The best place to learn to surf
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The best place to learn to surf

If you are looking to go on a surf trip and want beginner waves or you've never surfed before, we've broken down the best surf destinations for you.

You can imagine David Attenborough's somber voice over a shot of sandy beaches and frequented surfing destinations: “Now we're going to witness another jaw-dropping moment as a testament to how beautiful our planet can be. Ah, yes. The emergence of many beginner surfers and soft-top surfboards onto the white foam of Bali, Indonesia.”

Although everybody knows about Bali as one of the best surf destinations for beginners, such popularity and crowd following might not appeal to everyone. Especially those who are about to set out for their first surf trip might find the idea of a crowded beach full of rookies somewhat overwhelming. If you're one of those people, though, you don't need to worry as there are many other great beginner surf spots where you can learn how to surf.

Without further ado, let's start listing the best places to learn to surf so that you can start making budget adjustments for your exciting surf holiday.

The Best Surf Destinations for Beginner Surfers

Canggu, Bali, Indonesia

Let's start with the most frequented surf destination. To put it shortly, Bali, the Indonesian island located in Southeast Asia, has everything: a variety of surf camps that offer plenty of surf schools, lots of beach breaks, and reef breaks where both inexperienced and experienced surfers enjoy themselves. As a result of all that, there’s an established surf culture that you cannot find in any other place.

The constant and nicely groomed swell the Bali shores get causes greatly rolling waves that break over soft sand, and it's what makes Bali great for learning how to surf. There are a number of surf towns all over the island, the most crowded of them being Kuta, but Canggu is not as crowded as Kuta while entertaining similar kinds of surf breaks.

In addition to being one of the greatest surf resorts in the world, Bali is also popular due to the local cuisine, social opportunities it provides, ancient temples and historical places to visit, and palm trees that pop up almost everywhere on the island. Despite the popularity and luxury, it's still a budget-friendly place, too.

Given all of those features combined, we can say that Bali is not only the perfect destination to kick off a surfing career but also to spend some good time with friends and/or family under the guise of a surf holiday.

When to go: To be honest, all seasons are surfing seasons in Bali, and the ocean stays warm throughout the year. But, there is a time period when you can avoid the notorious crowd: October and November.

Tamarindo, Costa Rica

Costa Rica has recently gained recognition from surfing communities all around the world, and there was no reason why it shouldn't have happened. The water is warm throughout the year, and although sometimes the Costa Rican beach breaks get huge swells, the waves are always surfable.

The most advanced surfers can find epic waves that'll challenge them, while beginner surfers can enjoy the mellow waves that are ideal for learning to surf. In the end, both parties will have some of the most memorable surf trips of their lives.

Moreover, Costa Rica's rising popularity means that you'll find something accommodating to your budget in all surfing seasons. Whether you're looking for a budget-friendly surf camp that ticks all the boxes or a luxurious surf house that'll graciously host your family while you're trying to prove yourself on great waves, Costa Rica delivers it all.

Tamarindo is known to be the hottest surf spot in Costa Rica, but note that it's also one of the hottest spots for partying. If you want to avoid crowds, you might want to stay away from this North Pacific Coast town, but what you'll miss might come back to haunt you: a laidback lifestyle the locals call pura vida, stunning beaches, delicious food, and good vibes all around. Oh, and the chance to see where they shot Endless Summer II surely counts for something.

As a cherry on top, Costa Rica is one of the safest countries in Central America. If you don't want to spend all your time surfing, you can find lots of extra-curricular activities such as horseback riding and snorkeling, too.

When to Go: Similar to Bali, all seasons are surfing seasons in Costa Rica, too. There's always warm water and nice swells. However, if you don't want to be tested by the bigger swells of the North Coast, we recommend you go between November and May.

Algarve, Portugal

If you're looking for a surf trip to Europe's West Coast with the hopes of finding all kinds of waves that can appeal to both beginner and intermediate surfers, you need not look any further than Portugal (and you cannot either, as it's as west as continental Europe gets).

Portugal houses many surf beaches and towns throughout the coast. Peniche is probably the most renowned of them all with various surf schools, surf shops, and worldwide events. 

Cascais is another surf spot that promises sandy beaches, beautiful waves, and the exact feeling you'd expect from a coastal town. Ericeira is the first World Surf Reserve in Europe and rightly so as it's one of the best surf destinations you can find anywhere as a beginner. 

The late-blooming Nazaré, on the other hand, is ideal for more experienced surfers as it allows for big wave riding and has the most surf-friendly municipal government in the world.

However, the surf destination we really want to recommend is Algarve due to the wide swell it receives and the variety of beach, point, and reef breaks it has. As a result of this variety, it has the most amazing waves for surfers of any level depending on the time of the year.

The old fishing town of Lagos also emerges as one of the best destinations for a surf trip. Its natural beauties are endless, it gets all the best waves of the coast, and it's closer to other surf spots in Algarve, so it's a great place to set camp.

When to Go: If you're a beginner in search of easy waves, you might want to stick to summer when the water is warmer and the waves are smaller. If you're advanced, on the other hand, autumn is ideal for your trip.

Weligama, Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka might be a scary place for some as the South Asian country is home to many biological species and is one of the most biodiverse places in the whole world. In addition, there are many ancient temples and natural riches scattered across its islands on the Indian Ocean.

So, it's almost certain that your time there won't be restricted to being a surf holiday, and you'll enjoy more than what you signed up for. However, you can also be sure that it's a great surf destination for beginner surfers. Maybe most importantly, though, it's an unbelievably affordable destination.

