With bigger swells and warmer water, autumn is the best surfing season in the northern hemisphere and many tropical surf spots. Here Alf Alderson, author of Ultimate Surfing Adventures, picks five emerging surf destinations.
The growth in popularity of surfing continues unabated, so much so that veteran wave riders are looking further and further afield to escape the crowds. Major improvements in wetsuit design (including heated wetsuits) mean that even countries such as Iceland now attract surfers, with the Reykjanes Peninsula close to the capital invariably having half a dozen or more surfers on a good swell. Close by there are popular breaks along the Sandgerdi coast and a decent point break at Thorlakshofn – but if it’s solitude you’re after, head to the north coast, where 30 miles south of the Arctic Circle you’ll find the world-class “Ollie’s Point” at Siglufjördur or the evocatively named break of “Castles in the Sky” near Húsavik, with not another surfer in sight. www.visiticeland.com
Relative to its landmass, China has a comparatively short coastline – it’s only slightly longer than that of the UK – but outside the surfing “hotspot” of Hong Kong, few of the waves that roll ashore are ridden. That’s all set to change, though – Quiksilver now has a dozen stores in the country, their goal being to popularise the sport. Hainan Island, the centre of the Chinese surf scene, last year saw its first professional surf contest. This is where adventurous residents and holidaymakers are also being introduced to the waves by a small expat-owned surf school. www.surfingchina.org
The quality of Irish surf has been recognised for many years but it’s only recently that it has really taken off as a top destination for everyone from beginner to big wave expert. The craggy and indented west coast of the country will, somewhere, have the ideal combination of waves and winds on virtually any swell. Bundoran in County Sligo enjoys a vibrant surf scene thanks to a great combination of long, sandy beginners’ beaches such as Tullan Strand and fast, powerful expert reef breaks such as “The Peak” – which is conveniently located right in front of the town’s popular Bridge Bar, where a good craic is guaranteed any night of the week. Real thrillseekers head further south to spots such as Mullaghmore Point, where professional surfers Gabe Davies and Richie Fitzgerald recently rode the largest waves ever surfed in Ireland – conservative estimates put them at more than 50ft. www.isasurf.ie
Cape Verde islands
This archipelago of 15 dry and dusty islands off the west coast of Africa is ideally placed to pick up virtually any Atlantic swell. The waves that roll ashore across the shallow reefs surrounding them are fast and challenging, so for skilled surfers the Cape Verde islands are a great and relatively untapped source of wave action. The island of Sal is the focal point of the surf scene, although windsurfing and kite surfing are more popular activities, which means you shouldn’t have to share the waves with too many other “real” surfers. Water temperatures never drop below 20C here and the sun shines year-round, so it’s a little surprising these desert islands have remained a surfing backwater for so long. www.surfcaboverde.com
The Philippines has numerous world-class surf spots, which between August and December get regular swells generated by typhoons. The best-known is Siargao Island in the south-east of the archipelago, where the most famous break is known as “Cloud Nine” – a classic, hollow aquamarine “barrel” inside which expert surfers can enjoy the ride of their life over and over again, such is the wave’s consistency and quality. A surf trip to the Philippines is not quite the hard-core “surfari” it was a couple of decades ago but it’s still an exciting and challenging adventure for experienced surfers. www.wannasurf.com/spot/Asia/Philippines/
‘Ultimate Surfing Adventures’ is published by John Wiley