Posted: Mark, Feb 06
It’s only natural that, once you get to your feet here in
Ireland and catch the surfing bug, that you might develop a curiosity
to surf elsewhere.
Most surfers prioritise surf when holiday time comes –
that’s just the way it gets to you. And there are so many
places to surf. The general rule in the northern hemisphere is
to have some sort of a west facing coast to catch the prevailing
global swell patterns – on the whole, swells tend to move
west to east across our part of the world. The west coast of the
States, and all the European countries with Atlantic coasts on
their west side, have good surf (Ireland, Scotland, Wales, England,
France, Spain, Portugal, the Canaries etc). There's smaller stuff
in the Med too, but harder to find.
There is any amount of resources to help you surf overseas. You
can’t escape surf culture in the great meccas of California,
etc – surf is everywhere. But in this section, here’s
a few thoughts on getting overseas, and what to be aware of before
and during your trip.
There is a destination guide at the bottom of this section. Please
feel free to add to it by mailing your post to: email@example.com)
Many surfers travel without insurance. When you aren’t
earning a fortune to start with, insurance can often be the last
thing on the list of priorities. You really should travel with
insurance. No-one in our line-up has ever had a medical nightmare
overseas, touch wood. But think about it. You take a bad beating
in a new country on a rocky reef. You need medical care urgently.
You are stuck overseas, and being denied medical care because
you did a short cut with your insurance. Inside the EU, I travel
with the new EHIC (European Health insurance Card). This has replaced
the old E111 form, and gives UK citizens free automatic access
to certain basic health care. Get one – for free –
at any post office, or via www.dh.gov.uk/travellers , or inside
the UK by calling 0800 66 55 44.
But you’ll need more than an EHIC if you get badly injured.
Insurance-wise there are two options. Firstly, insure yourself
per trip. Secondly, many surfers I know surf overseas more than
once a year. When you get to that stage its worth thinking about
yearly coverage. Many find this cheaper in the long run.
Read Books and Online Stuff
I’ve seen most of the European publications. Some of them
make surfing too easy, naming exact spots all over the place.
It’s the surfing equivalent of sitting in the sofa and having
someone do everything but the surfing for you. Finding, then working
out (or ‘wiring’) waves for yourself is the best part
of surfing. Overseas on a short trip you may feel you don’t
have the time for that, so read up as much as you can before you
go, and get the best detailed maps you can of the place you’re
From Ireland to Bondi and Indonesia, talking about - and especially
writing about specific places to go surfing - can cause a lot
of resentment, especially from people who live close to the spots
in question. It's called ‘naming’, and if people go
too far and name places, it can cause genuine anger and even violence.
Generally, the rule of thumb for most people is a book called
Stormrider – as these publications stand out a mile. They
cost about £25 stg, they’re consistent, well annotated
and most surfers have a dog-eared copy as their surfing bible.
Senior surfers are consulted when a Stormrider guide is written
about a country, (including Irish surfers on the section about
There is a European Stormrider, and a separate global one, plus
a US one I think. The European one is good, with a good ethos.
Most Irish websites take as the guide that ‘if the spot
is named in Stormrider, then its cool’. A bit mad when you
think about it. A minority of others feel that even Stormrider
goes too far in naming too many places which should be kept as
so called ‘surf jewels’. On this site, our policy
is only to name only the recognised surf meccas such as Portrush,
Bundoran and general areas like West or North Donegal which have
perhaps hundreds of specific places in them. I agree Donegal spots
should not be named, while at the same time allowing the Irish
industry and the Irish surf meccas to prosper as promoted surf
destinations bringing in much needed international revenue. I
also reckon it's good to welcome the skill and thinking of fellow
global surfers when and if they choose to come here to our cold
waters. If they act like idiots, ignore them. If they share the
aloha spirit, make them feel at home. Certainly the most recent
pocket guides give too much away, by way of local detail, but
that’s just my personal view.
Finally, check the websites like Surfing
Ireland too (see
links page). There's lots of overseas reading online there.
It’s a right hassle travelling with boards – they’re
big, awkward, and there's all sorts of hassles for surfers who
go overseas and bring their own boards. The worst feeling in the
world is handing your board over to a sleepy excess baggage official
at an airport. I’ve had two custom boards punctured over
the years on planes, and I could have cried. I got the insurance
back once, to the value of half the board, but that’s not
the point. Other surfers tell tales of boards getting slashed,
snapped, etc etc. The bottom line is to pack your board as best
~ Remove the fins.
~ Bring the overarm
strap – you’ll be glad of it on a long airport concourse
or a long access walk to the break.
~ Surround the board
in bubblewrap or a second board bag before you go. This can take
ages, so allow time.
~ Pack two boards
together, it can reduce cost – and damage
~ put your wetsuit
/ towel in your board bag. It takes it out of your luggage, and
provides more padding.
~ Noses and side rails especially
seems to get more damage.
~ DO check your board for dings/damage
the minute you get it back at the other side. Insurance is sometimes
useless if the damage is filed after you leave the airport.
~ DON’T put sellotape directly
onto your board. I did that once and was picking the glue off
~ once you get really good and are
travelling with a full quiver, you can buy a semi-hard case on
2 wheels with a handle.
Boards cost about 20 quid extra EACH WAY on most EU flights.
To Madeira it's about twice that, and a right rip off if you ask
me. It’s ironic, but many long haul carriers don’t
charge at all for boards. I've brought several longboards back
from Oz (on Emirates and Singapore Airlines), and never been charged
a penny. They simply include boards in your overall weight allowance,
which is really fair. If you’re only going for the craic
to a place though, and the airline board charges are steep, check
the charts at the last minute, and unless it's set for perfection,
consider hiring boards once you get there. It’s far cheaper,
less hassle all round, and will save you money on the board charges
of the airlines. For most though, the whole idea is to bring your
own board, and to improve yourself on it by bringing it with you
overseas. That being the case, prepare for arguments at check
in with the low cost carriers especially, and a real sinking feeling
once you realise that your return board charge has just cost you
more than your flight ticket.
I think the UK/Irish surf lobby has been weak in selling the
economic benefits of surfing to the airlines and the tourism sector.
Many airlines take golf clubs for free, welcoming golfers like
gamblers to a casino. Why not surfers? A shortboard is way lighter
than a set of golf clubs. Even a small surfai contributes thousands
of pounds to an economy. Surfers are a huge part of the tourism
economies of the European countries on the Atlantic seaboards.
We eat and drink when we’re there, constituting a fair percentage
of the overall tourism income of a destination. The surf lobby
should be stronger in saying to the airlines and the tourism sector
“take our boards for free – we are only coming here
to surf - and in doing so we are gladly contributing to the wealth
of your country”.
Plan Your Trip
This sounds so simple, but it’s not in practice. You’ll
probably not travel alone, soagreeing the priorities before you
go is often the source of real conflict.
~ what kind of
transport / car hire when you get there, if any?
~ Style of accommodation
~ how hardcore the trip is to be,
easy or hard waves?
~ what breaks do you all agree you
want to see?
It's so easy to arrive somewhere nice, and just sit at the local
beach break in the sun for a week. In doing so, you limit your
scope. In my experience, car hire overseas is a must. Planning
is essential in terms of mileage and the types of break to be
surfed on the trip. Agree all this before you go. Budget for it
too. Better still, just have the hire car waiting for you at the
other side. It’s often cheaper if you book it online before
you travel. And soft racks are a must. Some car hire companies
don’t do roofbars and don’t like the idea of you having
a surf board on their car, so bring soft racks and tie straps,
just in case.
Anything to add? If you would like to contribute and share your
us an email.