These 5 surf trips are more than just epic waves

Life is short and the world is wide. There’s nothing like taking off for a surf trip to a distant location with the promise of scoring epic waves.

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Many times, surf travel offers more than just great waves and incredible scenery; it can give you the experience of a lifetime. It’s time to grab your gear and head to the airport. Here are five trips that we think you should consider.

Red Bluff

Perched on the edge of the Western Australian desert, a two-hour drive from civilization, Red Bluff is not your high-end, resort-style surf camp. The most luxurious accommodations are basic huts, and the majority of visitors make their own camps.

You also have to bring all your own food and firewood, but this is part of the appeal. Well, that and the wave at the end of the bay offering arguably the best 10 seconds of tube time in surfing.

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The campsite lies on a marine wonderland on Quobba Station, a spectacularly rugged and authentic working sheep ranch about 88 miles north of Carnarvon. Turquoise waters, majestic sunsets and star-filled desert skies provide all the entertainment you need, making it a relaxing respite from the modern world for around $15 a day.

About 20 miles to the north lies another world-class wave, called Gnaraloo, while the world-renowned Ningaloo Marine Park, with its spectacular coral reefs, whales and dolphins, is a two-hour drive from Red Bluff.

Arugam Bay

surf trip
Waves for days. Photo: Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
Arugam Bay, located on the southeast coast of Sri Lanka, is a wide, sandy bay that features one of the most fun and forgiving points in all of Asia. The wave runs for hundreds of yards through warm emerald-green water, giving you the choice of a paddle or a walk back to the point.

A large lagoon is on the other side, where wild elephants congregate for their evening showers.

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On either side of the broad sweep of Arugam Bay lie many miles of pristine tropical beaches, practically deserted but for the clusters of fishermen’s boats and thatched villages. Apart from the great waves, Kumana National Park, with its abundant bird life, elephants, wild boar, sloth bears and leopards, is only 45 minutes away.

When you add the world-renowned Sri Lankan curries and a 2,000-year-old Hindu and Muslim culture, you’ll see why Arugam is more than a surf destination; it’s the trip of a lifetime.

The Azores

surf trip
You’ll never grow tired of the Azores. Photo: Courtesy of World Surf League
A volcanic archipelago located smack dab in the middle of the Atlantic, 800 miles west of Lisbon, Portugal, and around 1,000 miles east of Newfoundland, the Azores (an autonomous region of Portugal) offer a unique blend of uncrowded surf, stunning natural scenery, incredible wildlife and delicious local produce.

Most of the action is found on the island of Santa Maria. Here, the north shore offers consistent swells, fun beachbreaks and the odd big-wave secret spot. Only a 15-minute drive to the south, around the capital of Ponta Delgardo, the south-facing shore offers protected coves, left-hand points and great swimming beaches.

surf trip
Great waves and “Jurassic Park” scenery in the Azores. Photo: Ben Mondy

In between the two coasts lie emerald-green cradle lakes hovering in dormant volcanoes, bubbling hot natural springs and lush valleys filled with fat sheep and prime beef.

Offshore, whales are present all year, and the islands offer some of the best game fishing in the world.

Pipeline

Hawaii's Pipeline is always beautiful, but there's something about sunset. Photo: Courtesy of National Geographic
Hawaii’s Pipeline is always beautiful, but there’s something about sunset. Photo: Courtesy of National Geographic
Perhaps no other wave is entrenched in surf culture more than Pipeline. Located in the middle of what is known as the “7 Mile Miracle” on Oahu’s North Shore, Pipeline is one of the most dangerous waves in the world, but with the greatest rewards.

It breaks only in the winter and tends to be very crowded, especially in the months of December and January. However, at the start and end of the seasons, and especially early and late in the day, it is still possible to score a wave at Pipeline that can change your life (hopefully not by ending it).

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Of course, nearby lies some of surfing’s other famous waves, such as Sunset and Haleiwa, but surfing Hawaii isn’t all about death and glory. Waikiki offers the most beautiful and serene rollers, while the outer islands such as Kauai provide some of the most stunning scenery and waterfalls on the planet.

Jeffreys Bay

surf trip
Adriano de Souza at Jeffreys Bay, which should be on your surf trip bucket list. Photo: Courtesy of Oakley
J-Bay is one of the best waves in the world. You can’t beat sunny skies, light offshore winds and the most perfect and fastest green walls in surfing.

One day of surfing waves like that can allow you to die happy. One week of swell means you can go straight to heaven, but there is more to Jeffreys Bay than just the waves.

The town itself offers a vibrant surf community with great bars and cheap, fun restaurants. A couple of hours’ drive inland, you can access the wildlife parks with all the big game on show, while to the west lies the famous Garden Route, a scenic coastal road that traverses all the way to Cape Town.

If you can drag yourself away from the magnetic pull of Jeffreys Bay’s freight train rights, the ultimate surf safari awaits.