Over the course of 60 years of intrepid global exploration, surfers, photographers and film-makers have left very few stones unturned when it comes to finding quality waves.
While some say there are very few actual secrets left amongst the 147 nations with a coastline, there are indisputably many which still linger outside the peripheral vision of your average surf enthusiast.
The reasons these little known corners have evaded the limelight are varied and plentiful; some are harsh and fickle, requiring vast storms in tiny seas to get them working, whilst other fall in regions torn apart by war, preventing the kind of fine tooth combing required to find and figure out the set ups.
For your pleasure and intrigue we’ve compiled a list of five surf regions which, at least until recently, have been flying firmly beneath the surf world’s radar:
Formed as an independent Muslim nation when it gained independence from the British Empire in 1947, Pakistan has faced a tumultuous history, with a series of militarised governments and extended periods of social unrest.
“In June 2001 a crew of 12 people, including four surfers, explored the Makran Desert’s coast, looking for rideable surf in the Baluchistan province,” explains the new Stormrider Guide due to drop next Spring, “with its desert vistas containing formidable mountain ranges of amazing rock formations. However, they found that the deserted Arabian Sea coastline has shallow inshore sandbanks, especially around reefs and capes, which dissipate rather than focus the swell power”
It seems likely that the surf potential of Pakistan’s coastline will remain unrealised for at least another several years
Soon after this visit 9/11 happened rendering travel to the region severely restricted. Since then the nation has been subject to massive infrastructural development, particularly along its coast, completely changing the shape of its many inlets and outcrops.
Many of these changes will have undoubtedly destroyed what could have been great quality waves, but others, such as the construction of new harbours and jetties may have created brand new set ups.
The wind which accompanies the monsoon season is unfortunately onshore meaning the biggest swells will always be chopped up and messy at the most exposed spots. However, these spots do hold great potential in the monsoon transition months when swells continue to funnel up from the Indian Ocean.
Pakistan was thrust into the limelight earlier this year when images of a right hand sand bottomed point, which looked very much like the one Mick Fanning had just found, were unearthed from an old Surfline article.
However, as well as the unlikeliness of Ripcurl flying their golden boy out to Pakistan, according to The forthcoming Stormrider Guide, because of its position the wave (pictured above) would be very unlikely to ever exceed 3-4 foot, even on the biggest swells.
Unfortunately, due to ongoing turmoil in that part of the world it seems likely that the surf potential of Pakistan’s coastline will remain unrealised for at least another several years, and possibly much longer.
Montenegro sits unassumingly in the southern region of eastern Europe, nestled among four neighbour states and lying directly opposite Italy’s east coast.
It’s full of incredible untouched scenery, scenic villages, towering mountains, deep ravines and a long and varied coastline backing onto the Adriatic sea. Famed more for its kite surfing thanks to its warm water and steady, reliable trade winds, Montenegro is one of the most fickle nations on the list requiring a rare coming together of meteorological events to get it working.
As with any sea based surfing, howling winds, or a major weather system form the basis with those rare magical windows popping up when the winds that generated the swell swing or cease, allowing a short period of clean or even offshore waves.
If you fancy getting yourself down to Montenegro to sample its fickle little peelers for yourself, we found a Work Away ad which promises – in return for your labour – to teach you to surf and ‘fight back [against] Neo-Liberalism with Neo-Comunist Piratism.’
Well, what are you waiting for?
Even more fickle than Montenegro is Azerbaijan, where the capital Baku juts out into the Caspian sea. Bordered by Iran, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Russia, the Caspian is the largest enclosed body of water on earth, with no outflows and no way for the swell to get in.
However, according to Audrey Sykes, who visited the region with Ian Walsh back in 2011, storms in the Caspian sea can still churn up enough power to create waves up to four foot in Azerbaijan.
“The coast was a straight line,” she recounts in an article on Redbull.com “and we only had one day, once chance, to find something that could work. But all we saw was side shore windswept surf, then Ian and Perth spotted a river mouth that created enough transition to shape the waves.
“They threw on wetsuits and went for it. The water looked dirty and uninviting. After a session Ian said his board felt strangely slick, and Perth mentioned an ear infection. And we’d later learn this spot was one of the most polluted areas of the Caspian Sea. But the waves didn’t completely suck, and the footage looked striking for a surf film. We even drew a two-man crowd in the SUV that appeared on the beach like a ghost.”
Home to a passionate and dedicated crew of surfers, Sweden is perhaps the most well-known country on our list. The Baltic sea is cold and temperamental, but the Swedish coastline offers an incredible array of set ups that mean, when everything aligns, it’s one of the best cold water surf destinations on earth.
“The Swedish coastline is made for surfing – however minus the groundswell.” explains Sweden’s most celebrated surfer Freddie Meadows in an interview with us. “Countless bays, points, islands, outer reefs and slabs that would be world class if exposed to real ocean swell.”
“Lucky for us the Baltic is small but violent, and throughout autumn and winter can produce short but decent swells quite regularly. On a good day, one would be happy with the power and quality of our waves wherever you found them in the world. However, it’s usually stormy, onshore, weak and all for the sake of getting in the water and staying savvy.”
The tiny independent state on France’s southern Mediterranean coast is famous for many things; yachts, casinos, the Grand Prix – but surfing is not one of them. However, like much of the Mediterranean’s expansive coastline, Monaco does get seasonal short fetch swell, generated by storms which make their way up to the Ligurian sea.
What has kept it a little further below the radar than the likes of Sardinia or Spain’s Med coast, is the exclusivity and astronomical expense associated with staying in Monaco, keeping your average shoestring budget surf traveller firmly at bay. The adjacent coastlines, in France, Italy and Corsica also boast good set ups and are much more well frequented by travelling European surfers.
The waves in Monaco, however, look like they do get exceptionally good fun once in a blue moon, as shown in the clip above from a few years back, featuring Sancho and Tim Boal. It’s barreling, it’s powerful and it’s offshore but sadly until Neo-Communist Piratism successfully overturns the Neo-Liberal order, we definitely won’t be able to afford to go there.
Images courtesy of Antony YEP Colas/ Dan Haylock/ Low Pressure
Low Pressure will be releasing The World Stormrider Surf Guide in Spring 2018 – the most comprehensive review of Global surfing destinations ever produced.
Check out our favourite from their back-catalogue, the excellent Stormrider Guide To Europe here.