The Ultimate Guide to Surfing in Asia

by Surf Atlas

Surfing in Asia offers all sorts. This is the home of legendary Bali, after all. But beyond the Isle of the Gods come Java’s barrels, Sri Lanka’s bath-warm reefs, and the up-coming surf havens of the Philippines. Check out this guide to learn all about the best surf in Asia and more…

Surfing in Asia

The good

  • Tropical sea means there’s rarely a wetsuit in sight.
  • Cheap prices.
  • Some seriously unforgettable breaks – think Uluwatu and Cloud 9!

The bad

  • Not the best infrastructure.
  • You’ll need to pay attention to the Asian surf season.
  • Pollution can be an issue.

Our in-depth guides to the best places to go surfing in Asia

Coming soon

An introduction to surfing in Asia

Let’s get one thing straight – Asia is huge.

At a whopping 44.58 million square kilometres, it’s the largest continent on the globe. Yes, that means snow-capped mountains and vast tundra. But it also means beaches, and mile upon mile of coastline that’s just waiting to be explored by the budding surfer.

They say it all started here back when American surfers discovered the reliable waves that roll into south Bali back in the early 1900s. They rode the barrels and took some awesome shots, which shifted the spotlight onto the azure seas of Southeast Asia and the surf potential that awaited.

These days, there are more surf spots in Asia than you can shake a peanut satay skewer at. They range from the swell magnets of Uluwatu to Big Wave Bay of Hong Kong to the coconut-peppered sands of Sri Lanka.

There’s such a formidable variety of places to surf in Asia that no one will leave disappointed. You can seek out beginner-friendly breaks that offer mellow whitewash. It’s possible to hit hardcore barrel sections that zip off shallow reefs. You can up your game on A-frames and drop ins.

What’s more, with the focal point of surfing in Asia being in Southeast Asia, you’ll rarely have to reach for the wetsuit. The seas are generally warm. The days are usually in the 30s+. Between sessions on the waves, you’ll be sunning yourself under a palm or sipping a coconut in a hammock.

The best places to surf in Asia

Will it be the uber-famous point breaks of Bali? Will it be the hidden coves of Sri Lanka? Would you prefer the blustery beaches of Vietnam? Or have you come in search of those fabled surf sands in Thailand? This list of the top surf spots in Asia should help you make up your mind…

Bali

Bali surfer

Bali is hallowed ground for surfers. Up there with the likes of Oahu and J-Bay, it’s one of those places that’s considered the crème de la crème of global surf.

The main reason for that is the sheer consistency of the breaks that surround the Bukit Peninsula of the south. They work for much of the year, even when it’s the so-called ‘off’ season. And some of them are simply awesome – Ulu’s, Padang Padang, Bingin – it’s the stuff of surf sensation.

Of course, Kuta is also worth a mention. That’s arguably the finest beginner beach in the world, and many a first-timer has taken their first wave on that long, golden, and downright lively stretch of sand.

Check out our ultimate guide to Bali Surf.

Indonesia

Indonesia surf

Whoever said the waves end at the boundaries of Bali was telling hefty fibs! Yep, the rest of Indonesia has its own treasures for surfers.

Java hosts the likes of G-Land, where cobalt walls of water can hit a whopping eight meters. Then there are the long lost paradises of the Mentawai in West Sumatra, which count literally hundreds of almost totally unknown surf breaks, from reefs to points to beaches

Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka surf

The Teardrop of India is slowly establishing itself as one of the best destinations for surfing in Asia. There are two distinct regions here: The east and the south-west.

The first is the home of Arguam Bay. That should be in the vocab of any surf traveler, thanks to its range of sharp reefs and beach waves. The other area, around Galle and Tangalle in the south, offers all sorts. Beginners have Welgama’s light swells, but experts can hit Ram’s for a real challenge.

Check out our ultimate guide to Sri Lanka surf.

Philippines

Philippines surf

One word: Siargao. This island has almost singlehandedly placed the Philippines on the glaobal surf map in the last couple of years. Blessed with a location that means it faces the power of the Pacific Ocean, it’s got a range of interesting breaks.

Kicking Horse hosts the learners at high tide, while the barrelling reef of Cloud 9 is where the pros go on competition days. You can also chuck a couple of dollars to a local fisherman and they’ll drop the nets to show you some unknown peaks over surrounding coral reefs

Thailand

Thailand surf

Surfing in Thailand? You bet! Okay, so it’s hardly going to be Uluwatu down in the serene waters of the Gulf. But if you hop across to the Andaman coast, there are a few islands that face the Indian Ocean and enjoy all the whitewater and waves that come with it.

Kata Beach and Surin are the places that draw the sunbathers on Phuket. But there’s also Koh Phayam. That’s got an exposed beachfront which can get some good swells.

A guide to the seasons for surfing in Asia

A surf destination in Asia

May-September

The Southern Ocean swells that power the famous names of Bali’s south and south-western coast start pumping in the spring months. That puts sets into Uluwatu, Dreamland, and – of course – the beaches of Kuta. This is prime time to launch a surf expedition to the Isle of the Gods

Meanwhile, Sri Lanka, India, and a lot of the rest of Southeast Asia are plunged into monsoon during the European summer. It’s not a great time to grab the board, with one exception: Arugam Bay (the lone alternative on the eastern shore of Lanka). Locals also prefer surfing in Phuket and Thailand at this time of year.

October to March

The transition to dry weather across the parts of Asia that are in the Northern Hemisphere switches the action to the south-west coast of Sri Lanka. The typhoons that are cooking on the Pacific side of the continent make this the ideal time to go wave hunting in places like Vietnam, Hong Kong, and Taiwan.

In Indonesia, the groundswells that put action across Sumatra and Java are cooling a little. The surfers on Bali are looking to the lesser-known breaks of the east coast where the lineups are always less busy and you’ll find some pretty tricky reefs to challenge yourself on.