Riding towering waves against the backdrop of pristine tropical beach in glorious sunshine has to be one of life’s great pleasures – and there are certainly enough sweet-spots in the world where you can indulge until your heart’s content! That said, not all of the best surf is found in such tropical paradises. There’s a lot more to superb surf than simply sunshine, which is great news for those of us who prefer more mild climates. From England’s dramatic Cornish coastline to the rainforest-lined beaches of Canada, there’s plenty of opportunities to pack a thick wetsuit and grab a board! Here’s our pick of five of the world’s greatest surf-friendly beaches to beat the heat!
Watergate Bay, Cornwall, England
While south-west England may not be high on many people’s bucket lists, those in the know will tell you that this region is home to some of the finest beaches in the world. While Newquay is the buzzing home of the region’s surf scene and Fistral Bay is one of the most surfed beaches, Watergate Bay offers an altogether more relaxed and natural experience. Water temperatures rarely get above 18 degrees in August, and can plunge to a chilly 9 degrees in March – so pack accordingly! That said, those who can stand the chill and infamously intense traffic jams in the area are rewarded with exceptional 9-foot-plus waves. Strong riptides and submerged rocks make this beach better suited to the more experienced surfer, particularly at times when there is no lifeguard on duty. After a long day in the water, there’s a charming café and bistro overlooking the bay which is the perfect spot to grab a well-earned sundowner!
Tofino, Vancouver Island, Canada
Canada isn’t generally a name associated with killer surf – much to the world’s shame! A mere hop over the border from the US state of Washington is one of Canada’s best-kept secrets: Vancouver Island. A beautiful ferry ride from Vancouver City will drop you in the small town of Nanaimo, from where the committed embark on a winding 200km drive right across the island to the very end of Route 4 at Tofino Bay. What awaits you is both fun and stunning. Where the dense forest ends, lies golden sands and numerous fine breaks with something for all surfing abilities. With surf fairly consistently in the 3 to 8-foot range, it’s not hard to find your sweet spot and enjoy the stunning wilderness from your board. Town is small but perfectly formed, and you’ll soon find yourself drawn into rural Canadian life, surrounded by like-minded folk who will be glad to share their local knowledge and tips. The only danger here is the water, which can be bitterly cold in the winter, so be sure to pack an extra thick wetsuit to protect you from the elements!
Bundoran Beach, County Donegal, Ireland
There may be nothing tropical about County Donegal’s rough Atlantic coastline, but those that brave the often fearsomely cold conditions are rewarded with outstanding surf and warm Irish hospitality. With an abundance of jagged headlands and flat rock reefs, there is no shortage of excellent breaks best suited to the more experienced surfers who are happy in unpatrolled waters. With a twelve-foot tidal range, you’re almost guaranteed at least two stable hours at both low and high tide. To get the most out of your time here, it’s worth befriending the locals who have been surfing these waters for decades. They’re old hands and know where to go to get the best out of the conditions each day. Water temperatures here range from 10 to 17 degrees, with wind and rain all too common.
Not necessarily a household name, Hossegor is known within the surfing community as the surf capital of Europe. This pristine stretch of Atlantic coastline can be found a mere 20km north of the glitzy town of Biarritz, close to the Spanish border. As you would expect from a seaside resort in the south of France, Hossegor effortlessly blends its outstanding natural landscape with classy sophistication and a buzzing nightlife scene. Beach breaks are the order of the day here, with Gravière and La Nord tipped amongst the best. Conditions can reach up to 4.5m on a strong spring tide, and the tubes here are considered to rival those in Hawaii. That said, conditions can turn rough and stormy extremely quickly and several surfers a caught out each year. Water temperatures peak in August at around 25 degrees, although they can drop as low as 12 degrees in early March, so a thick wet suit is advised!
Jeffrey’s Bay, South Africa
A mere 75km from Port Elizabeth lies one of Africa’s most iconic surf locations: Jeffrey’s Bay, or J-Bay to those in the know! Home of the annual Billabong Pro ASP World Tour every July, it’s said that rides of over 300m are regularly achieved by the numerous pros that flock to this incredible coastline each year. For those with limited time, you can almost be sure of a taste of the action at some point during your stay with over 150 surf-able days each year making this one of the world’s most consistent areas. Better still, sea temperatures remain equally stable between 18 and 25 degrees year-round, with some of the warmest weather in early February – perfect for those new-year-getaways! Those in the know flock to Supertubes and enjoy one of the best right-hand point breaks in the world.