going to the ALGARVE in 2 weeks. Let’s see, maybe this time…

    Aloha Jeanette

    Noosa Heads:
    http://followyourtrolley.wordpress.com/2008/12/19/morgens-um-7-in-noosa-oder-wie-man-lernt-ein-longboard-zu-lieben/

    Byran Bay:
    http://followyourtrolley.wordpress.com/2008/11/26/chrissies-brekkies-and-no-worries/

  • Jack Johnson

    Newport Beach California.

  • German

    Surf Peru. It has nice waves and often empty beaches. Surfing is very popular there.
    “Peru, the birthplace of Latin American surfing has some of the best waves in the world.”
    Billabong ISA World Surfing Games 2010 were in Peru.

    Sofia Mulanovich from Peru was wold champion in surfing.

    BUT it is preferable to speak spanish. I ve been 19 times in Peru as I have family there and I have never have robbed. Besides looking like a gringo :)
    However my parents have been robbed 2x. It is a south amerca thing (to much poor people).

    I can’t wait to go there next February.

  • German

    PS: I learned surfing at Kuta Beach as a child ;)

    In Europe I would prefer France Bay of Biscaya. Hossegor, Biarritz and sourundings are very nice Surfspots. Super long natural beaches.

  • scott herron

    Two years ago we toured up the west coast of us/canada from northern california to british columbia checking out surf spots. Although we found lots of great places, our top pick as beginner/intermdiate surfers was Tofino, British Columbia. The variety of beaches within 15 minutes of town meant that regardless of the weather/conditions there was always one beach that had good waves. Most of the other spots in california, oregon, washington had good waves when conditions were good; but if they weren’t good at one spot, they weren’t good anywhere.

    Tofino is a cool little town, however accomodations are not cheap. Camping/Trailering are your best bet. Yes, the water is cold, but with a good wet suit you can easily stay in for 4 hours at a time no problem.

    Happy surfing to all!

  • http://www.surfwear.co.uk The Rider

    Byron – wow, certainly relaxed, and no pressure to learn fast! If you are sobre enough then good to learn the fundamentals, but if it’s surfing good waves you’re after think further afield.

    Fuerteventura in the Canaries – constant moderate weather all year round, ‘Fuerte’ is great for learning, clean waves and a temperature you can spend all day trying and trying in. Plus once you stand and get the hang of it, you’ll have bigger waves to get your teeth into (carefully you don’t get them in the sand first).

    Keep surfing! And wherever you learn make sure you keep surfing – TLR

  • Ken

    One of the best places to learn to surf is at Stone Steps Encinitas, Ca
    Great for everyone.

    • Eugene

      all of north county is nice and oceanside is all ways about a foot or two bigger. allways a good time in the water.

  • M. Masrers

    If you live in Europe, go to the Grand Canary Island and find a reasonably priced apartment rental in Los Palmas. They rent these by the week or the month and the price is the same, so plan to stay for a few weeks if you can. My friend goes there every year for Christmas and says the surf is good.

    If you’re in America, then go to Kauai. The best beginner waves are there and the top surfing schools. If you go in the summer, which is the off-season, the prices are cheaper and it’s not crowded.

    If you want to surf in the continental USA, your best choice is California. Some say there’s waves on the East Coast, but it’s not consistent.

  • http://www.beginnersurfboards.org Beginner Surfboards

    Hawaii is one of the most popular places to go to. The waves there are unbelievable. Now it’s coming into July it’s probably one of the best times to travel there. 

  • http://www.rockcheetah.com/blog/ RobertKCole

    My two daughters (13 & 20) both swear by Zed’s in Barbados.  Both got up their first time and could not have had a more pleasant/fun time learning.

  • http://www.holoholo.tv Thsulli

    A good way to practice surfing anytime is with  the Holoholo balance board- checkit at http://www.holoholo.tv

  • Sam Walker

    Australia has some of the best surf beaches in the world. The most
    popular are Gold Coast’s beaches. Large numbers of tourists book airline tickets to Australia every year in advance to get cheap air tickets for surfing.

    http://www.airticket.co.uk/travel-articles/surfing-tips-for-beginners-australia.aspx

  • rftreyes

    If ever you do find yourself in the Philippines from December to March, Baler, Aurora and San Juan, La Union are good places for beginners also. Atmosphere is laid back, instructors are helpful and provide value-for-money, and all around great Philippine hospitality :) We normally stay in Little Surfmaid in La Union for some comfortable amenities :)

    http://www.lynne-enroute.com/tag/philippine-surfing/ 

  • http://www.cradlehuts.com.au/ Trekking In Tasmania

    After a long and busy year I love to spend my holidays while
    Surfing and tanning.  I usually surf in
    Byron Bay, Australia but I have spent holidays in Waikiki Hawaii, Fuerteventura
    and believe Hawaii is a paradise for surfers.

  • Frog

    What rubbish! Port Elizabeth in South Africa is the same as anywhere in South Africa and has epic waves. Bet you have never even been to South Africa!

  • Hannah 2300

    they probably should mention that theres a pedophile lurking the streets of Newwquay…..JUST SAYIN

  • http://www.GQtrippin.com Gerard ~ GQtrippin

    Heading to Bali in a month. Might have to give Kuta a try for surfing.

  • Patchot Crespo

    passion for surfin…..I wonder how Rabat beaches are? Want to roll the loops over and over!

  • Maree Neumann

    sorry what….

  • Vladimir Mun

    Kuta is perfect for beginners. confirm!

    • Kunal Kapoor

      Confirmed!!:)

  • Paul Frolov aka XHyperActive

    best surf spots are everywhere there are waves….even in Jackson Hole, WY

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