Fancy catching a wave but prefer a warmer climate to do it in? Us too!
So we asked pro-surfer Easkey Britton, Ireland’s current and five-time National Champion, to share her top overseas surfing spots with Sportsister so you can enjoy the sea in the sunshine…
I learned to surf in a wetsuit, coping with ice-cream headaches and chilblains far from the likes of palm trees, bikinis and board shorts. The winter in Ireland can deliver some amazing, powerful waves but it is often a long, cold and dark wait, weathering out the storms. So, in the depths of winter it can be a great energy boost to get an injection of sun and surf and escape those winter blues.
Challenge your surfing ability by surfing new breaks and expand the mind and body with new horizons. Here are a few of my favourite escapes.
Morocco has been a place of pilgrimage for surfers from the colder, northern parts of Europe for decades. As a regular-foot surfer it’s heaven with its endless series of right-hand point breaks. After a short flight (less than four hours from the UK) you are transported to another world. The culture is fascinating and the desert landscape of the coast is so dramatic.
When the surf isn’t firing you can take a break and haggle for some treasures in souks, drink mint tea with the locals, scrub off all that desert dust in the hammam or even go further into the interior to Atlas mountains.
Most surfers head for Agadir and the famous point breaks of Tagahzout which has surf breaks to suit the beginner to experienced surfer but it can get pretty crowded with local and foreign surfers in winter. Morocco’s coastline is vast so it’s worth exploring less well-known parts, like the empty stretches of beach breaks at Oualidia south of Casablanca. With its cold water upwelling a summer wetsuit is usually needed in winter.
Another winter favourite and quick escape is the Canary Islands. It’s definitely fine-tuned my taste for powerful reef breaks. Fuerteventura is my favourite of the islands. The weather is warm and breezy, the temperature in the 20s in January and a 2/3mm wetsuit is all that’s needed (and maybe booties to protect against sea urchins and volcanic rock).
I think you can get more out of trip if you have some experience of more powerful waves and reef breaks, although there are also some great beaches like El Cotillo, a small coastal village with a great combination of sheltered lagoons and rock pools and exposed Atlantic beaches.
Moving into bikini and board-short territory, the next stop is Central America. Although it is more expensive than its neighbours, Costa Rica is another great winter escape. A great starting point is the surfy village of Tamarindo on the Guayaquil peninsula. Rapidly expanding to cater for the needs of the growing surf tourism industry, it still has wild jungle and great expanses of beach and reef to north and south.
The beach is great for people watching and fun to cruise on a longboard at sunset and salsa the night away. Listen out for the howler monkeys too! Local homestays are a great alternative, with insights into local way of life and a fun way to learn Spanish, how to salsa and contribute to the local economy. Costa Rica is generally very safe and friendly but like anywhere don’t leave valuables lying around.
Indonesia’s Mentawai islands are possibly home to the greatest concentration of world-class surf breaks in the world. In fact, one part of the island chain is known as ‘Playgrounds’. It’s one of those ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ trips because you’ll probably catch the most mind-blowing waves of your life but it is very expensive and tricky to get to. I’ve only ever explored the place by boat and personally I think a boat trip with the right crew and experienced captain is the best way to experience the Mentawais.
All the breaks are pretty intense so are for experienced surfers only. My favourite wave is Macaroni’s, there’s rarely a surf movie made these days without this wave in it. It’s a long, fun, hollow left hander with whackable lips and boost sections as well as great opportunity for barrel riding. Over 6-8ft with a big swell running, it can morph into Teahupoo’s sister. If going, be sure to check out and support SurfAid, an amazing charity active on the ground helping improve local health conditions, education and malaria prevention.
Last, but certainly not least, the ultimate surf mecca of Hawaii. Perhaps best known for the huge winter swells on Oahu’s North Shore, a 7-mile stretch of heaven home to world-class Waimea, Pipeline and Sunset. If charging 15-20ft bombs is not so much your thing, during winter Oahu’s south coast usually has fun, cruisy waves on offer. Whatever your taste its worth taking a day, hiring a big longboard and surfing Waikiki beach next to Duke Kahanamoku’s statue and the iconic Diamond Head in the background.
My personal fave is the island of Kauai and Hanalei Bay. Quieter, wilder and less developed than Oahu and Maui, and without the ‘circus’ of the North Shore’s pro surfers, contest-scene and surf paparazzi. It is more localized so go with a humble smile and warm aloha spirit and make friends.
Most of all, wherever you travel, enjoy the journey, keep an open-mind and wear lots of sun protection!
Easkey Britton for Sportsister
The Women’s Sports Magazine
Easkey Britton is an ambassador for Organic Burst superfoods supplements, which she takes to support her endurance, energy and vitality levels.