6 of the most crowded waves on the planet

The surfing population is ever increasing, and some breaks are at the point where demand is far exceeding supply.

We look at the most crowded waves on the planet — breaks where getting a wave on your own is not just difficult, but almost impossible.

Superbank

Sharing is caring, right? Photo by Kirk Owers
Sharing is caring, right? Photo: Courtesy of Kirk Owers
“Crowds here are like nothing I’ve ever seen in the world when you’re surfing,” Kelly Slater announced on Instagram after surfing the Superbank in 2014.

“It’s really, really tough for one person to get space in the water and it’s mostly not fun.”

The wave was created after the dredging of the nearby Tweed River, the extra sand joining three previous distinct breaks to make a wave that is almost a mile in length.

The result is one of the longest and most perfect waves in surfing, but that comes with crowds often exceeding 300 surfers every time it breaks.

Huntington Beach

HB from the Pier. Photo by Twenty20
Huntington Beach from the pier. Photo: ashleychow/Twenty20
Each year, Huntington Beach, California, attracts over 16 million visitors. Surf City USA, as it is known, is therefore not the place to go if you are craving some peace and solitude.

While there are 8 miles of sandy beach within city limits, most of the surf congestion occurs around the consistent breaks on both sides of the Huntington Pier.

The only thing harder than finding a wave to yourself is finding a place to park within a mile walk.

Uluwatu

Uluwatu was the first break to be discovered in Bali back in 1971, and it still holds a famed place in surfing lore.

The break sits at the end of the Bukit Peninsula, and its quality waves have attracted surfers from all over the world for decades.

In the last 10 years, though, the pace of development near the break has also increased tenfold, adding to the crowds at the wave.

In the prime season of May to October, the waves of Uluwatu remain as perfect as ever (as seen in the clip of French surfer Adrien Valero above), but you’ll invariably be sharing them with at least 75 other surfers.

Bondi Beach

The only thing harder than finding a wave is finding your towel when you get out. Photo Dean Dampney
The only thing harder than finding a wave is finding your towel when you get out. Photo: Courtesy of Dean Dampney
Tourism Research Australia estimates that Sydney’s Bondi Beach has just over 2.3 million visitors every year. Now, not all of them surf, but on a hot summer’s day, and with a beach just over half a mile long, you can start to imagine the density of the crowd in the water.

“It’s easily one of the busiest beaches in the world,” Rod Kerr, the head of Bondi Lifeguards and star of the TV show “Bondi Rescue,” told GrindTV.

“On any given day there are hundreds of surfers of all nationalities and abilities in the water. It can be pure chaos.”

Mundaka

A lucky surfer at Mundaka, with an envious crowd looking on. Photo by Paco Two
A lucky surfer at Mundaka with an envious crowd looking on. Photo: Courtesy of Paco Two
Described as Europe’s best lefthander, the Spanish Basque country’s famed river mouth also comes with huge quantities of local and traveling surfers, each desperate to ride the grinding tubes that run for over 300 yards.

The crowd factor is exacerbated by the fact that it breaks only on the biggest of winter swells, and only then for a few hours either side of low tide.

When those factors coincide, expect a crowd of 100 surfers and plenty of drop-ins.

Such is the crowd factor that even local professional surfers like Aritz Aranburu are forced to surf it in the middle of the night.

Pipeline

Pipeline; deadly, beautiful and always crowded. Photo by Billabong
Pipeline is deadly, beautiful and always crowded. Photo: Courtesy of Billabong
You’d think a reputation as the world’s most dangerous wave would keep the crowds to a minimum, but Hawaii’s Pipeline still attracts a fearsome crowd each time it breaks.

Up to 100 surfers composed of Hawaiian locals, professional surfers and glory-hunting travelers jostle for a piece of Pipeline’s dramatic and dangerous tubes. The crowd factor is almost as intimidating as the wave itself.

“I’ve been surfing there for 10 years, each winter,” said professional surfer Nic Von Rupp.

“And I have only been in the right spot for a perfect Pipe wave once. It takes decades out there to get a spot in the lineup.”

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