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The Wave - Around the World in 80 Waves (61-80)

Around the World in 80 Waves #61 Raglan, New Zealand : Three honey-sweet and celebrated rocky left points from Indicators, to Whale Bay to Manu Bay. Arguably the centerpiece surf break on New Zealand’s wave-rich 4,600 miles of breathtaking coastline. Manu Bay is the magnet, demanding a deep-in-the-pocket approach, quick thinking and graceful drawn-out turns to speed over and under sections. The paddle can be an arm-ache against the current. The season is from March to October for south swells and southeast winds. Northwest cyclone swells are possible in the summertime between December and March. All tides break from 2-8 ft. In 2003 Manu Bay hosted the ASP World Longboard Championships, won by Australian Beau Young in overhead, spectacular slingshot waves.

#62 Rainbow Bay, Australia : Spinning, spine-tingling sand-bottom right, best at low tide. This is the retro-board vault along the effervescent Superbank on Queensland’s Gold Coast. It breaks during both a Coral Sea cyclone between December and March, and overhead wintertime swells from May and August when humpback whales migrate along the coast. The Superbank was formed by the Tweed River Sand Bypass, which pumps the clogged rivermouth into Rainbow and Coolangatta Bays. The Snapper Rocks-Rainbow-Greenmount link-up can provide some of the most scintillating waves on the planet. Rainbow (or Little Mali) is the retro-board habitat, with smooth-faced, tapering rides, and a sheltered family-friendly beach.

#63 Ribeira d’IIhas, Portugal (photo : Nicky Kelly) : Versatile and consistent right reef point, sometimes lining up, sometimes peaking into a series of walls, always fun, just north of Ericeria. Ribeira is a carvers paradise. It can handle wind, size and crowds. Even small swells are great fun here. When it connects it can be a wonderful 100 metres long ride, feeling like Bells Beach, grinding all the way from the Pontinha outside section to the beach. It breaks all year, all tides, but is best on a northwest swell and east wind at 2-8 ft. The lack of a continental shelf offshore accentuates the power of the Atlantic swell. There is an atmospheric café in the car park and a chilled local scene.

#64 Rincon, USA : The slickest, most elegant wintertime right pointbreak in California, peeling down Santa Barbara for 300 metres, known as the ‘Queen of the Coast’. Three sections connect, but divide the line-up: The Indicator, a thick-lipped, open-faced ride for local royalty, and 100 metres of blue carpet. Next comes The Rivermouth (Second Point), curling over for 50 metres with fast tubes. Finally, The Cove (First Point) is a mind-blowing, but crowded, long ride, reeling for 200 metres. At high tide Second and First point can connect into an experience that all other point rides around the world are measured by. Rincon is best from September to March on northwest swells at low tides and from 2-6 ft. The view of a wrapping set from Highway 101 is enough to cause a heart attack!

#65 Riyue Wan, Hainan, China : Snaking, surprisingly consistent 100 metres long left point reef in Wanning, Hainan. When the northeast monsoon blows from October to April the South China Sea comes alive, turning from bright green to a cool steel colour. The rough, short-fetch surf is combed out along the rocky point and headland at Riyue Wan (Mandarin for ‘Sun Moon Bay’), where sets are brushed up offshore by the same wind. Low tide is prime, breaking even at 1-3 ft. At shoulder high the take-off sucks on a boil rock, has a ramp (sometimes hollow) section, then a tapering lip to glide, before a deep water fade out. Annual ISA and WSL contests are now a regular fixture here, injecting new energy into the once isolated local community.

#66 Robertsport, Liberia (photo : JS Callahan surfEXPLORE) : Dazzling left point playground, careening through five sand-bottom sections, forming West Africa’s finest set-up. Bushmans and Loco are the biggest two outside points, with thick and wally open faces to carve-up. Cassava and Cotton Trees race for 100 metres long, never cutting back. Fishermans is a super small spinner for retro-board aficionados. Robertsport breaks between May and September against a backdrop of towering 200-year-old cotton silk trees. Craig Peterson and Kevin Naughton documented this fishing village in the ‘70s, then a civil war made surfing here impossible. In 2006, after the war ended, John Callahan led a surfEXPLORE trip, camping on the beach. The same month, Californians Nicholai Lidow and Britton Caillouette shot Sliding Liberia (2007), capturing how surf tourism now offers a ray of hope for locals like Alfred Lomax, following the trauma of war.

#67 Rodiles, Spain (photo : Willy Uribe) : Classy rivermouth sand-bottom left in Asturias, way more friendly than the fierce lips and walls of Mundaka. Rodiles is set like a crowning jewel in a surrounding Nature Reserve filled with eucalyptus and pine trees. Locals dominate, so a humble approach is essential. Sections snap at your heels, demanding dance - flaming moves, passionate speed runs and boards smacking the water like clacking castanets. Northwest swells and south winds are possible anytime between November and March. Rodiles is usually flat throughout the summer months, and needs a 3-4 ft swell to heat up. Asturias offers traditional culture and shelving beach breaks that unload with power while the architecture and landscape are some of the most beautiful in Europe.

