Surfers have always been obsessed with looking beyond the edges of the map.
Luckily, the world’s a big place and even after a decade of ravenous exploration, there are still a few coastlines with great waves and sparse crowds left to explore. Of course, many are remote, cold, war-torn or eye-wateringly expensive to get to, but a quick glance at surf history shows that’s never proved too much of a barrier in the past.
Here, we’ll run down seven places that sit just off the beaten track, perfect for the intrepid logger who aint afraid of the odd insect, sandblast or monsoon squall.
When dreaming of a surf trip to the Caribbean, Cuba is unlikely to be the first place that comes to mind. While wave riding boomed in Barbados and the Bahamas throughout the 90s, in Cuba, enforced segregation between tourists and locals, trade embargoes and the fact surfing was technically illegal all conspired to prevent a local community from putting down roots.
In recent years, however, loosening restrictions have made way for the emergence of a passionate first-generation crew, surrounded by 3.5 thousand miles of coastline waiting to be explored. While surf tourism is still in its infancy – with no surf schools or camps just yet – a recent wave of films and stories have seen a few travellers begin to trickle in.
Most trips begin in Havana, where the reefs are sharp, shallow and conditions often messy. But, La Setenta in the Miramar district and La Concha beach both offer fun log waves when the swell is small. Many of the best breaks are rumoured to be located in the southeast of the island, inside the perimeter of the American-run torture facility Guantanamo Bay. As a result, they remain strictly off-limits to all but the military personnel stationed there.
The best longboard wave you can get to breaks in the river mouth at Boca de Yumuri, a tiny town just south of Baracoa. When conditions align, it produces high-quality lefts and rights that spin into a picturesque bay. Beyond that, the south coast extending west from Santiago De Cuba is also said to be full of beautiful, uncrowded potential that lights up like a Christmas tree on the right hurricane swell. Happy hunting!
Just beyond the shores of Robertsport, where white sands sprawl in the shade of giant cottonwood trees, you’ll find some of Africa’s best lefts unfurling down a gently curved point. Up the top is ‘Outside Cottons’, which breaks between rocky outcrops. On the best days, it links up with ‘Inside Cottons’, offering half-a-mile rides complete with barrels and whackable walls. Further down and closest to town is ‘Fishermans’, which provides equally long but more mellow rides, perfect for longboarding.
Liberia remained off most travelling surfers’ radars throughout the 90s due to political upheaval. But after over a decade of bloody civil war finally came to an end in 2003, the country has settled into an era of peace and political stability. Picking up boards left behind by visiting surfers, a burgeoning pack of local shredders has recently emerged. Last year, they completed a successful crowdfunding campaign to establish a community-owned and managed surf club on the point. Now up and running, it offers food, drinks, camping platforms and ding repair. With all that in mind, it might seem like this is a little slice of surfing paradise is about to have its Sri Lanka or Bali moment.
However, there remain a few factors that typically keep crowds at bay. Getting there is tricky and expensive from Europe and North America, malaria is prevalent and the prime surf window coincides with an intense rainy season and a pesky side-shore trade wind. All water off a duck’s back for the hardened surf tripper of course, who’s probably not made it to this paragraph anyway, because they’re already on SkyScanner.
Marooned in the North Atlantic between Norway and Iceland, the Faroes are definitely the coldest, most fickle destination on our list. But, what these 18 jagged islands lack in classic surf spots, they make up for in breathtaking scenery and blissful solitude (but with plenty of Scandi mod-cons if you want them).
Although others had been prior, the Faroes’ surf was unveiled to the world in a film by Ben Weiland and Chris Burkard, who visited with a crew of pros back in 2014. Among them was multi Duct Tape winner Justin Quintal, whose presence ensured that the island’s longboarding potential was expertly explored.
Since then a local scene has blossomed, led by Kali Bærentsen and Andras Vágsheyg. In 2019, they established the Faroe Islands Surf Guide and opened a cabin offering refreshments and hot tub sessions overlooking Streymoy’s main surfing beach– where a right and left wedge break on either side of a bay. The dominant wind blows offshore during winter, making small clean days a regular occurrence. Elsewhere on the islands, there are a few fun beach breaks and rumours of a good, if sketchy, left point, but not much else for longboarders to write home about. All told, it’s cold, wet and rarely pumping. But, there are no crowds and the effort a trip here demands means that when the waves do finally arrive, spirits soar as high as the fulmars overhead.
