Phuket has in recent years become known as the surfing capital of Thailand, and it’s really the only place where it’s possible to try this thrilling water sport anywhere in the whole country. Despite this, the surf in Phuket is not considered anywhere near as impressive as at famous worldwide surfing destinations such as Oahu in Hawaii and Bells Beach in Australia. Nevertheless, there is a growing army of dedicated surfers that come to Phuket each year, as well as local expats that know the local beaches and where the best breaks can be found. Many Thais are also starting to get in on the surfing action as well as renting out boards of many shapes and sizes, and giving lessons to beginners and experts alike.
Surfing only began to take hold fairly recently in Phuket, as increasing numbers of people were coming to the island and enquiring about renting boards whilst they were on holiday. Unfortunately at the time there wasn’t really much of a local surfing heritage so it was impossible to obtain the equipment. The situation started to change a few years ago as enterprising Thais and local businesses saw an opportunity, and now there are many places around Phuket that have all the relevant kit and experience to help people learn.
The best surfing locations in Phuket are mainly along the island’s west coast beaches such as Kata Beach, Karon Beach, Surin Beach and Bang Tao Beach, which have a varied mixture of conditions and different characters. The surfing in Phuket is not considered exceptional but it’s good fun and the atmosphere is convivial. It’s also a decent place to learn as the water is relatively calm and winds are light. Newbies will find that Phuket is an ideal place to grasp the basic techniques in a safe environment.
The best time of year for surfing is undoubtedly during the low tourist season around April to September when the southwest monsoon season brings with it more turbulent conditions, which are suitable for surfing with the added benefit that the island is much quieter, and hotels and flights are generally cheaper. During the remainder of the year, it’s possible to surf but the swells are much less reliable. Between December and February however are the worst months by far, with a very low chance of being able to get out on the water.
Where to Catch a Wave
As mentioned, most surf spots in Phuket are along the west coast beaches. From north to south, here is our rundown on what to expect at each location. It’s also a good idea to get some local advice on where to surf on particular days, and to check out the local weather and tides beforehand.
At the far northwest coast of Phuket, Mai Khao Beach has very inconsistent surfing and variable conditions caused by the sharp drop off.
Further south, Nai Yang Beach is more favourable near to the coral reef but it’s not very close to the shore.
At Nai Thon Beach the swells are a couple of metres high but it’s rocky and so extra care must be taken.
Bang Tao Beach has some quite good surfing at the northern end of the beach as it’s quite exposed, but there are shifting sandbanks which makes it a little hard to predict. Many surfers enjoy riding here.
Southwards to Surin Beach is a popular surf spot with good surfing at either side of the beach, but there are some large rocks in the middle to watch out for.
At Laem Singh Beach the surfing is very fast with decent sized swells of a couple of metres and abundant rocks, but it’s quite sheltered from the wind. As an added bonus, the beach itself is lovely and rather secluded.
Kamala Beach has a few reefs and the northern end provides fairly consistent surfing conditions and good breaks.
Just north of Patong Beach, the adjoining rocky Kalim Beach is one of the best beaches in Phuket to surf when the swell is big and therefore can become quite crowded at times. The break here is quite shallow due to the coral reef and it has mainly a rocky bottom.
Surfing at Patong Beach itself is best attempted at the northern end where it’s fairly fast and open to the wind.
Karon Beach is never a very popular surfing location in Phuket because it’s too exposed and the conditions vary widely. Waves can reach up to about two metres.
Probably the best place to surf in the island and suitable for beginners is Kata Beach (also known as Kata Yai Beach) which has consistent conditions, and consequently is where most surfers can be found. There are a few places to rent boards and take lessons, too. The southern end of the beach provides the greatest conditions with fast waves that can become fairly high and swells of around two metres or so. The island’s surfing competitions have historically been held in Kata Beach due to the favourable waves, but in 2011 one competition was held at nearby Patong Beach instead.
A little further south from Kata Beach is Kata Noi Beach which has fast waves near the northern rocky headland, and overall quite good surfing with a beach break.
The furthest surfing beach to the south is Nai Harn, one of the best spots on the island with a permanent sandbank which typically produces a fast, long ride with the occasional barrel. Swells can reach up to three metres.
Learning to Surf
Many people don’t realise that learning to surf is easier than they imagine, and is suitable for a very wide range of ages as long as you’re relatively fit. It doesn’t take huge strength to master and is more about balance and control of the board, and knowing how to read the waves; it’s beneficial to spend time in the water often, to make maximum progress.
Learning to surf is made slightly easier if you have previous experience at similar board based sports where balance is key, such as skateboarding and snowboarding, but otherwise you’ll no doubt spend a bit longer mastering the basic techniques. Once you’re in the water and riding your first wave standing on the board, you’ll be hooked.
There are many different types of surfboards aimed at different styles and skill levels including shortboards, funboards, longboards, stand up paddle boards, soft top surfboards (ideal for beginners) and bodyboards (normally used with swim fins for greater propulsion). Board rental starts from around 150 to 200 baht an hour or 500 baht for a full day, but there is some variation between companies with some charging up to 500 baht an hour. For anyone that prefers private one-on-one lessons, you can expect to pay anywhere between about 900 and 1500 baht an hour (or a bit less if part of a group).
Phuket Surfing Competitions
There are a few surfing competitions held in Phuket each year as follows.
Quicksilver Thailand Surf Competition
In 2011, this popular contest was moved from Kata Beach to Patong Beach, which is slightly puzzling as the waves there are generally not as good. The event is part of the Asian Surfing Championship and takes place over 4 days around September each year, and it can attract some well known competitors from around the region. In 2011, about 52 surfers took part in the men’s competition alone.
Kamala Go Surfing Contest
This annual two day competition, organised by local surfers (the Kamala Go Surfing Club) celebrated its ninth year in 2011, and takes place at the northernmost end of Kamala Beach. The categories include both shortboard and longboard divisions.
Phuket Surf Companies
There are several surf companies in Phuket that rent equipment and can organise lessons. A few of them are listed below, but it’s also possible to rent boards just by going to the beaches and looking around.
Phuketsurf.com has several types and brands of board for hire starting from only 150 baht an hour, as well as group and private lessons.
Tel: +66 (0) 87 889 7308
Boards for rent and lessons are available at Surin Beach and Bang Tao Beach. They also have an online store and a real bricks-and-mortar surf shop in Phuket.
Tel: +66 (0) 76 271 050
Siam Aquatic Adventures
Board rental and lessons are available.
Tel: +66 (0) 76 388 684
Skyla’s Beach House
Skyla’s is a simply brilliant beachside bar and restaurant right on the beach at the northern end of Kamala Beach. They also organise surfing lessons as well as other activities. They post regular updates about the local swell and surfing conditions on their Facebook page.
Tel: +66 (0) 82 519 3282
Stand Up Paddle Thai
Specialises in the stand up paddle (SUP) variety of surfing with boards and equipment for hire, as well as tours and lessons.
Tel: +66 (0) 76 620 201
Surf Shop Nautilus
These guys are located right on the beach in Kata, close to the action. Board rental prices start at 150 baht an hour, or bodyboards for 100 baht an hour.
Tel: +66 (0) 76 284 183