Sumatra surf is right on the frontier. In a land that has some of the most famous waves of all, this remains an island of hidden gems and hard-to-find breaks. It’s for the most dedicated strike missions and those who value the chase as well as the prize.
An introduction to Sumatra surf
Shaped like a wavy Kris sword as it juts from the heart of the Indonesian archipelago into the Malacca Strait, Sumatra is one huge beast of an island. In fact, it’s the seventh largest island on the planet, and the third largest in the whole of Indo, beating Java, the most populated of the lot, and Sumbawa, the eastern surf mecca.
Now, anyone who knows Bali knows that size can be deceptive when it comes to quality and quantity of surf – the Isle of the Gods packs some of the world’s finest breaks into just a few hundred clicks of shoreline.
That mantra hardly rings true of Sumatra, though, where the nigh-on 2,000 miles of coastline would be richer than Elon Musk were money made of A-frames and point-break barrels in glistening tropical water. To put it another way: This is a big surf territory and there’s lots to show for it.
What’s undenaiable is that Sumatra remains the most unexplored and untrodden of all the main islands in Indonesia for surfers. Yes, offshore destinations like the Ments and Nias have had – and are still having – their moment in the spotlight. But, for the most part, mother Sumatra is a land of breaks that hardly a soul has heard of. Some don’t even have names, despite having the quality to rival the big players of Ulus, G-Land, and the like.
More generally, we’d say this: Be ready for some hard travel and be sure to time your trip with the dry-season months between May and August if you’re heading to the south zone, or the off-season (November-March) if you’re going to North Sumatra. A willing attitude and a good travel plan can reward with some of the most epic breaks you’ll ever surf, ridiculous quality in the water, and – here’s the kicker – empty line ups.
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This guide is just one part of our complete guide to surfing in Indonesia
Surfing in Sumatra at a glance
What’s in this guide to Sumatra surf?
Where is Sumatra?
Sumatra is HUGE. It marks the westernmost point of Indonesia where it buts up to the Strait of Malacca and the end of the Malay Peninsula at one end and comes pretty close to the urban sprawl of Jakarta – the capital – on its eastern end.
Importantly for surfers, the Indian Ocean dominates to the southwest of the island, hitting more than 1,000 miles of its ocean-facing coast with those clean, powerful, reliable dry-season SW swells from May to November time. That’s what makes this one such a doozy!
How to get to Sumatra?
That all depends on what part of Sumatra you want to surf in. As you’ll see in the spot guide below, there are essentially two options: North and South.
The North might be further from Jakarta but it’s generally okay to access, mainly because it’s a known option for the Indo wet season. You can fly right onto the doorstep of the surf territory there by taking a plane straight to Banda Aceh Airport. That connects by road to the major surf towns of the region that string along the coast to the east and south – Meulaboh and beyond.
There are now flights across to the South Sumatra region from Java straight to Bandar Lampung. After that, it’s usually a hefty transfer of between 8-11 hours to the main beaches and points. But it’s worth it becuase this region has some serious quality and some of the emptier line ups on Sumatra.
Sumatra surf spots
Sumatra is so darn massive that it’s always best to divide it up for surf guiding. Most people talk of two main regions: North Sumatra, largely centered around Indo’s westernmost province of Aceh, and South Sumatra, a remote land of jungled mountains that’s largely anchored on the upcoming surf haven of Krui.
(Note: Some people include the Mentawais as part of Sumatra. We don’t. Not only are they way too epic as destinations in their own right that they need surf guides of their own, but they’re not part of their own province, the Mentawai Islands Regency.)
North Sumatra (Aceh)
The province of Aceh is the westernmost end of Indo. That’s enough to put it into a whole different monsoon zone. That, in turn, is enough to shift the prime season from the traditional dry season (March-October) to the rainy season (November-March). Yep, this region pumps when it’s pissing down in Bali, and gets solid S swells with NE storm winds that are really the cherry on top, helping shape up the lovely point breaks that work around Lhoknga (the island’s de facto surf hub) and beyond.
There are two right-hand reef breaks that work on the west-facing headlands of Breueh island. Blangujung Rights are okay but they are a bit fickle and section out. The same goes for Lambaro but there are occasions when they’ll link up from point to beach offering epic thigh-burners of like 800 meters. Boats run from the ports in Banda Aceh but it’s probably best to go on a planned surf trip for direct access to the breaks.
There’s one reason why you might want to skip Breueh in favor of the closer islnad of Nasih: Lam Tadoh. This is one of those left handers you’d write home about if you caught it on the right day. Big S swells can make it across the face of the main bay here and start to bend inwards, offering sectiony runs of hollow then shelving waves for good intermeidate+ goofies to rip.
