Surfing is usually associated with places like Hawaii or Australia where the waves can hold perfect barrels up to 20 feet high, but Asia has enough offshore wind and water to create some stunning surfing spots to ride the tides.
In Asia, the most notable place to surf is undeniably Philippines. Made up of more than 7000 islands, finding a good spot to surf is easy. You just have to choose the region you want to discover, may it be the north side, center or south.
The north side of Luzon is believed to be the birthplace of surfing in the Philippines where Francis Ford Coppola shot the movie Apocalypse Now and left some surfboards around for locals to embrace the surfing culture. Whether that is true remains unknown but the hot spots for reef breaks and some beach breaks are inevitable in those parts. Cemento and Sabang Beach in Baler are the places to go if you are up north where the offshore winds create optimum conditions for surfing.
The crème de la crème of surfing spots in the Philippines that sees professional surfers making visits is on the island of Siargao. The world famous Cloud 9 beach sees waves reach 7 feet tall on top of 15 other surf breaks around the island like Cemetery and Caridad. If you are a first timer that wants to learn the skills, resorts like Kermit Surf Resort have weeklong surf camps for beginners.
The island off the coast of China has been surfing since the 70s, made popular by expatriates. But nowadays, the surfing culture has been embraced by the locals to the point where it is easy to find surfing classes around the island.
The most popular Hong Kong surfing spot is inevitably Big Wave Bay. First-time surfers that are keen to learn and beginners flock this spot where the pros on the beach are more than happy to show some moves and give some tips. Big Wave Bay is part of the larger beach area of Hong kong called Tai Long Wan. Another popular surfing spot on Tai Long Wan is Tai Wan beach where the waves are beginner-friendly during the summer months. Next to Tai Wan is Ham Tin beach that doubles as a great place for bodyboard surfing.
Surf season in Hong Kong starts during the winter where the wind is strong enough to create ideal water conditions to surf. Or if you are lucky enough, a typhoon swell will pop up during summer so one can surf in warmer waters.
Taiwan is more than just its temples and natural wonders, its north and along the eastern coastline are home to some killer waves for surfing. It is worth noting that the surf villages and beaches are quite a drive away from the main towns, making carrying your surfboard around using public transport a hassle. Therefore the best way to travel around Taiwan to catch some waves is by renting a vehicle that allows you to discover some of the hidden surfing spots. Best time to surf on the east coast is from November until February.
The east coast is a popular area for surfing with good north east swells creating barrels for all types of surfers. Places like ChengGong are notorious for their 100-meter barrels but note that it requires a perfect condition for those waves to appear. The good part is that ChengGong can still deliver some decent waves during the winter season. Jinzun is a spot where the biggest surfing competition in Taiwan is held, home to two peaks. The Right peak is where the competition is held with waters that generate strong A-Frames.
The surfing culture of Japan is big if you can believe it. Not surprised though as their coastline are home to a variety of surf breaks and some world class waves. We all know that Japan is known for their efficient public transport system but lugging a longboard into the train, especially during rush hour can be difficult. So get ready to rent a car and drive down the open road to reach the sandy shores of Japan.
Shonan in the Kanagawa Prefecture is the go-to place for surfing due to its proximity to Tokyo city. Embrace the surfing culture as the town is equipped with many surf shops and surf clubs offering surfing lessons. The waves around these parts include reef breaks and beach breaks with huge swells during the typhoon days.
The Mecca for surfers on the land of the rising sun that even host many surfing competitions is in Chiba. The typhoon comes in in August but the waves are pretty consistent throughout. For a location with lesser crowds but consistent waves, Kyushu in the Miyazaki Prefecture has some beach breaks worth checking out.
Offshore winds – The best type of wind for surfing where the waves are well formed and break cleanly
Barrel – A wave that is hollow when it is breaking. Also known as ‘tube’
Swell – Solid waves that are worth surfing, the opposite of choppy waves
Beach break – Where the waves break on the sandy seabed
Reef break – Waves that break over a coral reef or a rock seabed