As coldwater surfers, we thrive on the best of our surf season in fall and winter months. As passionate as we are about those frigid sessions when the waves are pumping, even the most dedicated coldwater surfer sometimes craves a tropical wave and those long sessions in boardshorts. I mean, there’s nothing wrong with wanting that! The best part is that you don't have to fly to the far corners of the globe to find that. There are many great waves in places within a short flight from any major North American hub to offer you that well deserved winter escape. To make it easier for you to get away from the cold this winter, we put together a short list of some of our favourites spots to catch that perfect wave you’re always daydreaming about.
Whether you are in the Pacific coast or the Caribbean coast, you can find perfect waves everywhere in Costa Rica. It’s also only about a four hour flight away from major North American airports. Surf towns like Nosara, Santa Teresa and Jaco — to name a few — are all filled with surf shops offering lessons, board rentals and local wave reports to make your surfing trip there easy. The friendly and welcoming mix of locals, expats and travellers makes it for a very safe and enjoyable surf trip with friends or on your own. The country itself is filled with tons of jungle / cloud forests, waterfalls, volcanoes and an extensive variety of wildlife to keep you entertained when you’re feeling surfed out. Costa Rica is a very popular surf destination amongst travellers, so you can expect to make some friends when you’re out having your post surf cervezas and eating your casados with extra Lizano salsa. And if you like to get your party on, don't miss the weekly reggae night wherever you end up!
Nicaragua, which neighbours Costa Rica, also offers world class waves on the Pacific as well as the Caribbean coasts. The Pacific Coast gets pounded by long range swells on a regular basis. The Southern part of the country gets offshore winds most of the time due to the geographical position of Lakes Xolotlán and Cocibolca. It is also less than a four hour flight from Toronto or NYC, it is filled with the same sorts of excursions and wildlife as Costa Rica, and has lots of chill spots to have a beer and nap on a hammock after surfing. So why go here instead of Costa Rica? Well, because it's much more affordable and way less busy. The southern region along the Pacific is a bit busier than the Northern part, but still far from being crowded. If you go anywhere other than San Juan Del Sur, you will most likely find yourself surfing empty waves. Nicaragua is where Costa Rica was a many years ago before it became a very well known surfing destination. This means you’ll get a more authentic, untouched, low key surfing trip experience.
A lot of us in North America dream about leaving the cold winter months for a Caribbean-style vacation with white sand beaches and turquoise waters. Did you know that Barbados offers all of that classic Caribbean-style vacation appeal with world-class surfing? There you will find a variety of waves for every skill level. Its geographical location at the southeastern most point of the Caribbean islands chain, makes its coastline ideal for Southern and Northerns swells in the Atlantic Ocean. The island is fairly small and you can always find a wave there. With endless old sugarcane roads that cut through the entire island, getting from one break to another is quick and always an adventure. Barbados is a British colony and with English as its main language, you don't need to know a second language to mingle with the friendly locals in and out of the water. Being only a five hour flight away from most North American airports, it makes it for an ideal quick fix surf destination. While the western coast is filled with high-end resorts, the parishes of Christ Church and Saint John offer a much more laid back and authentic experience with plenty of waves to choose from depending on the swell direction.
Portugal is about a six hour flight from North America, so although not the closest spot on the list — well worth the extra trek. While Ericeira, Peniche and Nazaré put the country on the global surf map, the regions of Alentejo and the Algarve have numerous off-the-beaten path waves. Pair empty lineups with the vibe of quintessential small European surf towns like Odeceixe, Aljezur and Arrifana, the country offers a surfing experience like no other. Although Portugal is located in Europe, the country is a lot more affordable than places like Spain and France. You can get amazing seafood, Portuguese chicken and some of the best wines in Europe for a few Euros pretty much anywhere you go. Language can be an issue there as most people only speak Portuguese — especially in the more remote towns. If you know Spanish, you can get by with your own version of Portunhol but don't expect to be able to speak English in most places.
Again, this place is not the closest surf spot on our list, however Peru is just a slightly longer flight than Costa Rica, Nicaragua and Barbados, and well worth it. The country is considered by many as the birthplace of surfing, and it offers endless point breaks everywhere. You can start your trip in Lima where you get to surf a variety of beach and point breaks within a short distance from the hustle and bustle of one of the most exciting cities in South America. When going there we highly recommend flying north to Trujillo and spending a few days in Huanchaco. There you can learn to ride a Caballito de Totora, and experience a proper Peruvian surf town. Huanchaco is also an official stop in the longboarding world tour. A surf trip to Peru isn't complete without a stop in Chicama. With its sheltered bays, Chicama is home to one of the longest surfable left-hand point break in the world. The wave is absolutely perfect for surfers of all levels, providing any surfer a consistent, slow and perfect wave to carefully practice their turns and to progress their abilities. We have been going there for the past few years and have established a solid relationship with the locals. If you’re interested in going on the surf trip of your life, there are still a few spots left for our surf camp in April of 2020.
So, if you feel like you need a quick breather from the North American winter, you have a few options to start researching that perfect spot for you. We all love coldwater surfing, but it’s always nice to soak up some sun, paddle out in boardies or bikinis, and have a week or two of consistent ocean waves. All you need to do is find a the ideal surf spot that’s a short flight away, and enjoy the waves.
Antonio is an ISA-certified surf coach, movement teacher and community builder. He was born and raised in Brazil and graduated from OCAD University with a degree in Graphic Design. Antonio is the founder and CEO of Surf the Greats. Find him on Instagram.