Lampuuk Beach is the main beach of Lampuuk town, which has risen to become the accepted first pitstop for anyone cruising the west-coast of North Sumatra. It’s a nice place with all the regular bungalows fringing the white-tinged shoreline. As far as surf goes, there’s the long beach itself, which is the region’s beginner mainstay for its cruisy little bumps of waves.
Then there’s the left that bends around the breakwater at the south end of the bay. Again, it’s cruisier than a P&O ferry but great for longboarers looking to hang em.
Little Lhoknga is now the hub of the surf scene. It’s not really got any breaks that stand out but it’s the anchor of the new west coast road and that means everything – a little like what Kuta Lombok is to Lombok, only 40 years ago! There are some waves to catch on the stunning white-sand beaches at Lhok Nga, but it’s mainly beachbreak mush, though it can hold okay in 5 foot with an offshore.
You might also hear people talking about the local A-frame. It works but rarely. Look to the opening of the river mouth on the north side of Lhonkga Beach. The spot can look lovely on days with over 6 foot, and even hollows out on the bigger sets.
Wedged between the concrete jetties that serve the – you guessed it! – local cement factory, this one can churn out well-groomed rights that are hollowish and fast when there’s a touch of W in the swell and a nice E trade wind blowing through. Rarely busy but the water quality has been questioned.
Pantai Leupung is one of the longest beaches in the newly established Aceh surf zone. We’d sum it up as: Consistent but lacks quality. There’s almost always a wave here, wether it’s dry-season mush as the onshores are blowing or a more groomed right hander wedge that peaks in the wet season (that’s probably the best you can hope for). In any case, it’s a nice place to surf, sheltered by a series of misty coast mountains to the north.
If you’ve made it as far as Babah Nipah then you’ve come quite far down the stretch of coastline that made this region famous, passing umpteen point breaks that don’t have names yet as you go. We mention this becuase there are some great rights off the rivermouth, even if they are very shifty and the water is murky as hell. Keep going south and the beaches get longer and emptier, with loads of beach break peaks that work well. That is, until you reach the swell shadow cast by Simeulue and the Ments!
For us, South Sumatra is the superior of the two surf zone here. It sucks up the cleaner, punchier SW dry-season swell. It’s got stunning beaches. And it’s got waves that can cater to all levels. It sorta’ reminds us of a slightly larger Lombok back in the day, before the crowds came. Krui is likely to be your base. From there, there’s over 60 miles of fine surf territory to get through, with some epic barreling waves as the aces in the pack.(
Ujung Bocur is a monsterous point break that mimics the outer bombies of better-known Indonesian spots like G-Land just a little. Thanks to its location on the far southeastern side of Sumatra, it gets basically all and any swell that pushes through in the S channel and it shows, though the spot needs at least 6 foot to work properly and will close to nothing at 20 foot.
Starting on a shallow patch of reef as the island turns into the bay south of Krui, the wave begins very steep and fast, demanding a ferocious bottom turn to bring you onto the face, which tends to stay rather shelfy for nice rips. Some rides here can go 100, 150 meters without stopping, through semi-hollow sections and with loads of carving opportunities along the way.
It’s experts only, naturally.
You’ll learn to love Mandiri Beach when you surf in South Sumatra. Trust us. One day it will be a pounding closeout. The next it’s you swell-giveing gift, working on days when other breaks in the region simply aren’t happening.
This exposed run of sand shines when the period shortens to <9 seconds because the sandbanks are narrower than on some Indo beaches. That will help them hold at various points and give more wedgy waves with short right and left rides on both sides.
We like the top end of the beach because there’s always fewer people there. But there’s a rumor that the middle of the beach gets the better sandbanks and wedges. Dawnies are the way to go here to catch it with zero wind.
Krui is now the capital of surf in the South Sumatra region. It’s riddled with surf camps, rentals, and homestays. First off, let’s say this: The town is mainly good because it’s the gateway to about 60 miles of very surf-rich shoreline, which you’ll invariabily travel in a) a surf-camp rental van or b) on your own scooter with board mounts. Both are fun.
Krui has its own waves, though. The left is particularly good. It’s semi-hollow and very fast, going left over a shallow reef and finishing on a tight tapering wall that invites airs. Main Pantai Krui beach has some quality A-frame spots too, which are consistent and good for all levels.
We have a complete guide to surfing in Krui right here (coming soon)
Simeulue’s surf scene revolves around a handful of key breaks that can actually cater to a whole varitety of skill levels.
One standout is Dylan’s Right, an exceptional right-hander that works best during the dry season (April to October). With its fast, barreling sections, this break is suited for experienced surfers only. That’s sometimes matched by the solid almond barrels of Thailands and Teabags. Improvers can also jet over to find mellow beachies like Alus Left.
The main headline really is that Simeulue is now linked to the mainland of Sumatra by direct daily flights out of Medan. It’s easier to reach than ever before.