The country offers a varied surf experience as well since the best beaches are not limited to a certain coast but are located all around the country. For example, you can find Arugam Bay on the East Coast. During the surfing season, which is between May and September, Arugam Bay gets lots of offshore winds that create great waves.

The jewel of the island, on the other hand, is located on the Southwest Coast and it's called Weligama. "Weligama" translates to English as "sandy beach", and the beautiful beaches of the South Coast of Sri Lanka totally deserve that title. 

Although the waves can sometimes go as high up as double overhead, it's great for intermediate surfers to start surfing big waves. If you're looking for less crowded beaches and smaller waves, though, you can stick to the East Coast.

When to Go: As expected from the tropical climate of Sri Lanka, the water stays warm and the waves are rideable throughout the year. However, if you don't think a crowd of novice surfers is a good addition to the country's biodiversity, you can schedule your surf trips in Autumn or May.

Byron Bay, New South Wales, Australia

Australia is already a country with a well-established surf culture and has produced many great surfers all over the years. Therefore, it's only natural that there would be some beaches on its coasts that are ideal for surfing, and it's a predominant name that comes up in almost all the surf guides you can find online.

You can find lots of schools and camps that offer a variety of surf lessons throughout the country, too, each carrying influence from surfing greats that frequented the bay’s shores.  Think Bob McTavish or the modern Patagonia surf ambassador Dave Rastovich who also lives in New South Wales.

You can be jealous of Dave, but Byron Bay located on the North Coast of NSW state is without a doubt one of the best and most famous locations for surf trips. Also, the waves never get too big unless something totally unbecoming of the climate happens, which makes Byron Bay as good a surf destination for beginners as Costa Rica and Sri Lanka.

Similar to those, the water is warm all year round, and the eight surf breaks scattered throughout the bay offer enough variety for those who want to make the most of their surf trips. Moreover, thanks to the sense of community and culture developed due to the prevailing surfing passion, solo travelers will never be actually alone, and those who travel with their friends or family will get enough chances to socialize together.

When to Go: It's another one of those places in our list where the winter never arrives (or, at least, felt), so you can go surfing there anytime you want. There isn't any period when you can avoid crowds, either!

North Shore Oahu, Hawaii

Is it even possible not to mention Hawaii, the birthplace of surfing, when listing the places to learn how to surf? It's the place where, historically and figuratively speaking, the whole world learned how to surf after all!

Of course, back in the day, the Hawaiians approached surfing as part of their religious beliefs and the whole board shaping activity was some sort of a ritual. If you go to Hawaii on a surf holiday, though, luckily you don't need to start from there.

Although it's generally known to be a hub for advanced surfers due to the epic waves it gets, there are certain point breaks that are ideal for beginners and lots of resorts and schools where you can enroll to surf lessons varying from beginner to advanced levels.

If you go there during winter, the magnificently powerful waves might scare you even before you set foot on your surfboard, but honestly, what of it? Since such powerful waves attract all the great surfers in the world and there are many great competitions taking place there, you'll get a chance to watch the best. When you watch them closely, you'll still learn a lot about surfing, which, in some cases, might prove even more useful than paddling toward waves without knowing what to expect.

No matter what, though, be wary of the weather and surf forecast. The waves and weather conditions can go crazy any time and you might be in for surprises whether you're surfing or just sightseeing.

When to Go: For beginners, the best time to visit Oahu would be the spring and autumn months. However, for more competent and confident surfers, the surfing season starts in the winter with epic rolling waves.

Fuerteventura, Canary Islands

The Canary Islands is an already famous vacation destination for those who have the means thanks to its ethereally beautiful natural wonders, tropical and exotic promises, close proximity to Europe, and good vibes all around. So, if you want your surf holiday to be more than surf lessons, there might not be a better place to visit.

The Fuerteventura island is on the Atlantic Ocean, and although it's officially part of Europe (Spain), there’s only 60 miles between the island and the Northwest shores of Africa. Therefore, the place combines various influences from both the European and African cultures and accommodates the travelers with an exclusive mix.

In addition to that, the island welcomes a mellow swell during the summer months, which makes the waves on its shores perfect for beginners. Even in other months when more advanced surfers seek challenges on larger waves that hit the several reef breaks located on the shoreline, beginner surfers can find mellow waves with the help of informed surf guides.

Despite its underrated status as a surfing hub, especially when compared to Bali or Costa Rica, you can still find many surf camps and schools where you can learn to surf under the guidance of the best.

When to Go: You can go anytime you want as the water is always warm and the sun always shines on the island. However, beginners might want to stick to the mellow swell of the summertime, and the advanced can test their skills on more powerful waves from October to May.

Wrapping Up...

Maybe the best way to wrap this up is just to say that the earth is such a beautiful planet since we recommended spots where one of the most powerful forces of nature, the ocean, meets the most magnificent pieces of land (whether due to their biodiversity, historical significance, or just simply sunsets). But, luckily for a surfer, it's not all.

You can spot the traces of a flourishing surf culture in all the places on our list with various surf camps, schools, and resorts popping up everywhere and leading to a sense of community among surfers. In that community, no one is actually alone, no beginner is set only on a surfing journey, and no advanced surfer advances only on waves, which is one of the best contributions humanity can make to the already apparent and well-proven beauty of our planet.

Written by
Jeremy Dean
surf coaching