Ticking the boxes to the perfect wave
- Consistent surf.
- Good accommodation for the partner.
- Not too far to travel as only have a week.
Only five boxes; simple really?? Amazing how many times a surf travel company will receive a question like this and it is the most difficult set of boxes to tick these days. Indeed any places that might qualify may not be that well publicised in order to at least keep the “uncrowded” box applicable.
In the 70s & early 80s the early surf travellers seeking the holy grail of perfect waves in tropical locations were young, time-rich but money-poor and they endured arduous days of travel to live the most basic existence in order to ride the finest of waves.
Times and the surfing demographic have changed and these days surf travellers are predominantly time-poor and looking for the travel options that have them expediently arriving at the location where specialist surf tour operators will ensure they maximise the wave count in a limited period.
A location with consistent, quality surf is probably the main criteria for the short surf trip of a week to ten days. Think Maldives; Fiji and most of Indonesia as the Indian and Pacific Oceans are huge and rarely resemble a lake; there’s always some whiff of swell even if the source low pressure systems in the southern regions have not been intense. Of course there’s no guarantee but the chances of travelling to these locations and not having anything there to paddle out to are very slight even in the low seasons of November to March.
By virtue of this reliability of swell these areas logically receive the bulk of the interest of the surf travelling public. Even though Indonesia is such a huge destination with a multitude of islands and miles of exposed coastline the locations that can be truly considered as uncrowded are only in the remotest places often accessible just by boat. Similarly the Maldives Central & Outer Atolls are the regions least crowded as a charter boat is the best option for accessing these breaks. However as with the Mentawais region of Indonesia the number of boats and more recently land based camps and resorts have increased over the past decade meaning that where would appear a particular isolated and remote location to the casual observer in fact has a booming tourist trade albeit exclusively surfers.
But then what is “crowded”? To surfers of the more regional areas of Victoria, South Australia and West Australia being crowded is actually less surfers in the line-up than a reasonably uncrowded day in Sydney or the Gold Coast. Crowded depends on what you’re used to really. Also certain breaks can be crowded with a handful of surfers due to the pinpoint position of the take-off spot; whereas very long peeling reefs such as Jeffrey’s Bay; G-Land; T-Land; Chicama; Raglan and Jailbreak can have twenty or more in the water and everyone’s getting their fill of waves.
The box that is more readily ticked now than say even ten years ago is that of “Suitable for Partner”. Thirty years ago it was the hardier and adventurous of partners who would accompany their surfer boyfriends to spend months in often basic villages in undeveloped countries. Apart from Hawaii and parts of Australia there were few surfing destinations where quality tourist amenities were found in the same locations as world-class surf breaks; at least not ones with perfect waves where shoestring budgeting allowed for extended stays for the season.
In the past twenty years surf camps and resorts catering for the shorter stay norm of surf tourism have progressively improved to become very partner friendly in standard of accommodation and facilities but also activities with spas and yoga now common place and often in very remote locations such as Kandui Villas in the Mentawais and the renowned gold standard of the luxurious Nihiwatu Resort in Sumba.
Some of the best known names in surf resorts are catering more and more for couples; e.g. Cinnamon Dhonveli (Pasta Point) in the Maldives; Tavarua and Namotu Island resorts in Fiji. This trend will continue as obviously it’s an advantage for resorts to be increasing their occupancy without overly increasing the number of surfers to be serviced and putting more pressure on the numbers out on the breaks. Further changes in the overall surfing demographic are the growing number of women surfers and family groups of surfers also adding to demand for facilities with more comforts.
Inexpensive? Like many things you get what you pay for in surf travel and what might be outside one person’s budget can be great value for money for another’s. Where surf tourism differs from general tourism is the added component of consistent, quality and hopefully relatively uncrowded surf and surfers want to have ridden enough good waves in their trip to consider it a good value trip at whatever that price. For them its waves-per-dollars or dollars-per- wave that determines a substantial component of the worth of any trip. As one well-travelled surfer observed of his first more exclusive holiday “That trip cost twice what I’ve ever paid before but I reckon I got five times as many waves!”
Easy and quick access? If anywhere is only five or six hours flight and a few hours land transfer yet is still uncrowded then first question is why? Most likely it will be a place with some fairly intense type of breaks not suited to the wider demographic of surfers; possibly on reefs that require certain swell directions to work properly so less consistent. Samoa for example is not that popular amongst middle aged longboarders but for those young chargers who revel in steep take-offs and dredging slabs, particularly the bodyboarding fraternity, it has the elements of what they are after. Or it may be less consistent like the north-west coast of the main island of Tonga in winter months; some perfect waves but a narrow swell window.
Overall realistically ticking all five boxes these days from Australia is impossible depending on the perception of inexpensive and uncrowded both of which can be subjective criteria; ticking two boxes isn’t that difficult at all; but that perfect desired achievable of four boxes is what many travelling surfers are craving for.
Almost unattainable? Or maybe there might be one or two places out there that have quietly managed to stay under the radar!!!
Che out more!