#68 San Mateo, Ecuador (photo : Ricardo Nuñez) : Ruler-edge left pointbreak, and once reputed to be the second longest wave in South America after Chicama in Peru (before being devastatingly shortened by a recent breakwall construction!!!). San Mateo, however, is still exceptional, and an easy blue-green canvas for the full performance repertoire of tubes, carves, bottom turns and driving sections. From Manta take the road west getting a glimpse of the sheer scale of the wave (even post breakwall). Walk through the fishing village to the point, and be prepared for the disconcerting number of sharks caught a mile or two offshore (but don’t worry as surfers have ridden this spot for many decades without any disasters, although economically fishing here is clearly more important than surfing, hence the recent breakwall). It works all year, on north swells between October to March, and south swells from March to October. Low to mid tide at shoulder to head high is incredible. No crowds, thigh burners and a tiring paddle guaranteed.

#69 San Onofre State Park, USA : Kelp-groomed, cobble bottom series of iconic peelers in San Clemente, rolling mostly right (but also left, then right again) all the way to the rocky shoreline. Trestles, Church, Surf Beach and Trails remain a beating heart of Southern Californian surf culture, and receive 2.5 million visitors a year. The high performance shortboard epicentre is the super-consistent Trestles, inaccessible by vehicle, but accessed via a long walk through the nature trail from either the north or south end passing under the Trestles Bridge. Located near the Camp Pendleton Beach Resort, Church refers to the long-gone chapel once near the spot. Surf Beach is divided into The Point, Old Man’s and Dogpatch, presenting a trio of historic easy-to-ride waves. The carpark scene is classic and possibly the friendliest place to rock-up in the surf-world. This is where you see old salts like Mickey Munoz, noseriding legend David Nuuihwa, multiple ASP/WSL World Longboard Champion Colin McPhillips, and the gregarious Baxter family (father son Jackie and Josh have been ‘60s and ’90s longboard heroes). Trails is the most southern spot with a camp pitch to match. Summer south swells break from May to August, sometimes combed to perfection by searing Santa Ana offshore winds. Go before dawn to beat the lines to park. San Onofre State Beach is the site of 8,000 year-old Panhe, a California Indian village of the Acjachemen people. Here was the meeting point between Spanish explorers, Catholic missionaries and the Acjachemen Indians, shaping the future of the region. Today in captures a strange fusion of surfing, leisure, military and energy interests. In 1952 San Onofre Surfing Club was formed purely to keep access alive when the Marines took so much of the nearby land in the formation of Camp Pendleton. San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station was built in 1968 and access to all the surf breaks was solidified by the California State Parks system in the early 1970s. The wave is so easy to ride that many learn here and there is a hard core of older locals who simply want a mellow time cruising on the roiling peaks. In the busy, family orientated line-up eight-year-old girls share rides with eighty-year-old grandmothers. Once when I was surfing here a huge explosion went off at Camp Pendleton, and one regular commented: “That’s the sound of freedom for ya!”

#70 Santa Catalina, Panama (photo : Philippe Chevodian) : Super popular, picture-postcard Pacific point reef, with consistent, long, open-faced rights and short lefts, working in all conditions and all sizes. Exposed to southern hemisphere groundswells, and all-day offshores in the dry season from December to April. The left fades out at high tide, while the right (La Punta) drives at speed with a number of take-off spots to step on the gas and move through the gears. The variety of take off zones help spread the crowd (slightly). Beware: low tide is a Panamanian rock dance - there is a massive five metres range, so study the chart. High tide is best. An offshore trench focalises deepwater south and north swells, making Santa Catalina an all-year spot, and hot surf travel hangout. North wind is offshore, but it gets strong in the afternoons.

#71 Sao Pedro do Estoril, Portugal : Swanky, but elusive right pointbreak, spinning for 150 metres in a classy boulevard lined part of Lisbon. When it breaks, this is Portugal’s longboard trump card. It requires a big southwest swell, northeast wind and a low tide. Combine those elements and the result is an open-faced, super long Australian-style reeler for glide, slide and noseride. An excellent nearby wedging right reef (Bafureira) works on smaller swells and high tides. The season is September to March, and Sao Pedro hosts an annual European Tour of Longboard event, where British powerhouse Ben Skinner has proven mastery, claiming a handful of European titles in stellar form. There’s an onsite café and bakery for fresh cakes and a rich bica espresso. Boa noite.


