Wednesday, July 19


10 great places to have a swell time
Updated 7/14/2006 11:55 AM ET
By Ronen Zilberman, AP

In honor of the 40th anniversary of surfing's iconic documentary that followed California surfers around the world, Endless Summer, long-time surfer, surfing coach and an editor for Carve Surfing Magazine, Rob Barber, got off his board long enough to share the top wave spots with Ayesha Court, special for USA TODAY.

Oahu's North Shore

Two of the most famous waves in the world — the North Shore's Banzai Pipeline and Waimea Bay — bring experienced surfers and photographers alike to Oahu. Surfing was already well established in Hawaii by the time British explorer Capt. James Cook first observed it in the late 1770s. Oahu's swells are "definitely the most powerful waves I've experienced," says Barber. "Surfer's reputations are made and lost" here, especially in winter when waves are at their highest.

Black's Beach
San Diego

Beloved by locals and foreign surfers alike, Black's Beach is "one of the best reef breaks" and receives an abundance of wave swell, Barber says. But, he warns, "this is a nudist beach — so be prepared!" In the winter, when nearby Big Bear and Mammoth mountains are snowy, it's possible to surf and snowboard the same day.


The waves here in "Cho-poo" are "the most talked about and feared," according to Barber. They're home each May to one of surfing's most challenging contests, the Billabong Pro Tahiti. Though the reef breaks around the island of Tahiti and nearby Moorea are for "expert surfers only," less-experienced board-riding visitors will find astonishing sea life in the "Colgate blue" waters.


Indonesia's still-active volcanic archipelago is "my personal favorite," Barber says, because it offers "toasty-warm water, the most incredible reef breaks and a never-ending supply of swell." After exploring Bali's waves, Barber likes to take in the island's Hindu and Buddhist culture and stunning scenery, then island-hop to neighboring Nusa Lembongan, Lombok or Sumbawa. It's easy to "find your own uncrowded paradise."

Margaret River
Western Australia

Though in awe of the "ferocious" Indian Ocean wave known as The Box (which "needs to be seen to be believed"), Barber is less than taken with the "barren landscape, relentless wind and annoying sand flies." But these annoyances keep crowds low. This consistently challenging spot with its "diverse big wave forum" remains one of his favorites.

Queensland, Australia

Running from Snapper Rocks to Kirra, the 'Superbank' — a long underwater sandbank that the waves break across — can "offer tube rides more than 10 seconds long" Barber says. Locals here "eat, sleep and speak surfing 24/7," so it's no surprise Australia's Gold Coast has spawned some of the world's greatest surfers.

Cape Town
South Africa

The aptly named 'Dungeons' off the coast are "doubly dangerous," says Barber. These big waves are among the most feared in the world and also "by far the sharkiest," thanks, in part, to the large seal colony next door. For visitors looking for more Jaws-free paddling, Barber recommends heading north to the netted beaches of Durban for "fun waves and warm water."

Praia da Vila

Though much of Brazil's long coast offers an "amazing selection of breaks," Barber's favorite is here, south of Florianopolis. The beaches here don't just feature "crystal clear water and white sand beaches," he adds, they're also great for people watching as "the most beautiful women in the world are basking on them!"

Bay of Biscay

Surfing in Europe might seem an oxymoron to many, but with a wet suit, Barber says, it's a great destination year-round. The deep-water trench in this bay helps build waves recorded with faces as high as 50 feet. And what could be a better break than hanging 10 in such "dream surf locations" as Biarritz, Hossegor and Lacanau, then living it up in town?

County Clare, Ireland

First surfed in 2005, Aileen (after Aill na Searrach headland above it) is "the most awesome big wave to be discovered in recent surfing history," Barber says. Surfers must be towed in to below the west coast's Moher Cliffs by jet-ski. But after a bracing ride, the Emerald Isle's "beautiful, craggy western coast" offers as many "hidden gems" to explore on land as in the water. Bring your wet suit, gloves and boots as the "water's a bit cold."

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