The Best Swell this Side of Maui: Surfing in Thailand
The Backpacker Guide to Surfing in Thailand
Thailand is a beach-lover’s mecca, but for more than just sunbathing. Surfing in Thailand is big business and you shouldn’t miss out! If surfing is your forte, check in to Bodega Phuket and plan out your waves.
Think of surfing and your mind might go straight to Bali, or Indonesia, or Hawaii. Sure those places are great, but aren’t you forgetting somewhere? Thailand is also blessed with warm tropical waters, great swells and a buzzing surf scene and if you don’t come check it for yourself then you’ll be missing out.
From gnarly reef breaks to gentle, curling beach barrels, there are waves for everyone here and you can wake up with a ride down a longboard nose and watch the sunset while shredding barrels on a 5-foot fish tail. Here are our recommendations for the best surf spots in Thailand.
We’re starting with a mellow spot on Phuket island. Kata is home to a gentle rolling beach break that cruises over a sandy bottom, perfect for beginners and improvers and well-known for its friendly atmosphere in the waves. Try not to drop in on anyone but if you do it will probably get laughed off here! You might have to navigate your way around eager tourists splashing around in the breakers but that’s all part of the fun, right?
What to Ride: This is longboard heaven. Anything from 8’6” and above is perfect
When to Go: The hot season of April to October. In the winter from November to March the currents here can be lethal: approach with extreme caution
Also on the Phuket peninsula, Surin is a bit of a step up from Kata. The swell here is pretty consistent but even though it’s a beach break, some sections can get pretty steep and fast so pick your spot carefully if you’re still learning. Its’ west coast location means that the faces can get pretty big when the swell is working so you can drop down to a smaller board here and still catch plenty.
What to Ride: On a small day a longboard is great, but on bigger days try 6’ to 8’6” and you should have a lot of fun
When to Go: As with Kata, the surfing season here is from April to October and the time best avoided is from November to March
Bang Tao Beach
Our last pick in Phuket, Bang Tao beach is for the big boy waves. They don’t always work but if you’re lucky enough to catch it when the swell is working then it’s truly world-class. Expect steep, fast 10-12 foot faces on the really big days and there are barrels aplenty for those of us with the balls to get inside. The beach is popular for all kinds of watersports so expect to share the waves with windsurfers and paddle boarders on the smaller days.
What to Ride: On a big swell day, this is your moment to crack out your shortest board and crank out your longest rides
When to Go: Again, April to October is the best time to come and November to March best avoided
Aow Yai Beach, Koh Phayam, Ranong Province
Moving a bit further afield now, Aow Yai beach is on the west coast of Koh Phayam island, just to the south of Koh Chang in the north of the country. This is an emerging surf destination so it’s ideal if you prefer peace and quiet in the waves rather than a busy line-up. This is a beach break with waves that peel both left and right so you can practice your forward and backhand turns all day long. The vibe here is low-key, the local surf schools are friendly and it’s the kind of place that you won’t mind hanging out in, waiting for the next swell to move through. Highly recommended for chill-out surfing.
What to Ride: This is back to longboards again. Anything from 8’6” up is fine as long as the swell is approaching 3’
When to Go: From September to November and February to March
Chaweng Beach, Koh Samui
This is our final spot and a great choice if you want to mix up surfing with a top-class island holiday destination. Koh Samui as an island has some of the best that Thailand has to offer, and that includes a nice coral reef break at Chaweng beach. This isn’t a destination for huge waves and rolling barrels, but it is a reliable, clean break and the waves are never crowded. Surf all day and drink cold beer on the beautiful beach all night. You can’t go wrong!
What to Ride: Mid-length boards work here best. Go 6’ to 9’ depending on swell size on the day; boards can be rented locally
When to Go: It’s best from April to October in the hot, dry season
There’s something for everyone.
The surf scene in Thailand is going from strength to strength, and it’s often worth asking local people if they know of any good spots in their area. Surf schools are popping up all over the place so you might just find a hidden gem.
Setups like Surfhouse Phuket have constructed 24/7 Flowrider waves so even when the swell isn’t working you can still get your surf buzz! Our recommendation? Just turn up at a beach and enjoy just hanging out until the swell hits. Half the pleasure is in the anticipation after all, and it’ll be worth the wait!