Papua New Guinea
With over 3000 miles of mainland coast and 600 offshore islands scattered in the South Pacific, Papua New Guinea is unsurprisingly packed with quality surf breaks. The country leapt onto the world longboard stage in 2017 when the remote Ulingan Bay hosted the WSL world championships in classic overhead tubes. However, according to Longboarder Mag editor Sam Bleakley, who’s visited PNG several times for his Brilliant Corners series, the best log waves are actually located 500 miles away in the lush tropical haven of New Ireland (which bares no resemblance to its cousin in the Celtic Sea).
There, small consistent swells roll down a plethora of idyllic reefs, with everything from easy peelers to short intense slabs. For accommodation, Bleakley recommends Rubio Plantation, a cluster of solar-powered beach bungalows, crafted from local materials and nestled harmoniously between the trees.
The zone is a great example of the country’s innovative surf management plan in action, where visitor numbers are limited and all tourist services are run with the local community and ecology in mind. Getting there is unfortunately much harder to do without leaving a big footprint. From Australia, it takes just over a day, while from London it takes around four and can involve up to five separate flights. In short, you’re guaranteed a glorious crowd-free surf experience, but one you might have to apologise to your grandkids for.
Oman is widely heralded among the safest and most beautiful countries in the Middle East. While the coast around the culture-rich capital of Muskat has a few waves, it’s the east-facing frontier that holds the real surfing riches, especially when it comes to longboarding.
Travelling south from Ras Al Hadd, you’ll find reefs and points aplenty, with long mellow waves peeling consistently throughout the summer months thanks to regular wind swells and the odd monsoon-driven groundswell. Joe’s Point is the standout, offering rides of several hundred meters on good days as seen in the clip above. Keep heading south, past the similarly wave-rich Masirah island, and you’ll hit the Empty Quarter, where the pristine roads give way to hundreds of miles of dune-backed coast, which stretch all the way to the border with Yemen. This zone has only been lightly explored by surfers, making it ripe for discovery.
It won’t come easy of course, with the desert terrain only passable by camel or 4X4, searing temps of up to 50C and the sort of non-stop howling winds that make carrying your log anywhere an absolute nightmare. But, even if you’re not going to go, I guess it’s nice to know there’s still something out there for someone else to find.
Situated in Western Melanesia, the Solomon Islands offer up a dream prospect for the surfer cum sea-farer, who fancies the idea of a Pacific surf trip under sail. There are endless setups, abundant sea life and lots of friendly local communities to trade with en route. In 2012 a trio of Breton surfers took on the voyage in a little catamaran and found all kinds of empty, super fun waves. Their exploits are well worth a watch. For those who aren’t a dab hand on the tiller, there are a few places to stay on land too. On the island of Santa Isabel, Paputura offers a range of accommodation within easy reach of various longboard-friendly waves.
here’s Donuts, a long playful right. Blancheys, a series of lefts and PT’s, the local swell magnet, which offers lefts and rights, with a mellow down-the-line take-off when small and hectic shallow tubes when big.
On the other side of the New Georgia Sound you’ll find ‘Skull Island’, home to a collection of human skulls that date back to the days of headhunting when Melanesian chiefs would collect the scalps of their vanquished enemies and put them on display. The tiny coral-rimmed atoll is also home to a pair of excellent rights, including the Solomons’ longest, promising a great day out for history buffs and tube hounds alike.
New Zealand is full of world-class waves in wonderfully wild surroundings. In terms of access, they range from the super easy; roll straight out of your camper and off the point, to the downright arduous, involving multi-hour hikes through boggy farmland. The most remote region is Fiordland, a huge national park situated in the South Island’s southwest corner, hemmed in by the Southern Alps on one side and the Tasman Sea on the other.
There are lots of waves dotted around Jamestown and the aptly named Big Bay, where local surfer Warrick Mitchell has been hosting visiting wave riders in his little coastal cabin since the 90s. Through his outfit Awarua Guides, he’ll show you all his wild homeland has to offer, with surfing, freediving, kayaking and fishing excursions. Since the nearest road is a four-day hike away, you’ll be whisked in on a super-scenic flight from Queenstown. During your stay, you’ll catch fish and gather your food (including giant crayfish and Fiordland venison if you’re lucky) and when conditions align, you’ll surf. There’s a bowly a-frame reef, a hollow right point and a few river mouth sandbar options that all look like they’d be excellent on a log on the right day. A 5-day stay costs about the same as a mid-range Maldives boat trip. But for those dead set on hanging ten right at the edge of the world, there’s no better way to drop a couple gs.