UK pro longboarder Sam Bleakley points out five, very different surfing spots in 2011.
Salalah – Oman
A great adventure for beginners or longboarders is the desert surf of Oman. When the steady southwest winds – khareef – blow in May, and again in September, they can generate easy-to-ride shoulder high waves in the salt-logged Arabian Sea. At Salahah in the south there is a surf school aside the Crowne Plaza Hotel. For the Bedouins of Oman the desert is a fluid landscape – a sea of sand – and you can try sand boarding in the nearby barchan dunes that seem to feather like waves as the wind whips across their crests.
Surfer’s Point – Barbados
For a generous slice of authentic Bajan beach culture, visit the southeast of Barbados – the islands’ best-kept secret. Licked by warm winds, the indigo waves at Surfer’s Point are perfect for intermediate surfers and longboarders. A plate of tangy barbequed seafood in nearby Oistins is a rewarding end to a day tuning your surfing in the waist high waves, which break nearly all year from September to July. Bajan surfing legend Zed Layson offers lessons and tours for all levels of ability, and a range of self-catering apartments just a step away from the surf break.
Palermo, Sicily – Italy
Surfing Homer’s ‘wine-dark sea’ is an unexpected pleasure and something to be savoured. Mediterranean waves are beautifully documented in one of the best designed surf magazines, Italy’s SurfNews. At the crossroads of Atlantic, African and European weather, the Sicilian coast offers 200 days of rideable surf per year. The Mistral wind supplies chest high waves to Palermo between September and May in 18°C water. The sea’s colour dramatically deepens to purple during the short-lived swells to match the most robust of Italian Barolo wines, switching back to oily olive green as the wind relaxes. Surf in the Mediterranean? Another glass of wine-dark pleasure, please.
Jungmun, Jeju Island – South Korea
South Korea is a place more associated with Hyundai and taekwondo than surf. But at Jungmun Beach in Jeju, there are excellent head high waves between August and October, exhausting onto the black mica sand. There are no crowds as surfing does not yet feature on the established tourist menu, which cateres largely for Korean newlyweds honeymooning in a range of accommodation from luxury hotels such as The Hyatt, to cheap and charming minbak guesthouses in nearby Sinsuseong town. The local food is superb, and when the surf gets hot (and it can be big), spicy kimchi (fermented vegetables) may just give you the courage to test your mettle.
Robertsport – Liberia
The quality of the waves unzipping across the points at Robertsport to spill in heads of foam singles out Liberia as a top destination for the more adventurous surfer. Africa’s first female head of state, President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, has steered Liberia to long-term stability after the country was burned out from a savage civil war. There is still a UN and NGO presence, and for a surfer, Liberia is a sought-after post. The waves break between May and September against a backdrop of towering 200-year-old cotton silk trees. The fearless local kids ask for impromptu lessons in the shorebreak. This is part of their rehabilitation from years of conflict. Rising from the ruins of war, the priceless waves offer a self-replenishing eco-sensitive surf tourism.