World-class surfers reveal their favourite places to catch the perfect wave
When your job is to find and ride the sickest waves on the planet, you undoubtedly come across a few standouts that you want to keep to yourself. But these seven pro surfers were amazingly forthcoming about their favourite breaks – maybe because they know that they are not easy to get to. You will have to be pretty adventurous to follow in their footsteps.
* Related article: In search of the perfect wave in Indonesia
From the world's most rippable waves to the best barrels and sweetest swells, these off-the-radar surf meccas guarantee an epic ride.
Black Rock, Australia “I was seven when my father started taking me and my brother to surf the Aussie Pipe -- or Black Rock, as locals call it -- nearly every afternoon until dark,” said Owen Wright, the 22-year-old Australian surfer who beat his childhood idol, Kelly Slater, at New York's Quiksilver Pro in September 2011, earning him the biggest prize in the sport's history ($300,000). “With lefthand barrels over a shallow reef, it really doesn't get much better for a goofy footer like myself.”
Getting there: It is about 100 miles from Sydney to Jervis Bay, the closest town to the reef break, which is just south of Booderee National Park. Expect a 10- to 15-minute hike from your car along a bush track to this secluded spot, located on the eastern point of Wreck Bay or Summercloud Bay. Pack your lunch like Wright, who normally brings bananas and a loaf of bread for the day. “I like to just sit on the rocks after a surf and take it all in while eating a banana sandwich,” he said.
Rincon, Puerto Rico “This must-visit surf break is known as the 'Surfing Capital of the Caribbean',” said 21-year-old Aussie Sally Fitzgibbons, who recently became the first person to win the US and Australian Open back-to-back. “Warm water, quality surf and good food – it’s every surfer's dream. And when you need a break from surfing -- not that I ever do -- you can check out the migrating whales, go scuba diving, horseback riding or take a walk to a magnificent waterfall. It would probably take a lifetime to explore the whole area.”
Getting there:“It is a pleasant 30-minute drive down Carretera Numero Dos from the Marriott Courtyard Hotel in Aguadilla,” Fitzgibbons said. Other perks: most locals speak English, the area operates on the US dollar and cheap car hire is widely available, making it super easy to move around the tropical island. Once there, you have your choice of waves beyond Rincon. “There are literally hundreds of surf breaks!” Fitzgibbons gushed.
Maoti, Tahiti “Papara is this little beach break close to the road where everyone surfs. If you look beyond it, you'll see this other wave breaking on a reef way in the back called Maoti,” said Michel Bourez, a 26-year-old Tahitian who finished sixth on the 2011 ASP Men's World Tour. “When I was around 18, I went out by myself with my 6ft 10in surfboard to train for a competition in Teahupoo [French Polynesia]. I knew the waves there were big, but I didn't realize just how big until 10 to 12 footers started coming at me. I had always been scared to go out there alone, but then I caught the best barrel I've ever surfed. My board broke on the third wave I caught – it was pretty intense. After that day, I realized that I could do anything.”
Getting there: “Tahiti is a small island – ask anyone about Papara and they'll tell you how to find it,” Bourez said. Renting a car is the easiest way to get to the break, which you can see from the road. “[From the beach] you have to paddle for 15 to 20 minutes into the deep blue to get to this lost reef,” he warned. “When you finally get there, you're surrounded by big green mountains in the backdrop and total silence. It’s so quiet and relaxing – that is, until a big set comes in and reminds you why you're out there!”
The IDK, Mentawai Islands “I call the wave the 'IDK', which is short for 'I don't know' because it just doesn't have a name – it's that much of a secret. I only surfed it once, on a Ripcurl Boat trip, when this crazy captain took us out there,” said 17-year-old Tyler Wright, who was crowned the 2011 ASP Women's World Tour Rookie of the Year (her brother Owen won the same award for men in 2010). “These incredible waves were coming from really deep water, pitching so far out that they formed these perfect cylinders that set you up for riding the best barrels. They were really challenging at first and I had to psych myself up, especially after getting smashed into the reef. I kept at it and got some of the sickest waves – and worst beatings – of my life. Totally worth it.”
Getting there: No, easy X marks the spot here. The best advice is to charter a boat from Quest 1. See if long-time surf guide Captain Albert Taylor is available, then ask to go to the southern-most part of the islands, which are situated just west of Indonesia in the Indian Ocean. “It's a secret spot, so that's all you're getting from me,” Wright said. Make sure there is a chef on board who will cook up deliciousness and slice open coconuts for you while you rip.
Outer Atolls, Maldives “We called it 'Crab Claw' because we didn't know the name of the wave, which was an awesome righthander with a wall and barrel section that wrapped around a stranded island,” said Australia's 27-year-old Adam Melling, who dominated at the 2011 O’Neill Cold Water Classic in New Zealand. “The water was crystal clear and super warm – pretty much a surfer's paradise.”
Getting there: “It took a day and a half by boat to get to the Outer Atolls, some 300 miles south of the capital, Male,” said Melling, who recalls staying on an old pirate-looking ship where he passed the time on deck drinking beers and playing backgammon. “It was rad because we were so far from civilization, but still there were locals – right in the middle of nowhere.” Most surf charters will do boat trips around the atolls, which are also frequented by divers because of the area’s crystal clear water.
Queensbury Point, South Africa “I remember my first surf out at Queensbury Point, right outside my childhood home – I couldn't have been older than eight,” said 24-year-old Rosy Hodge, who ranked ninth on the ASP Women's World Tour in 2009. “I paddled out with my dad and went straight out to the back line. I was so stoked to be out there with the older guys, catching the best waves. I still get that feeling when I'm back home trading waves with my dad. There's a comfort in your home break, but, at the same time, Queensbury is a place you can never master.”
Getting there: The powerful, wild, righthand point break is located in East London, 300 km from Port Elizabeth, in South Africa’s Eastern Cape. Stick around for the beautiful sunset on the nearby Kwelera tidal river, and look out for the gregarious giraffe named Abby (she belongs to the neighbouring Areena Riverside Resort).
Palikir Pass, Pohnpei (Micronesia) “I've caught the most fun waves of my life at P-Pass – short for Palikir Pass – which is off Pohnpei, a lush, tropical island in Micronesia,” said Los Angeles-native Anastasia Ashley, 25, the 2010 Women's Pipeline champion. “The water is absolutely beautiful, crystal clear and warm. I definitely got some high quality barrels and waves, plus awesome surf photos and bad sunburn out there.”
Getting there: Usually you have to fly to Hawaii to catch a flight to the Philippines or to the Marshall Islands, and then get on a puddle-jumper to Pohnpei. From there, you board a boat (Ashley booked her boat, plus room and board with Ppasssurf.com, a local, all-inclusive surfing outfitter) that will take you a few miles from shore to the right-hand reef break. Everyone speaks English and uses the US dollar, plus “they have the best, most affordable fresh tuna, so order lots of sashimi!” Ashley said.