5 reasons why surfing in Thailand is great for beginnersTuesday, May 31, 2016 Surfing and Kitesurfing by Kate Rutkovskaya
When it comes to surfing in Thailand…wait. What? You’ve never heard of it either, right? Nevertheless, it does exist.
Though before late 90’s surfing spots in Thailand were a truly mysterious concept. Only expats knew about them as they were exploring the shores with this purpose specifically. And they were quite a few. While locals weren’t interested at all.
The last couple of decades showed a big increase in the number of surfers both coming from abroad and naturally originated here.
Thailand has access to 2 water bodies – the Andaman Sea and the Gulf of Thailand.
The Andaman Sea brings its water from the Indian Ocean, hence got more power for big waves generation.
On the international surfing map, the Andaman Sea is represented by Phuket, the largest island of Thailand. It has the biggest number of surfing schools and amusing surf spots.
The island is about 50 km long from north to south and 22 km wide.
Reason #1: Phuket beaches
The first and, to my mind, the most pleasant reason to come to Thailand for surfing is its beaches. They are so Paradise-looking that it’s a pure bliss to enjoy their view when doing your surfing routine.
In one of my previous posts, I paid tribute to my favourite Phuket beaches. Check it out for some pictures to get inspired.
I haven’t looked at the beaches from the surfing perspective as it was high season and my purpose was to explore the beauty of nature and beach entertainment facilities.
Now when I started digging into the surfing topic, I look at the same beaches differently.
Patong and Kata Noi beaches are considered best spots for beginners.
Kamala, Surin, Kata, Nai Harn and Bang Tao are long enough to comprise parts with different types of waves thus surfers of all levels can find a spot for themselves.
If you’re a Pro I suggest you should come to the island and test every beach by yourself. As they all have quite a distinctive “character”.
Surin Beach offers the heaviest waves on the island while the nearby Bang Tao is suitable for beginners.
Nai Harn has a beach break in the south and reef break in its northern corner. Waves can reach up to three meters so newbies and middle-level surfers feel comfortable here.
Kamala beach is about 2 km long and can be divided into 3 parts:
The southern end is “a kids pool” – waves here don’t break higher than 1 meter.
In the middle part of the beach, you can find some braver surfers as waves here reach 3 meters high.
And a little rocky Paradise with a reef point break is waiting for sophisticated Pros in the northern end of Kamala beach.
Three of the beaches host annual surfing contests.
Kata Beach is the main surfing Mecca on the island and it hosts annual Phuket Surfing Contest.
Kalim Beach hosts the Kalim Surf Contest.
Then there is the Kamala Go Surfing Contest.
The contests take place on different dates each year so if you’re intending to participate it’s better to contact organisers directly for more details.
Reason #2: Plenty of Space
You won’t meet many people surfing in Phuket.
We all know that surfers relish their solitude.
Sometimes they need a fellow surfer to compete with and show off their skills.
But most of the training time they need no one.
Especially if they find decent waves – it’s like to share the sweetest piece of cake – ain’t nobody wanna do that.
And since Thailand is not so much advertised as a surfing destination, like Bali or Hawaii for example, it’s not so crowded with surfers.
The best waves happen here between May and November, which is considered to be the low touristic season, so no one will distract you from practising.
Normally you get a chance to surf between severe monsoon periods that come and go every now and then.
So check forecasts carefully before planning a trip.
Locals who are now much more aware of the surf sites in their neighbourhood will eagerly show you some secret spots – the chance you won’t get in more popular surfing areas.
Reason #3: Surfing in Thailand is less hazardous
It is one of the least dangerous locations for surfers.
The seabed is sandy, thus you won’t get injured with rocks or reefs.
As a consequence of Reason #2 (not so many people), the risk of colliding with other people in the water is very low too.
Marine life is also very friendly here. You won’t meet any sharks, stingrays or jellyfish in Phuket waters.
The most dangerous thing that may happen to a surfer or a swimmer in Thailand is rip currents. Those are water channels that flow directly away from the shore.
It is important to know about it as the only reason people drown in a rip current is because they don’t understand what’s going on and don’t know how to get out of it.
As a result, they panic and loose all power after trying for a long time to swim directly against the flow. Which is a mistake.
What you have to know about rip current is the following:
A rip current is a flow formed by breaking waves pushing water towards the shore.
Water that has been pushed up near the beach flows together and seeks for a way back into the sea.
The water then flows out at a right angle to the beach in a tight current, where the flow is most rapid.
When the water in the rip current reaches outside of the lines of breaking waves, the flow loses power.
Thus, waves with different speed and power go back to the sea arranging into a rip current.
What is dangerous about it?
Water in a rip current only moves offshore so you can be very close to the beach but still get dragged into the sea.
If you’re caught in a rip current the first thing to do is NOT to panic.
Remember, it can’t pull you under the water. You are just floating away from the coastline and it makes no sense to swim against the flow.
What you have to do is swim parallel to the shore until you exit the rip current.
