Top Ten Surfing Spots

From classic longboard waves to get-tubed-every-time surf breaks, we bring you ten timeless surf locales.
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Surfing in Tavarua Island, Fiji
LIVE THE DREAM: #5: Tavarua Island, Fiji  (courtesy, Tavarua Resort)

All waves are not created equal. If they were, we surfers would never leave our home breaks. Heck, we'd probably all be content just hanging out down at the neighborhood wave pool as it churned out wave after carbon-copy wave. Thankfully, each surf spot has its own distinct personality and style. Some, like California's San Onofre State Beach, are mellow and cruisey, while others, such as Oahu's famed Banzai Pipeline, are high-performance, teeth-gnashing barrels. On this list you'll find ten of our favorite worldwide surf spots. These aren't simply great waves. They're iconic spots that have kept surfers coming back for generations. Think of this list as a menu. Whether you're a beginner or a salty surf veteran, there's something here to suit your taste. Pick your favorites and hit the road…and then the beach.

10. Old Man's, San Onofre State Beach, California
If you want a taste of classic SoCal beach culture, head 80 miles south of Los Angeles to San Onofre State Beach. San-O is home to a thriving longboard scene with a rich history that rivals Oahu's Waikiki in terms of aloha. The beach is a meeting place for waveriders of all ages and widely known as one of the best places in Southern California to learn to surf, as the crowd is friendly and the waves are mushy and easy-breaking. There's no "locals only" attitude here, and every wave is a "party wave" (so you don't have to worry about cutting someone off). Prime time is summer, when the water's warm and southwest swells roll up the coast. Rent a longboard at Killer Dana surf shop.
San Onofre Vacation Guide

9. Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, Outer Banks, North Carolina
Known as the "Graveyard of the Atlantic" because of its treacherous waters and the numerous shipwrecks they've claimed, North Carolina's string of narrow barrier islands, including Cape Hatteras, rope in some of the East Coast's punchiest beach-break surf. By far, the most consistent spot on the Outer Banks is the Hatteras Lighthouse, which picks up swells from every direction and works on all tides. The lineup is usually filled with a mix of hot locals and newbie tourists just learning to surf, but you can easily escape the crowds by moving up the beach and finding a chunky peak all your own. Autumn is the best time to surf at the Lighthouse, when the water is still warm and big south swells march up the coast.
Outer Banks Vacation Guide

8. Les Cavaliers, Anglet, France
Surfing in France? You bet. Actually waves like Anglet's Les Cavaliers in the South of France boast peeling rights and lefts that would make any Californian surfer salivate. The Basque Country's prime beach break, Les Cavaliers loves the west swells and offshore winds of late summer and fall. When it's on, the break is dominated by a tight crew of locals, but simply walk a little farther down the beach and you're likely to find an uncrowded peak of your own. Rent boards at Rainbow Surf Shop in Anglet.
France Vacation Guide

7. Pavones, Costa Rica
At the southernmost tip of Costa Rica near the surfy little frontier town of Pavones, you'll discover one of the longest left point break waves on the planet. Though it can be fickle, with a solid summertime south swell Pavones switches on and cranks out waves that can provide three-minute-long rides—that's an eternity considering the average ride on a beach-break wave lasts just ten seconds or so. The wave at Pavones starts at the top of the point and rolls through a handful of bowl sections before reeling into a small bay just past the town's main cantina. Making every section is tough, and the lineup is often crowded, but the wave has multiple take-off zones to accommodate everyone from pros to beginners.
Costa Rica Vacation Guide

6. Surfers Point, Margaret River, Australia
Located in a relatively isolated region some three hours south of Perth, the town of Margaret River is the hub of Western Australia's surf culture and home to its crown jewel, Surfers Point. There's almost always a wave to be had at this consistent and powerful left, which can hold waves up to 18 feet. The secret to the spot's wave riches are reliable south swells that roll in from the Roaring Forties year-round (though most often between November and May). If the surf is too big for your taste or skill level, simply paddle out at the Margaret River Mouth, which has mellower rights and lefts breaking over a sandy bottom. Rent boards at Beach Life Surf Shop.
Australia Vacation Guide

Published: 17 May 2012 | Last Updated: 20 Dec 2012
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication
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