How to plan the perfect surf trip?

What’s better to write about within our very first blog article, than the perfect recipe for a great surf trip? It’s something that we live for and a motivation that drives us everyday.  Surf Travel.

What is a real surf trip for us? How can you make it the best surf trip of all time? We all know that surf trips can be heavily reliant on swell.  So how can you eliminate the risk and maximise your chances of getting great waves…and most importantly have fun?

Since 2009,  Australian Surf Tours has specialised in Surf Camps and Surfing Holidays.  To come up with the right recipe we had to do a lot of research and development.  Meaning a lot of surfing and a lot of travel!  You might think this sounds tough (there’s a hint of sarcasm here.) But we were intent on providing the best surf camp in the world.  And in doing so, taking the trouble out of travel for our AST guests.  So we just had to do it!!

We had our share of bad hotels, dodgy bus rides and bouts of Bali-belly.  But we scored amazing waves, learnt some life long lessons and met amazing people along the way.  In fact, the thrill of a surf trip for us is not just the waves (although they are very important) but so much more.  The sharing of cultures, the creation of friendships and the collection of experiences that no AMEX can ever buy.

So tune in…we’re going to give you some great tips that will help you plan and execute the perfect surf trip!


1- Budget

Now this is the best starting point.  Defining how much money you will have to spend is a pretty important first step.  There’s no point planning a trip to the Maldives if you only have a thousand dollars in your back pocket.  But the good news is you don’t need to be a millionaire to have a great surf trip, just a good planner.  The great thing about surfing is that it is essentially free once you have a surfboard.  So all you need to think about is how you get where you’re going, where you stay while you’re there and what you eat between surfs.  Now you’re planning can begin!

2- Accommodation

We all know that surfers are an intrepid bunch who don’t really care for comfort.  If sleeping in less than 5-stars means scoring amazing waves, then most of us are in.  Me personally, I like a bit of comfort after a hard day in the water.  Therefore I make sure when I’m booking that I have a room with at least a fan.  But hopefully air-con, a mosquito net where applicable and that the position is close to the waves.  With these three things, you will definitely get a good night’s sleep and be ready to catch plenty of waves in the morning.

With the amazing invention of the World Wide Web, it has become quite easy to search for accommodation online.  Pictures tell a 1000 words they say, but they can also tell 1000 lies.  TripAdvisor or Tour Radar are a couple of sites that have user ratings and they are definitely worth checking for some of the reviews before you book.  Read the bad as well as the good.

3- Food

Think about this one carefully. When you’re travelling to places like South or Central America or to Indonesia and South East Asia, the water quality is not always assured.  I’ve found myself riding the porcelain bus a few times just from eating an apple that had been washed in tap water.  A  severe case of Bali Belly can definitely ruin your week away.  Be careful what you eat, cook your vegetables in boiling water, don’t wash your fruit under the tap, actually peel your fruit if you can and only drink bottled water.

For those of you that like getting off the beaten track away from nice hotels and restaurants, it’s a good idea to boil any water you drink first to kill any of the parasites that are waiting to swim in your stomach. Also, it’s a good idea to take a bit of Iodine to help block you up on the (not so small) chance that you encounter some food that turns your bowels into a free flowing river.

Scare tactics aside,  sampling all the wonders and flavours of the world is part of Surf Travel that excites me the most.  Having a delicious Nasi Goreng for breakfast, some Empanadas for a lunch snack or buying the most delicious Papaya you’ve ever eaten from a vendor on the side of the road all add to the intrigue of travel and the beauty of the world.  So be brave, forget baked beans, get stuck in and sample what is on offer !

4- Solo or with friends?

This is an interesting one as there are definitely times when you just want to get away from everybody, leave the judgements of your friends behind and discover yourself along with new places.  Sometimes a travel buddy can also cause a few problems if you are both not on the same page.  Things like long bus rides, tiredness or a simple disagreement about what to eat can cause arguments that can change the shape of your surf trip so choose your companion wisely or don’t take one at all.

Personally, I prefer travelling with friends.  There’s more laughs, someone to share experiences with, someone to share the petrol bill or room fee and having a travel companion can also make you feel a bit safer in certain situations.  Having someone there you know will have your back when you’re paddling onto a heavy wave with sharp coral reef below and you are two days from the closest hospital is pretty important in my book.

