Feel like your local shifty beachbreak closeouts are holding your surfing back? If only the ocean would just throw you some wall to let loose on… Well, here’s an idea. Take a surf trip to one of the world’s longest waves and finally unlock your true wave riding potential! Here are some options you may want to consider:
Skeleton Bay, Namibia
The longest sand-bottomed left in the known universe, Skeleton Bay first came to light in 2008 when the winner of Surfing Magazine’s ‘Google Earth Challenge’ got to pay the place a visit along with Cory Lopez, Peter Mendia, Hank Gaskell and Mitch Coleborn. Cory Lopez of course famously pulling into a freaky 50-second-plus barrel ride few could get their heads round.
Located along Namibia’s isolated and hostile Skeleton Coast, it’s not exactly what you’d call a holiday destination. The bay lies smack bang in the middle of the Namibian desert with only the seal colonies to keep you entertained. It’s hot. It’s cold. It’s dusty. There’s literally nothing else to do but surf. Get the swell forecast wrong and you’ll be sorry.
Get the swell forecast right and you’re tube riding skills better be up to scratch. Producing some of the fastest and thickest sand-dredging tubes on the planet, it’s really an advanced/pro surfers deal only. Yes, it tubes from start to finish so no you won’t be putting any turns in.
To top it all off, the wave is often influenced by super strong tidal rips, backwash and strong offshores, and if it’s going off, you’ll most likely be sharing the line-up with car-fulls of pros.
Season/Swell: It’s a southern hemi deal so the season runs May to September, but subject to a limited swell window Skeleton Bay might only turn on a couple times a year, needing a big long-period groundswell from the Roaring Forties to wrap in at just the right angle.
How to get there: Your best bet is to get in touch with a guide to drive you in.
What you’ll need: A good wetsuit, lots of boards and, err, plenty of drinking water.
Watch out for: Strong rips and yes super shallow sandbanks!
Also: Locals have implemented a no ‘4×4 back to the peak’ policy so make sure you’re cadio is up to scratch for the walk-back.
Jeffreys Bay, South Africa
Shifty beachbreak closeouts holding your surfing back? Say hello to these leg-burners!
Arguably the world’s best right-hand pointbreak, the long walls of Jeffreys Bay lies forty-five miles southwest of Port Elizabeth on the eastern cape of South Africa. On rare occasions when J-Bay lines up perfectly, it’s possible to start up at what’s known as Boneyards and finish all the way down at The Point (over 1km).
But the 10 different sections need strong offshores and decent size swell to start connecting up. Supertubes, which itself breaks for about 300 metres or more, is regarded as the best part of the wave but obviously locals rule the joint and, as the name suggests, more than often will close out at Impossibles.
If you’ve ever watched the world’s best do battle at J-Bay, you’ll know even the Top 34 can at times struggle to fit turns in or keep pace with the racey right-hand walls. So yes you’ll most likely want to be drawing a high line too.
Season/Swell: May to mid-September, but July and August are the most dependable with weeks of back-to-back long-interval swell allowing various J-Bay sections to link up. The WCT event is usually scheduled mid-July.
What you’ll need: A good wetsuit and a pintail of course.
Located in northern Peru in an extremely dry region of the country, the left-hand point of Chicama may in many people’s eyes be the longest of the world’s longest surf rides. Peruvian surfer Cristobal de Col has entered the Guiness Book of Records for pulling up to 34 turns on one single wave at Chicama. The lineup is made up of four defined breaks but these don’t actually connect up.
The main one is called, wait for it, El Point. Running at 1.1km, it’s also the longest makeable section of the four. Considerably sheltered from the energy of the open ocean, wave-heights tend to stick around the shoulder to head-height range even when the swell is big. And with waves generally offering a pretty crumbly lip and soft shoulder with plenty of time for cutbacks, it’s an ideal beginner and intermediate wave.
Season/Swell: May to September. While Chicama consistently picks up some kind of surf if you’re looking to improve on your personal best for longest wave then you’ll want to wait for a big southern hemi swell to show up.
Also: With a strong current sweeping north, it generally makes more sense to keep surfing waves down the point at Chicama before walking back up to the take-off.
Pavones, Costa Rica
Buttons Kaluhiokalani and Rory Russel in speedos circa 1981, narrated by American Pavones pioneer Dan Fowlie.
A well-kept secret for over 20 years, Pavones today is one of Costa Rica’s most prized pointbreak gems. Located along the lush tropical Pacific coast, it’s said to offer up to three minute long leg-burners as the left-hander wraps its way down a series cobblestone beaches.
While not particularly hollow, the longest of super fun, rippable walls offer intermediates the perfect canvas on which to perfect their rail surfing game. It’s said to be most fun at double overhead.
The downside to Pavones is it’s a bit out the way and the only real surf break in this remote southern part of Costa Rica. Furthermore, it’s inconsistent. When there’s no southern hemi groundswell there’s no whiff of a wave so you want to be sure you have the swell forecast dialled. But get it right and you’ll probably not ever want to leave.
Season/Swell: Tucked away inside the Golfo Dulce the ideal swell angle for Pavones is from the south west and generally speaking the bigger the swell and the longer the interval the better.
The Superbank, Australia
Despite artificial pumping the Superbank’s sandbanks remain pretty erratic but 2013 did see the glorious return of Kirra for the first time in over a decade.
Made up of Snapper Rocks, Greenmount, Little Marley and Kirra, the Gold Coast’s Superbank is theoretically more than capable of offering you the longest wave of your life on those rare days when it’s all connecting up. But to tell the truth we’re not entirely sure when the last time was.
Of course, you’ll need to be able to negotiate what has to be the most crowded and hectic lineup there is on planet earth. Drop-ins, surf rage n’ all. But on the right cyclone swell who knows what’s possible?
Also: Plans for a $2 billion cruise ship terminal down at Kirra have been quashed for now but, over-developed as the Goldie already is, these projects often have an unsavoury habit of coming back to life so try to get down there sooner rather than later.
Scorpion Bay, Baja California, Mexico
1000 kms south of San Diego in the small fishing village of San Juanico lies Scorpion Bay. Fringed by date plantations and fed by the Sierra Giganta rivermouth, this expansive bay is made up of four right-hand points. The third point being the best, the second the most consistent and generally more of a longboard vibe. When it gets big enough, it’s possible for third and second point to connect up and rides can last over one minute.
Season/Swell: As these points face southeast off the bottom of the peninsula, they only ever turn on with a south swell.
How to get there: Takes about 15 hours to drive to from Southern California. Probably best not to drive at night in this part of the world though so schedule two days for it. Otherwise the nearest airport is Loreto and then it’s a 3 ½ hour drive.
Also: Bring a tent to stay at the local campground for an ocean view. It’s back up and riding after running into a few admin issues.
The Bono, Indonesia
This tidal bore on the Kampar River in Sumatra might pose one of the biggest logistical challenges to get to and surf (it’s almost impossible to surf the Bono without a boat as back-up) but the shortest rides stand at between 10-15 minutes, it will hands down deliver the longest surf ride of the lot.
The record time for a single wave there at present stands at just over an hour, by French-Brazilian longboarder Edouardo Bagé, but the waves are known to travel up river for up to 4 so who knows what’s the limit! The bigger the tides, the bigger and longer the waves, and this tidal bore is so consistent it actually breaks daily. Time it right when the waves are most powerful, like Tom Curren, and yes you could even get barreled.