Surf’s Up! Where To Catch The Best Waves In Southeast Asia

Explore the beautiful coastlines and mighty swells of these Southeast Asian surfing spots — perfect for beginners and seasoned surfers of all ages. (Image by Jess Loiterton)

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With near-perfect swimming conditions in its oceans all year round, Southeast Asia offers some of the best surfing spots in the world, and yet it often flies under the radar. Thousands of islands and coastal towns have been embracing this sport for a long time, and the love for it is only growing. We’ve got the inside scoop for surfers looking to catch some waves in this part of the world.

Canggu in Bali, Indonesia

Bali has been in the spotlight for many years now and continues to be a surfer’s paradise, with plenty of surf-friendly beaches and surf schools accommodating the sport. The Canggu Coast is known to have waves bigger than the ones found in Kuta beach.

Early risers catch the best waves here. Beginner surfers are advised to avoid Canggu’s strong barreling breaks and ride the gentler waves of Batu Bolong. Travel between April to October for the best surfs.

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Nha Trang, Vietnam

Vietnam’s South Central Coast is a popular destination for many surfing enthusiasts and has a rich history in the sport dating back to the Vietnam War when veterans surfed the Vietnamese coasts to find solace during the war. The Philippine typhoon between October to April causes storms on the coast of Nha Trang, bringing about swells up to three metres high, great for surfing.

There are three areas to surf in Nha Trang — Long Beach or Bai Dai, which is excellent for beginners; the City Reef, suitable for both beginners and advanced surfers. And the Dark Reef, a choice spot for seasoned surfers.

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Phuket, Thailand

Phuket is a nice spot for surfing, with several beaches gaining popularity among tourists looking to ride a few waves, including Kata, Kamala, Nai Harn, Surin, and Kalim. There are areas with gentler waves that are great for longboarding and rougher swells for those looking for waves with a little more gusto.

Being a tourist destination, these beaches can get a bit crowded, with Kata Beach being the more popular choice for surfing. The monsoon season between late April to October creates bigger waves making surfing more enjoyable in these parts.

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Mentawai Island in West Sumatra, Indonesia

Off the coast of Sumatra in Indonesia are the Mentawai Islands, a chain of approximately 70 islands and islets. Being less mainstream than Bali, the Mentawai Islands is ideal for surfers looking for crystal clear waters, blue skies, and a year-round surf away from the crowds.

Due to its exposure and consistent swells, there is no bad time to travel to the islands. Head over between December to March for the low swell season. Its prime surfing season happens between March and October, when you can catch the No Kandui, a sought-after monster swell for those seeking a challenging barreling wave.

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Sabah, East Malaysia

A quick Google search on surfing in Malaysia will often have Cherating, in Pahang, highlighted as the number one spot for surfing in the country. Home to the oldest surfing school in the nation, it’s easy to see why, but since then, many surf schools have opened up all over the country due to an increasing interest in surfing from locals.

Head to Kudat in Sabah, a popular surfing destination amongst locals. Ideal for beginners but equally fun for seasoned surfers, the waves in this exposed beach break are relatively consistent almost all year round.

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Siargao, Philippines

Known as the Surfing Capital of The Philippines, Siargao draws people from all over the world to catch its perfect barreling right-hand reef breaks. The Cloud 9 Surfing Area is located in the southeastern part of the island, suitable for advanced surfers as its towering hollow tubes and fast barreling right-hand waves break over razor-sharp coral reefs. It is a thrill of a destination for pro surfers. Surfing season begins in September and lasts through May.

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The Nusa Islands in Bali, Indonesia

The Nusa Islands in Bali — Nusa Penida, Nusa Lembongan, and Nusa Ceningan — are Bali’s best-kept secret when it comes to surfing. While great surfs are available on the island, a boat ride away from the main island of Bali offers more secluded surfs for those looking to enjoy a bit of leisurely surfing.

With so much to do on the Nusa Islands, few come here for the surfs. Still, there are several surf breaks and Playground surf spots for surfers of all stages, with Nusa Lembongan and Nusa Ceningan being the more prime surfing spots.

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Lombok, Indonesia

If you’re looking to learn how to surf and prefer doing it without an audience, Lombok makes for a great surf school. It’s a little quieter, with suitable temperatures and friendly waves all year round. Beaches on the island’s south coast, including Gerupuk, Ekas, and Sleong Belanak, are ideal for newbies.

But the big boy surfs lie in Desert Point, also known as Bangko-Bangko, on the southwest coast where waves shoot up to three to eight feet. The exposed reef break offers reliable surfs all year round, but the dry season between May to October is when you’ll catch the best waves.

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Tabitha is a designer and photographer, whose idea of a good day involves spontaneous trips to the beach with her pooch. Outside of her love for all things design, she has a fondness for handwritten notes, movie nights and long drives with friends.