5- Where to go for your surf trip?

This is the fun part of the planning process !  Scouring the internet for perfect line-ups, looking through magazines and mind surfing perfect waves.  Nothing beats it ! The louer of that perfect left hand point break, 30 degree water temps and a freshly made Pina Colada at the end of the day gets me everytime.  But everyone is different.

Have a think about the experience you want. Is it just about the waves or are you looking for a bit of culture along the way ?  What’s your skill level ?  There are some amazing looking waves out there that look beautiful in the pictures but are as scary as hell in real life and very dangerous.

A good place to start is to look for a culture you wish to discover, check out the famous waves in that country and then start looking for some places to see and hang out in the area.  Remember, Huey isn’t always kind on a surf trip, so it’s important to have some other things to do just in case the waves don’t co-operate.

If you’re not fussed about the culture and just want to chase waves, a boat trip is a good idea.  You and 10 others cruising the ocean looking for reefs or beaches that you can attack.  Choose wisely when deciding which boat to take and definitely give Trip Advisor some time so you know you get a good one.

6 – When to go?

Another important decision when choosing your surf trip.  It’s no good planning a trip to Hawaii to surf Pipeline in July when the water looks more like a lake than those perfect barrels you’ve seen on TV.  There’s also some factors such as monsoon seasons to take into account and whether or not  the surf camps will actually be open or you are likely to get favourable wind conditions.

Crowds are important to think about when surfing in Europe for instance.  The Summer months are chaotic while the Winter is colder but empty and usually is more consistent with swell.

My favourite time to go on a surfing holiday is in Autumn, and that rule is fairly good all around the world.  The Winter swells are starting to arrive more consistenly, the Summer crowds are not as bad as the peak season and the trade winds start to roll off shore.  You might find it’s even a bit cheaper to go on the shoulder seasons but with even more benefits

7 – What to pack?

This is a lot dependant on where you decide to go.  If you are going somewhere tropical, you might throw in a mosquito net where as surfing the outer reaches of Alaska might require a serious sleeping bag or three.  As a general rule though, if you pack everything in the list below you are going to be fine in most places :

  • Surfboard or 3
  • Spare fins
  • Wax
  • A few legropes
  • A fin key or fin tool
  • A surfboard repair kit
  • A wetsuit (if needed)
  • A rashie
  • Booties (if surfing over reef)
  • A good zinc like Surf Mud
  • SPF 50 Suncream
  • Clothes (take some for nights out as well)
  • A torch
  • A Swiss Army knife
  • Insect repellent
  • A good sleeping bag
  • A universal plug
  • Portable speaker
  • A couple of good books
  • A good hat

8 – Which surfboards to bring ?

It would be great to bring all of your boards but with the cost of airlines. Plus, the pain of dragging them it’s best to bring just 2 or 3.  It depends where you’re surfing as well as if you are going to surf in some softer beach breaks you might only need one. Where as if you’re taking on the Mentawai Island chain it’s definitely advisable to have back up.

Generally speaking I always take my favourite board that can surf up to about 8 feet and a fun one as back up and for the smaller days.  Chances are you will ding your board along the way and it usually takes half a day to a day to fix.  This means time out of the water if you don’t have back up and that means no waves for you ! I have lugged as many as 4 boards around with me over the years. I usually only ended up surfing 1 or 2 of them. So these days I only take 2.

Whatever you decide on, make sure you bring a ding repair kit especially if you’re travelling to a place without much life.

9 – Have a good attitude

Your attitude is probably going be the most important key for successful surf trip.  The waves are out of your control.

Make sure you’re open to meet new people, discover new cultures and try new things.

Things will happen along the way that will test your patience and teach you lessons. You will learn from your mistakes and later laugh about them with your mates. Keep the spirit of surf travel alive! Share the Stoke, Exchange, Be Kind and Enjoy the Waves. Wherever you go, whatever you decide enjoy !

Here at AST we have been exploring the world and creating memorable surfing holidays for our guests for 10 years. But we certainly haven’t seen it all.  If you find a great place, share it with us so we can take a look for ourselves ;-). Also, iff you need any help deciding where to go or what to do please drop us an email.  We’ll be more than happy to help !   Good Luck


Why not check out the Surf Trips we offer:

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1-5 April 2021