Successful surfing starts here: The best spots for newbie riders

December 22, 2015                 5m read time
Barbie Carpenter


Even Laird Hamilton and Kelly Slater were beginners at some point—and they probably didn’t start out on the nastiest waves the ocean can dish out. Before you shimmy into your wetsuit and try to hang ten on a heavy, practice catching mellow waves at one of the following destinations for beginners first.

1. Summer on Hanalei Bay Beach

Surfers in the waves at Hanalei Bay Beach in Kauai, Hawaii Satumasi

Surfers in the waves at Hanalei Bay Beach in Kauai, Hawaii

Satumasi

 

The two-mile Hanalei Bay Beach in Kauai, Hawaii, features surfer-friendly conditions, including shallow, clear waters, gentle swells, and a sandy bottom. When you’re not crashing into the waves, the views aren’t too shabby either. Lush, tropical landscapes and cascading waterfalls can be spotted onshore. Insider tip: Start your surf lessons by the Hanalei Pier, where conditions are gentle.

2. Follow in Kelly Slater’s Footsteps

Surfer in the waves at Cocoa Beach in Florida Kevin N. Murphy

Surfer in the waves at Cocoa Beach in Florida

Kevin N. Murphy

 

Thanks to its year-round warm temps and impressive waves, Cocoa Beach is the prime surfing spot on central Florida’s Atlantic coast. However, you don’t have to be scared off because pros like Kelly Slater call this place their practice ground. Warm weather, a rock-free shore, and waves for all skill levels make this spot a must-visit for beginner surfers too. Only an hour from Orlando, Cocoa Beach attracts tourists with its surfing as well as kiteboarding, sailing, and paddleboarding. If you don’t know your shortboard from your longboard, sign up for lessons at Ron Jon Surf School. Insider tip: Visit during the winter months for the most consistent waves.

3. Give West Coast Surfing a Try

Surfers and paddleboarders in Faria, California, in Ventura County Presidio of Monterey

Surfers and paddleboarders in Faria, California, in Ventura County

Presidio of Monterey

 

Just south of Santa Barbara, California, in Ventura County, Mondos is a great hidden spot for beginners to stretch out and practice on long, gentle waves. Located on the inside of Pitas Point and shadowed by nearby Santa Cruz Island, the beach is protected from massive swells. There’s also ample space, so you won't have to duke it out over waves with other amateur surfers. When you’re ready to tackle bigger crests, head to Santa Barbara and Ventura County reefs, where you can catch some advanced swells.

4. Get Tropical in Barbados

Waves on the beach at Inch Marlow in Barbados Schredd D. Bobcat

Waves on the beach at Inch Marlow in Barbados

Schredd D. Bobcat

 

Visit the south coast of Barbados to surf Inch Marlow Bay, which promises 365 days of surf, a whopping 3,000 hours of sunshine a year, and water temperatures that never drop below 77 degrees. It's so dreamy, you may never want to leave. Throw a board in along the southern coast, which features waves 2- to 6-feet high, the perfect size for developing your skills. Prime surfing season runs from December to June, when you can sign up for lessons with Zed’s Surfing Adventures or Boosy’s Surf School. Best of all, you won’t be shark bait because shark attacks are unheard of in these crystal-clear waters.

5. Explore Costa Rica's Coast

Surfers at Tamarindo along Costa Rica's coast, great for learning to surf Cyndy Jeheber

Surfers at Tamarindo along Costa Rica's coast, great for learning to surf

Cyndy Jeheber

 

Catch waves alongside experienced surfers in Tamarindo, along Costa Rica’s Pacific Coast. Made famous by the 1994 film "The Endless Summer II," Tamarindo attracts top surfers thanks to its varied waves, and it offers plenty of ankle breakers (or small waves) too. Warm, rock-free waters and light currents mean you won’t get swept away as you perfect your balance. Consistent swells, offshore winds, and warm weather makes Tamarindo a surfer haven all year. Leave Costa Rica as a skilled surfer by signing up for three-, four-, or five-day group or private lessons with Tamarindo Surf School.

6. Travel to Africa's surf mecca

The beach at Taghazout in Morocco, Africa mikel alberdi uzkudun

The beach at Taghazout in Morocco, Africa

mikel alberdi uzkudun

 

Known as Morocco's “surf mecca,” Taghazout welcomes an eclectic mix of new wave riders, including hippie surfers who first floated this way in the '70s and vacationing Germans and Scandinavians. Plan a trip for the early fall when the weather is warm and the swells are at their gentlest. Be sure to visit Hash Point and the beaches near Agadir, which deliver easy waves that are perfect for beginners.

7. Surf on the other side of the world

Surfers at Cottesloe Beach in Perth, Western Australia Eystein Mack Alnæs

Surfers at Cottesloe Beach in Perth, Western Australia

Eystein Mack Alnæs

 

Fly across the globe to surf with your mates in Australia at Cottesloe Beach, the most popular stretch along Perth’s western coast. Paddle to the lower end by the southern corner of the beach. Here you’ll find weak waves, averaging about three feet, and minimal currents. Insider tip: Stay away from the reefs, which create a stronger current that can be challenging or even downright dangerous for newbie surfers.

8. Coast on “The Edge of America”

Surfers heading into the waves at South Carolina's Folly Beach  Ron Cogswell

Surfers heading into the waves at South Carolina's Folly Beach 

Ron Cogswell

 

South Carolina’s Folly Beach attracts surfers from the East Coast and plays host to the annual Folly Beach Wahine Beach Surf Classic, a women's-only surf contest challenging the nation’s best to longboard, shortboard, bodyboard, and stand-up paddle the Atlantic. You might not be ready to compete in the classic, but you can develop your skills in the washout spot, which features the beach’s best waves. Once you’ve built some confidence, try surfing at Folly Beach during hurricane season when a storm’s a’brewin. Before you tackle a honker (that’s surfer lingo for “big wave”), take some lessons with local SOL Surf School or Greg Elliot Surf.

9. Get adventurous at Kuta Beach

Surfers at sunset at Kuta Beach in Bali, Indonesia Maria

Surfers at sunset at Kuta Beach in Bali, Indonesia

Maria

 

Kuta Beach, in the south of the island of Bali, Indonesia, has plenty of off-the-beach activity to offer—from raucous nightlife to people bartering at every corner. While you’re in the ocean, you’ll experience 365 days of stellar one- to three-feet swells, perfect for newbies. Warm to hot weather means you can skip the wetsuit and stay cool in your swimsuit. Beginners can excel on the water from November to March, known as wet season, when the surf is consistent but less intimidating. While you’re off the board, keep an eye out for the locals—in this case, monkeys and elephants that roam the area.

10. Learn on a Great Lake

Surfers in the waves at New Buffalo in Michigan JesseK-G

Surfers in the waves at New Buffalo in Michigan

JesseK-G

 

Michigan might not be an obvious spot for surfing, but New Buffalo, on the southeast corner of Lake Michigan, promises head-high waves and decent winds as the summer cools down and fall heats up. Known as part of the Third Coast, this has been a popular surfing spot since the 1960s. Watch skilled riders who congregate at the south jetty. Then, visit Third Coast Surf Shop, which will equip you with a wetsuit, surfboard, and a two-hour private lesson on the lake.

Barbie Carpenter

Barbie Carpenter is a freelance writer and editor and self-proclaimed grammar enthusiast based in Lexington, Kentucky. When she’s not polishing prose, she’s spending time with her husband and two young children, exploring the Bluegrass region, and planning her next trip to the beach.

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