Regardless of whether you surf, most of us have been consciously (or subconsciously) shaped by the sport. Some of us grew up listening to The Beach Boys (“Surfin’ U.S.A.”) or Jan and Dean (“Surf City”), and can recite most of the lyrics by heart.
Or we watched FBI agent Johnny Utah (aka Keanu Reeves) pursuing Bodhi (Patrick Swayze) in Point Break (of course we’re talking about the 1991 version, not the remake). What about the feeling of inspiration when you saw the Bethany Hamilton story in Soul Surfer? And don’t forget the best surfing movie ever made: Bruce Brown’s 1969 classic, The Endless Summer.
In the spirit of the swell, we reached out to a few surfer friends and asked them to pinpoint the best places to surf in the world.
Banzai Pipeline, Oahu, Hawaii
Located on the North Shore of Oahu, the Banzai Pipeline, or simply Pipeline, is undoubtedly the birthplace of modern surfing and home to one of the most iconic breaks in the world. Huge waves crash once they reach the shallow waters above the flat, tabletop reef. This, combined with several large caverns that produce giant air pockets, create the hollow tube that has made the ride so sought-after by big-wave surfers. be careful, though: The heavy waves and the jagged reef make Pipeline notorious for injuries and broken surfboards.
Jeffreys Bay, South Africa
Also known as J-Bay, the remote Jeffreys Bay area is is located on South Africa’s Eastern Cape. The shallow bay, which sits atop ancient lava flows, makes for the longest — and best — right point break in the world. You’ll find at least 10 sections with names like The Point, Magnatubes, Impossibles, Boneyards, and Supertubes, where most of the pro competitions are held. The uniformly shallow seafloor provides the ideal conditions for pumping out perfect waves one right after the other.
Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia
Unlike J-Bay and Pipeline, which are best suited for experts, the Gold Coast has something for every skill level. Located primarily in Queensland but crossing over into New South Wales, the region produces some of best waves in all of Australia, and surfers flock from all over the world to hit any of the four epic point breaks. The Gold Coast has over 40 miles of beaches and is patrolled year-round by lifeguards, making it ideal for buffs and beach-goers alike. Rainbow Bay, is great for beginners and intermediates, while Duranbah Beach, nicknamed D-bah, regularly hosts international surfing competitions.
Uluwatu, Bali, Indonesia
Indonesia is brimming with reef breaks with names like Temples, Bombie, Outside Corner, and Racetrack. Nestled on the Bukit Peninsula, Uluwatu became a surfing destination after the 1971 release of classic surf film Morning of the Earth. On big swell days, waves can reach 15-20 feet high.
Located off the coast of Northern California’s Half Moon Bay, Mavericks is considered to be one of the most dangerous breaks in the world. Waves routinely top 25 feet and can exceed 60 feet. The rocky, ramp-shaped sea floor spawns large tubes that require a steep drop and perfect timing. Each year, an invitation is sent to about two dozen big-wave surfers to compete in a competition. While typically ridden to the right, Mavericks is unpredictable and unforgiving. Mavericks has claimed the lives of notable big-wave surfers Mark Foo and Sion Milosky.
Cloudbreak, Tavarua Island, Fiji
Cloudbreak is one of just two left-pass breaks on this list. The barreling wave is consistently ranked in the top 10 most challenging rides in the world. Located a mile offshore from Tavarua Island, Cloudbreak can be found on a sheltered coral reef. The waves are consistent and can range from a few feet to well over 20 feet. The Southern Hemisphere winter is the best time to check out this spot.