Senior Editor
The bamboo outriggers on a Filipino 'bangka' boat may have been designed for stability, but they're also pretty handy for carrying surf boards around a place like Siargao.

This doesn’t look all that bad, does it? Photo: Tommy Schultz


The Inertia

A boat trip is something that every surfer wants to do. It’s a sort of rite of passage for anyone that dreams of perfect, empty waves with nothing but a few friends and crystal clear water. There’s just something about the idea of a bunch of friends cruising up to a perfect wave, surfing all day, then retiring for a sunset aboard a gently rocking vessel, beers in hand and sunburns galore. But before you start planning, there are a few spots you need to know about.

John Seaton Callahan/surfEXPLORE

Maldives, Thaa Atoll. Far from the relative bustle of the capital of Malé are the idyllic southern atolls of Maldives. Image: John Seaton Callahan/surfEXPLORE

1. Southern Atolls, Maldives

If you’re after an absolutely perfect wave, the Southern Atolls in the Maldives is a goldmine. And the best way to get the most bang for your buck is to cruise around the atolls on a freaking yacht. Most of the companies that run surf cruises have multiple routes around the Maldives, but the southernmost remain among the most secluded of the group. The Male International Airport is located on North Male in the Northern Atolls, and since the waves there are basically perfect, the brunt of the crowds (if you can call them that) tend to stay at the top side of the compass.

The best time to take a trip to the Maldives is in the southern hemisphere’s winter, which is basically from March until October. The roaring forties spin relentlessly during those months, and from June through August, the wind mainly blows offshore. Although the waves surrounding Huvadhoo and Addu Atolls – the two southern atolls – aren’t as perfectly shaped or soft as some of the northern atolls, the waves generally have more power and offer more barrel opportunities than their neighbors to the north.

The lineup at Tavarua Right – one of the few right-handers in Fiji that not many know about. Photo: Dave Nilsen

The lineup at Tavarua Right – one of the few right-handers in Fiji that not many know about. Image: Dave Nilsen

2. Tavarua, Fiji

Tavarua Island is on every surfer’s bucket list. The tiny, 29-acre heart-shaped island plays host to a bunch of the best waves in the world, all wrapped into one perfect little package. Cloudbreak, possibly Tavarua’s most well-known wave, sits at the edge of the reef, funneling all the way in and producing some of the most perfect big waves the world has ever seen.

For such a little island, Tavarua has a pretty interesting history. In the early 19th century, the chief, or Ratu, was tricked into leaving the safety of his tribal warriors, then ambushed and mortally wounded on the outer island of Mololo. He swam to Tavarua, where he died. His family still lives on the island, which has been developed into a place devoted to a life for those bent on either the best waves or the most idyllic setting on the planet.

Purple sunset in the Mentawais, shot on velvia film. Sometimes you can put things in the center of the frame. Image: Roche

Purple sunset in the Mentawais, shot on velvia film. Sometimes you can put things in the center of the frame. Image: Roche

3. The Mentawais

The Mentawai Islands are basically paradise incarnate for surfer. A postcard-perfect archipelago of islands lie just off the Sumatran mainland, where open ocean swells wind their way over perfect reef passes, folding over shallow coral and creating some of the best waves on the planet. The Mentawais are a trek, though ­­– the nearest point of access is West Sumatra, where flights come in from Jakarta. From Padang, it’s usually an overnight boat ride. Because tourism is based almost exclusively on surfing and the Mentawais are known as a premier surf destination, despite their remoteness, the islands are likely to be a little crowded during peak season. But because of the endless possibilities, a good boat driver and a little patience will go a long way towards that empty perfection you came all the way to the middle of the ocean for. Boat trips here usually range from around 10 to 14 days – the long trip just isn’t worth a weekend – and are pretty plush. And because there really isn’t much else to do other than surf and fish, it’s become a haven for hardcore surfers who aren’t there to do anything other than just that.

 Papua New Guinea Surfing Association

Head there during peak season and you’re pretty much guaranteed to get some of the best waves of your life all to yourself. Image: Papua New Guinea Surfing Association

4. Papua New Guinea

PNG isn’t usually the first place one thinks of when planning a boat trip. Just north of Australia, Papua New Guinea is flanked by some of the most famous waves in the world, so it’s a given that it’s going to have some of its own. Head there during peak season and get on the right boat, and you’re pretty much guaranteed to get some of the best waves of your life all to yourself – or at least with just a few of your friends. According to PNG Surfaris, up until 2006, the island’s near-perfect waves hadn’t been surfed. And even now as surfing’s popularity explodes, there are still unknown nooks and crannies that offer a saturated pastime some much-needed solitude.

Photo: Trevor Murphy

If you’ve been to Costa Rica on a surf trip, chances are pretty good that you’ve been to Witch’s Rock or Ollie’s Point – two of the best waves in Costa Rica. Image: Trevor Murphy

5. Witch’s Rock, Costa Rica

If you’ve been to Costa Rica on a surf trip, chances are pretty good that you’ve been to Witch’s Rock or Ollie’s Point – two of the best waves in Costa Rica. Because they’re so good and so well known, though, you’re probably not going to get empty waves. But the waves you get will be well worth it. The wave here really became public domain when the Endless Summer II came out – Robert August showcased it in the best possible light, which is a surprisingly common occurrence. The wave at Witch’s Rock is absolutely world-class, and when the tide gets too low, hop in your boat and whip over to Ollie’s Point, a right-hander that holds when the waves get bigger. Or, if you get lucky, ask your boatman for any other nooks and crannies around there. They exist.

Have another addition to the list? Leave your best boat trip story in the comments section below for a chance to win $200 worth of fresh Howler Bros. gear!



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