If there’s one sport that belongs in the category of “you only live once,” it’s surfing. From a massive adrenaline rush to the peace of being at one with the universe, surfing’s got it all. Not to mention awesome beaches, athletic bodies, and that one perfect wave.
The world is full of amazing places to reach surfing Nirvana, and if you’re really a dedicated surfer, you know a lot of them. For the rest of us, though, here’s our list of the five most epic surfing spots in the world to hang on.
5 Most Epic Surfing Spots in the World:
1. North Shore, Oahu, Hawaii
Believe it or not, people have been surfing in Hawaii as far back as the 4th century. The first Anglo to see someone riding the waves on a board was Captain James Cook, in 1779. And the surfing on Oahu’s North Shore is as awe-inspiring to surfers today as it was to Captain Cook 200 years ago.
For the ultimate in Hawaii surfing, head to Sunset Beach on the North Shore. The waves here are truly epic — it’s where you’ll find the Pipeline, one of the world’s heaviest waves. There are more amazing waves along the North Shore’s perfect 7 miles, including the powerful crests at Waimea Bay and the Banzai Pipeline at Ehukai Beach.
Best way to get there: Fly into Honolulu International Airport and pick up your rental car to drive the 25 miles to the North Shore. Avoid getting gouged on car rental by booking the car well in advance of your trip.
2. Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia
The world discovered the incredible surfing on Queensland’s Gold Coast courtesy of the classic 60s surfing movie “Endless Summer.” This is where you’ll find the Superbank, one of the finest breaks in the world, with tubes and walls that will serve you up the ride of a lifetime. The waves are pretty consistent here all year round, which is why many international surf competitions are held here.
With 43 miles of perfect beaches and a nearly continuous party going on, there’s a reason why the Gold Coast is home to Surfer’s Paradise. There’s enough room here to accomodate a whole lot of surfers — which is lucky, because the Gold Coast is on the top of most surfer’s “must go” lists.
3. Bundoran, Ireland
Surprised to see Ireland on our list of epic surfing spots in the world? Don’t be. With waves that can reach 50 feet and averaging around the 10-foot range, Bundoran is definitely one of the best surfing spots to surf in Europe. Sure, the wild Atlantic swells are a bit colder than you might like, but wear a wetsuit and have a great time. You can warm up later, with an evening in a cozy Irish pub.
For novices, there are four surfing schools in Bundoran where you can get beginning and intermediate instruction. But the pros love the rolling waves and flat rocky reefs here too. Bundoran has hosted the European Surfing Championships three times.
Best way to get there: Fly into Dublin International Airport. If you’re daring, rent a car in Dublin and make the 3-hour drive yourself. Or book a connecting flight into Sligo, and hire a cab there to complete the 30-minute trip to Bundoran.
4. Jeffreys Bay, South Africa
Experienced surfers call it J-Bay, and it’s where some of the world’s most memorable surfing stories are hatched. This surfing spot is where you’ll find Supertubes, the legendary wall of water that’s been both heaven and hell to surfers for years. J-Bay is also notorious for its unique right-hand point breaks and long, fast barrels.
Life around J-Bay is super relaxed, and the summer seems to last forever. (Keep in mind that summer here is November through February.) Winter surfing, May through August, is spectacular too. Daytime temperatures average between 60 and 70 degrees, and the wind whips up some really gigantic swells.
Best way to get there: Fly into Capetown International Airport. Make a connecting flight to Port Elizabeth Airport, just an hour away from J-bay. From Port Elizabeth, book a seat on one of the many shuttles, or take a taxi to Jeffreys Bay.
5. Mentawai Islands, Indonesia
For some of the most legendary waves in the world combined with a really exotic and unspoiled location, make the long trip to the Mentawai Islands. Here you’ll find all the natural beauty of better-known spots like Bali — only without the tourists.
There are 70 islands in the Mentawai chain, but for the best, most consistent waves, head to Pagi, Siparo, and Siberut. Once there, you’ve got to get a good distance offshore, so find a local guide to help you locate the best surfing spots. The most famous of these include Bankvaults and Macaronis, for the advanced surfers, and the Gilligan’s for those with lesser skills.
Best way to get there: Be patient — the trip is worth it. Start by flying into the international airport in either Jakarta or Singapore. From there, fly to Padang, Sumatra. Once in Padang, you’ll take a charter boat to your destination. Some Mentawai Island resorts have their own ferries and offer pickup and dropoff service in Padang.