#72 Scorpion Bay, Mexico : Iconic seven right point set-up in the San Juanico Bay, breaking on big south swells, and known to reel for two miles. THE holy grail of pointbreaks along Mexico’s 6,000 miles of coastline. It’s inconsistent, and expensive to pitch at the campground in front of the favoured Second Point. Feral campers (and some in luxury vans) go mad waiting for waves. Not surprising: it’s barren, dusty and of course there are scorpions. When small, it’s shallow and sharp. At waist high, a flat-rockered board with a neat trim line works wonders. At chest high, this is one of the best right points on the planet, well worth the wait (or the long drive from California). It’s always biggest outside at Punta Pequena, yet most exposed to afternoon onshores.

#73 Shipwrecks Bay, New Zealand (photo : Tom Shand) : Fantastic wild and grey-green series of left pointbreaks and reefs with wide-open walls, hollow pockets and radical speed sections, catering for every level, and a contender for one of the best left points in the southern hemisphere. Situated at the southern end of Ninety Mile Beach, Ahipara is home to eight lefts (collectively ‘Shipwrecks Bay’), including Pines, Supertubes, Mukie 1 and 2, Peaks and Wreck Bay. The last point, closest to the carpark is a fantastic sand and rock bottom peeler. It works all tides, and the sight of a twelve-wave set stacking up here is unique. Southwest swells from the Roaring Forties can strike all year. Northeast swells are possible in the November to March cyclone season. Devon Howard and company score very nicely in Thomas Campbell’s The Present (2009). Enjoy.

#74 St Leu, Reunion (photo : Greg Uwing) : Gorgeous wrapping coral reef, bowling a full 90 degrees, unpeeling left for hundreds of metres, and working on southwest Indian Ocean groundswells. Lively, dangerously sharky, and extremely shallow. Currently the future of surfing in Reunion is overshadowed by a spate of fatal shark attacks on both swimmers and surfers. The government have completely banned surfing outside of the island’s lagoon (beginning in 2013), imposing fines on anyone caught. This coincided with a massive operation to cull tiger and bull shark populations (that have apparently exploded in recent decades, perhaps due to fishing regulations). The government is perplexed as to how to find a solution to the management of Reunion’s delicate marine ecology that will reduce shark populations and welcome surf travellers and beach tourists. If restrictions are lifted, St Leu is one of the best waves on the planet. On an overhead swell when the bowl sections links up, the oval tubes are spacious, and it’s a rousing long ride, forming a picture-postcard blue-water line-up. Southwest ground swell from the Roaring Forties hits during the Southern Hemisphere winter, when offshore southeast trade winds blow. St Leu is best from mid to high tide. The spectacular scenery and waves on this French governed island have helped define ‘exotic’. Skirting a coast of lagoons, palms, filoaos and tamarind trees is some of the most consistently good surf in the Indian Ocean, especially on the west coast between April and November. Water colour here is a benchmark for ‘aquamarine’, with fast and shallow left reef passes sculpted by rivers flowing over long hardened outpourings from the imposing active volcanoes and cirques (sunken mountains) of Piton des Neiges and Piton Fournaise. Reunion is a distinctive mix of the descendants of African slaves, Indian indentured servants (who worked the coffee plantations), Chinese entrepreneurs and the original French colonialists, nicknamed Zoreilles (ears), because they could not understand their slaves. The overall feel is one of a Caribbean French Creole culture in the Indian Ocean. Food is flavoured with locally grown vanilla, adding zest to fruit punch and crème sauce. Chambre d'hotes (family run bed and breakfasts) will cost 50 Euros per night. Cheap local buses called car jaune (yellow coaches) ply the main routes, circling the littoral coast and crossing the interior near the island's major tourist sites: the volcanoes and the cirques.

#75 T-Land / Nemberala, Indonesia (photo : t-landresort) : Cracking left reefbreak on Rote island, southwest Timor, tumbling along in cadence for 300 metres with a teasing Indian Ocean curl. It looks like G-Land, (coining the nickname ‘T-Land’), but Nemberala is way more accessible for intermediate level surfers. Yet it definitely gets the blood rushing, with four high speed open-faced sections that snap at the back and force you to step on the gas. Rail-grabbing is demanded. This area is quite tidal (best on the push from low) due to the funnel affect between Australia and Indonesia. There are numerous, fairly easy take off spots, helping to spread the crowds. April to October is prime for 3-5 ft southwest swells. 10 degrees south of the equator, the area suffers from a nasty southeast wind between June to August (compared to Bali, at 8 degrees south, receiving almost no wind). Good timing is crucial, and there are a variety of tasty rights in the neighbourhood.

