Top 10 surprising surf spots worldwide

Sep 06, 2013 BY Kris Goodbody

As any surfer knows, finding a spot that’s not heaving with boarders is getting tougher and tougher these days. Which is why these top 10 surprising surf spots worldwide might just give you a few ideas for getting away from the crowds.

Surprising surf spots Wikimedia image by Cpl. Megan L. Stiner

We’ve tried to list surprising surf spots worldwide that offer great conditions without the huge numbers. Some of them you might already have come across on your travels, others might just be new completely new to you.


While Texas might be well known for its overstated charm, the size of its waves aren’t famously in keeping with this ‘big’ motif. Texas does, though, have 800 kilometres of coastline on the northwest Gulf of Mexico. The only problem being that Florida decided to get in the way of most of the coast so the best swell to be found is further south towards Mexico.

Failing this Texas also happens to have a whole lot of big oil tankers cruising past, which enterprising surfers have been known to use as swell generators.

Surprising surf spots flickr image by thepipe26


Thailand is perhaps more associated with alcohol-filled gap years and sleazy tourism than cavernous barrels and pro surfers, but there are waves to be found. In fact Quicksilver got carried away and for the last four years they’ve been hosting a Thai surf competition on Phuket Island.

This little island off Thailand’s west coast faces the full brunt of the Andaman Sea – and it’s beginning to earn a reputation as a one of a number fine little surprising surf spots.


The Holy Land has a few surprises on offer. Surprises that have, in recent years, been inspiring Western surfers to crusade on down wielding their surfboards to lay claim to some empty waves.

The area around Tel Aviv offers some of the best surf in the Mediterranean, although as is usually the case with the Med, summer is best avoided if it’s swell you’re after. Surfing Israel is without doubt a bizarre experience but there is far more to it than simple novelty – when Israel works, it really does work – and it’s a shoe-in for the top surprising surf spots.


During the war in the 60s and 70s a whole lot of GI’s were drafted into the jungles of Vietnam from the beaches of California. There’s often talk of some of these displaced beach bums putting down their M60 machine guns, getting their hands on some kind of a surfboard and going off to pioneer the virgin waves of this unlikely surf destination (although this might just be a scene from Apocalypse Now).

Surprising surf spots flickr image by Peggy2012CREATIVELENZ

Now, some 40 odd years later, the Yanks are just a distant memory – but there’s still a lot of virginal swell to be found lurking in Vietnam’s coastal jungles.


It could be claimed that waveriding in Antarctica is more of a penguin-filled novelty than a genuine surf spot, though with that much ferocious ocean surrounding it, the potential for surf is endless. Floating icebergs, killer whales, empty tundras and decaying whaling stations – this is a far cry from a turquoise boat trip in the Mentawais – this is an adventure for the hardy few.

Lake Superior

Lake Superior is essentially a sea masquerading as a lake. It’s a good bit bigger than Scotland and holds enough water to cover the entire landmass of North and South America in a foot of water – that is very big indeed. This means a huge fetch that allows strong winter winds to create truly fantastic swell – this explains why some tougher North Americans are donning multiple wetsuits and going out riding.


In amongst the jumble of fjords that make up Norway’s west coast there still manages to be room for a few spectacular waves. The benefits include round the clock surfing in the perpetual daylight of the summer months, beautiful people and empty lineups. The downsides? One word – winter. Though even then you could always enjoy a bowl of cod soup while basking under the Northern Lights.

Surprising surf spots flickr image by Fairy Heart

The Zambezi River

This is a bizarre hydrological phenomenon on a river more famous for white water rafting in its upper reaches. A static, barrelling, overhead wave right in the middle of one of Africa’s mightiest rivers. There are a few locals who sample the delights of this wave from time to time – kayakers, bodyboarders, rafters – but every so often a motley crew of expert surfers come in from around the world and put it through its paces.

A surfing experience better than any of the manmade wave machines is on offer with no lineup, queue or localism, that is, bar the crocs and tigerfish.

The River Severn

On the topic of a surprising surf spots to be found on an unassuming river, the UK’s very own River Severn offers surfers the chance to ride a constantly breaking wave for miles through Gloucestershire and Worcestershire. It differs from the Zambezi wave in the fact that it moves at up to thirteen miles an hour rather than standing still.

Surprising surf spots flickr image by Capt' Gorgeous

Also longboarding through the rolling English countryside is a slightly more sedate option than getting barrelled in a murky predator-filled African river.


Russia is very, very big. It takes up a staggering 8% of the world’s total inhabited landmass and is undisputed in its status as the largest country in the world – and luckily a bit of this is coastline. The Kamchatka peninsula juts defiantly into the middle of the Pacific exposing its whole east side to thousands of miles of open water.

Here you’ll find some of the most untouched world class surf in the world, just steer clear of the bears and you should be fine.

We hope you have enjoyed our top 10 surprising surf spots worldwide. Remember this is the authors opinion and is not a definitive list. By their nature surprising surf spots are not well known so if you know of any you would like to share then please leave a comment.

If you like your breaks more traditional then check out our top 10 Europe surf destinations.


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