Usually, it is about 10-20 meters wide, so it won’t take you long to get out of it.
When you feel the water is not dragging you off the shore anymore – start swimming towards the beach.
Normally rip currents in Thailand are not very long, so it won’t carry you more than 50-70 meters away from the shore.
Reason #4: Surfing in Phuket is much more than just surfing
It’s a well-developed tourist destination so if you need to take a break from surfing there’s plenty of activities available around – like wake surfing, Jet Ski, parachuting, SUP (stand-up paddle) racing, etc.
There’s a great choice of yoga classes too.
What’s in it for you?
Stretching before and after surf session is good for your strength and flexibility.
Besides that, it helps better concentrate and increases your stamina.
And I’m not even mentioning famous Thai cabaret shows, nightclubs, plenty of bars and restaurants with local cuisine and various entertainment programs.
For more activities on the island check out my post about 5 best beaches in Phuket.
Reason #5: Thailand has best waves for beginners
What if I’m an experienced surfer, you might ask.
Then it’s a great opportunity to come here with your kids to teach them to surf.
It is much safer than to go to a crowded place with harsh waves.
You probably won’t have much fun in the waves yourself but watching your kids following your steps into the amazing world of surfing must be very remunerating.
Got no time for that? Not a problem. There’s a couple of kids summer surf camps in Phuket.
If you are a beginner yourself, it’s a perfect way to kick it off.
There’s a number of certified coaches but only one fully accredited surfing school on the island – Saltwater Dreaming certified by National Surf Schools and Instructors Association (NSSIA). They conduct lessons for beginners on the best beach suitable for this purpose – Bang Tao.
International community recommends starting with a 5-day surfing course.
On the first two days, you will learn what surfing is and why it is so much fun, day 3 and 4 will get you on the board and you will try to surf on your own.
And the only day 5 will make you feel confident enough to try catching a wave.
But you won’t be able to do that in 5 days if you haven’t had enough pre-training.
Your main purpose is to be able to paddle fast. Hence, if you are serious about learning you will need to go to the swimming pool for a few months in advance and practice on your crawl stroke.
Only in that case, a 5-day training will get you on the board and maybe on Day 6, you will be able to try catching a wave by your own.
Pick one of the beaches for beginners mentioned above and there will be a surf school waiting for you.
The best way is to come over with a mate so that you can get a group package with the reduced price per person. The more people there are in the group – the cheaper the course.
Plus you would probably want to have some fun and travel around the island after training, and that’s when a mate comes in handy too.
In average one day of training will cost you between $35 and $50.
For the price, you get a 1.5-2-hour lesson and it also includes a surfboard and all the necessary equipment.
Normally all beginner surfing lessons require soft-top surfboards.
So if you want to get one of your own from the very beginning – don’t even think about hard boards or tiny shortboards – only soft tops!
A beginner’s board rent will cost you about $15 a day and $200 a month.
You’re going to fall. A lot. Into the water.
A fall or a wipeout as such is not a big deal.
Getting up every time is a problem as you get bruises and scratches all over your body and especially hands.
Get ready for all these challenges.
Have a wetsuit to protect your skin from injuries and sunburns.
You will hardly get cold as the water temperature rarely falls below +25 °C. This is Thailand after all.
By the way, the good old sunscreen is a must for surfers too.
The surfing culture on the island has just started to develop.
They opened up a bunch of surf bars recently.
Like The Tube in Kata.
Every Tuesday, Friday and Sunday surfing enthusiasts meet here for surf style dinner parties and watch awesome surf videos.
Another great spot not far from the Tube is Surf House.
As they describe themselves “not quite a water park, not quite a skate park, the Surf House provides the sublime experience of surfing on a perfectly consistent wave, all day, every day”.
Indeed, when the waves are out of reach or the weather simply doesn’t allow you to go surfing, Surf House is the place for some surf action.
Spiced up by non-stop trendy music, international food and beverages, the place provides you with all attributes of a beach yet situated under a roof and without direct access to the sea.
A perfect fit for surfing rookies who are afraid to go to the sea right away.
Just take a look at this fun:
It’s all about waves
After you finished your 5-day course you will probably feel courageous enough to challenge yourself to solo surfing.
First of all, remember all you’ve learnt during your lessons.
They must have taught you how to identify and catch the best waves.
Start your day with checking the surf forecast.
The most popular local resource for checking wave conditions is Phuket News.
Pick the beach with right wave height for your level and the right wind (always offshore) and just go there.
Most probably you will find a couple of surfers already on the waves.
And of course enough lifeguards to save your soul in the worst case.
They will keep an eye on you all the time, so you have nothing to worry about.
Just follow the rules.
Don’t be shy.
If the fellow surfers seem experienced enough, just watch them for a while to get the vibe.
Then assess the waves and go for it!
Surfers say: “The best surfer in the water, is the one having the most fun”. If there’s no fun – there’s no point in getting into the water in the first place.
Have fun! And enjoy the ride.