#76 Thurso East, UK : Thick and inky right hand reefbreak in northern Scotland, with a steep takeoff, followed by a wide-open slab section and speeding shoulder. Wait your turn, take off early, drop in and line up for a blue-black barrel. Northwest swells are needed, possible all year, and south wind is best. Icy river water brings the sea temperature down, but Scotland can be surprisingly mild and balmy in the autumn. In 1970 Bill Batten attended a wedding in Armadale, further north than any of the Scottish surf scene had been at the time. He found great waves on the north shore and rode the right hand rivermouth at Torrisdale and smaller conditions in Farr Bay at Bettyhill. Batten didn’t find Thurso, but paved the way. In 1973 an adventurous New Zealand surf-traveller called Bob Treeby explored Caithness and Sutherland counties. Treeby documented his discovery of world-class reef and point breaks with “On the north shore in the midnight sun” in Surf Insight, published in Newquay in the summer of 1973. Pictures of great waves at Brimms Ness (Nordic for “Surf Point”) Balnakeil Bay and Thurso Bay inspired many Scottish surfers about what a treasure trove they possessed just beyond the North West Highlands. Treeby wrote of the “the huge ground swells…out of deep water (there being almost no continental shelf off this coast)…the folding greenery of mountain slopes that melt into white sand and blue sea, all of which have so far been spared the hand of man…Here one will find uncrowded waves and beaches in some of the most fantastic scenery the British Isles has to offer, the only requirement being a sense of adventure and an OS map.”

#77 Tofinho, Mozambique (photo : Garth Robinson) : Blistering clear-water right pointbreak, with a tight sucking takeoff, and a fast hollow wall. This is a demanding ride, but you can paddle in early and measure up for wide speedy sections that make the heart race. Watch out for the sharp reef. OUCH!!! Praia Tofo is a fun peaky beachbreak in the bay nearby if the reef is too gnarly. The season is April to September when Tofinho is a swell magnet for surf from the south and southeast. It breaks at 2-6 ft, best in north to northeast winds. A summertime cyclone from the northeast can produce incredible wrap speed rides at Dino’s Left opposite Tofinho. Mozambique is one the GREAT African adventure destinations, guaranteed to deliver the journey of a lifetime.

#78 Unstadt, Norway (photo : Yassine Ouhilal) : Frigid, thick-water left and right point combo trapped by jaw-dropping 800 metres-high fjord landscape. Situated in Lofoten, northern Norway, this is a wonderland of big, wailing, sometimes hollow rights, and longer, shallower crisp lefts. With rocks, barrel sections and cold to contend with, Unstad is for the hardcore traveller. The open faced right is offshore in easterly winds and favours a west swell. The quicker left needs a southwest swell to spin a yarn. An easy beachbreak between both points has a surf camp and school. Due to the northern location, wintertime is a no-go for a surf trip: zero light, and sub-freezing temperatures. April to September is best, and swell is consistently 2-6 ft from both the southwest and northwest.


#79 Wolves Wedding / Ain Barbar, Algeria (photo : JS Callahan / surfEXPLORE) : Mediterranean masterpiece, plummeting left down-the-line for 200 metres in silvery water. The rocky outside reforms into an easy take-off, then a fast, ledging open face. Kick out before the inside cliff. Set in an ancient Berber fishing village, and framed by an abandoned mine shaft and pine forest. Optimum north facing exposure to mistral swells between November and March. Favours a south wind, breaking all-tide between 3-6 ft. Mistral weather fronts produce spectacular rainbows. In Berber mythology the rainbow signifies ‘the wedding of the wolf’, so the surfEXPLORE crew (led by photographer John Callahan) called this spot ‘Wolves Wedding’ when they first documented the wave in 2009. The name has stuck with the nascent local crew in nearby Annaba who now ride the wave a handful of times per year. When you see a big southwest depression heading towards northwest Europe, it normally activates the mistral. The mistral is a strong northwest katabatic wind. It cools above the Massif Central mountains of France, funnelling down the Rhone Valley, speeding up before it touches the Gulf of Lyon. Once it hits the Mediterranean, it sends surprisingly powerful, but short-lived (one to three days) swell south, usually between November and March. The simple rule is: where the wind hits, so does the surf. Mediterranean north Africa has good exposure to mistral swell. Day one is usually messy, day two and three clean up, and day four will probably be flat. Savour the experience at the elusive wedding of the wolf.

#80 Zunzal, El Salvador : Incredible and super-consistent, foiled right pointbreak, five miles west of La Libertad, and on it’s day, peeling longer than Punta Roca. Zunzal is a swell magnet, with a beachbreak to the east of the main outside peak called La Punta, where rights jack up and reel off. When a 4-8 ft south swell hits between May and September, cutback or re-entry combinations are limitless. Low tide is best and a north or northeast wind. Zunzal breaks even when small, picking up both northern and southern hemisphere Pacific groundswells. In the November to April dry season, the offshores hold up the face for weightless, hovering rides, and one of the best waves in Central America.
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