We have a separate guide that’s all about surfing in Simeulue (coming soon)
Nias is the other of the large barrier islands that peppers the Indian Ocean east of Sumatra. It’s perhaps not as popular as the Ments, though there are breaks here that are starting to get crowded, though the quality is almost (keyword: almost) just as good.
Most people will hover around the cool surfer enclave of Lagundri, which has a fantastic right point break. More experienced surfers can venture to the upcoming camps that exist on the outer Hinako islands, which really shine when the dry season swells pulse through. God they’re good.
We have a complete guide to surfing in Nias right here
The Mentawai’s aren’t actually a part of Sumatra. I mean, they kinda’ are, since most people will begin thier trip to these legendary islands on Sumatra itself and it’s the closest major island. But they’re actually a separate province and region in Indo.
They’ve risen to become one of the world’s most celebrated surf havens in the last 10 years or so. We’re talking clean, barrelling beauties from Playgrounds in the north to the emptier breaks of Hollow Trees etc in the south.
If you’re putting together a surf charter or want some of the most consistent dry-season swells in Asia, this one won’t dissapoint. It’s got loads of great surf camps and some seriously epic waves.
We have a complete guide to surfing in the Mentawai islands right here
Surf camps in Sumatra
The difficulty of getting around Sumatra coupled with the realtively spread-out and unknown nature of the breaks here means that we reccomend a surf camp nine times out of ten. The good news is that the island has some fantastic options on its islands, in Krui (for the south and dry-season surfing), and along the Aceh (for north and wet-season surfing).
The following would be our top picks…
- Krui Surfing [South Sumatra] – All levels should consider this if they are aiming to surf the breaks of Krui in the dry season. The lodge is one of the longest-running surf camps in Sumatra, offering basic board and lodging for a value price of just $800 or so for 10 days. They can help you plan additional surf guiding and rental on top. The pad itself is stun – think classic Indo bungalow vibes with a pool next to the ocean.
- Sozinhos Surf Lodge [the island option] – The 8-day package at Sozinhos Surf Lodge is great for more advanced riders who want to experience the joys of the outer barrier island off the coast of Sumatra. It’s packed full of surfing – like morning to night stuff – and takes you to the epic reef breaks of Asu Island in the Hinako chain.
Where to stay when surfing in Sumatra?
A better option for some will be a hotel that’s near the breaks here. Most of the best of them are in and around Krui, in South Sumatra.
If you want to book something yourself and travel from break to break then that’s the region we’d focus on, not just because of the accom, but also because the roads are better.
The other choice would be Simeulue, which is similar but probably a touch less accessible. That said, it’s definitely better if you want secluded surf hotels with a touch of luxury about them!
Top hotel recs would include…
- Simeulue Surflodges – A SPECTACULAR option for surf travelers that puts you right on the famous right of Dylan’s and at one end of a long coastline of seriously epic, surprisingly empty waves. There’s a pool overlooking the Indian Ocean and rooms channel a rustic vibe as they spill onto the soft sands between the sea grape trees. Paradise.
- Cabana Surf and Stay – A fun guesthouse right on the edge of mighty Ujung Bocur, the beasty reef break that really put South Sumatra on the map. Rooms are clean and very spacious. There’s also on-site board storage.
Step-by-step guide to planning your Sumatra surf trip right now
Step one: Book flights to the Sumatra surf…Lately, we like Omio for searching flights. It’s a nice interface and has lots of airline options. We also use Skyscanner because that sometimes offers deals that even beat going direct to the carrier!
Step two: Book your surf camp Book Surf Camps is the numero uno online booking platform for fully-fledged surf-stay packages on the internet right now. Then there’s Booking.com. That has consistently unbeatable rates for hotels and a nifty map feature that lets you check EXACTLY how close your hotel is to a surf break.
Step three: Get insuranceThis is kinda’ important. Not just for surf trips but for any trips. SafetyWing is great for nomad travelers. They offer rolling contracts that cover amateur surfing.
Step four (optional): Rent a car If you’re surf camping then you might not need wheels. If you’re not then we’ll just say this: We’ve never been on a surf trip that wasn’t improved by having our own car. Use RentalCars – they’re the best.
Step five: Enjoy!
When to surf in Sumatra (north and south)?
The ideal time to surf in South Sumatra is during the dry season, which runs from April to October. During this period, the region experiences consistent swells, lower wind speeds, and generally favorable weather conditions.
The peak-peak months for surfing are typically June to August when the swell is at its strongest and usually hits from that prime SW angle. It is worth noting that some of the most popular breaks can be crowded during these peak months, so consider coming on either end of the season to dodge the big crowds.
North Sumatra, for its part, is actually renowned as one of the best regions in Indo for low-season surfing. From of North Simeulue all around the northwestern end of the island, you can get very good coverage from S swells and SE swells, and the N and E monsoon winds are often offshore at key spots. It’s now hailed as argubaly the best place for hitting low-season surf in the country.