5 most unique surf spots

You've heard about San Diego and Hawaii, but did you know you can surf in Michigan?

Whether you're a beginning surfer or a seasoned pro; ready to trail a tanker, edge an iceberg, or eager to stay stateside, we've got a surfing surprise is in store.

Surfing in Ireland

It may not be as obvious an association as Guinness and Jameson—which you can warm up with after a gnarly session—but the Emerald Isle boasts nearly 2,000 miles of coastline. And what a picturesque coastline it is. Think: beaches that offer long stretches of golden sand, colorful reefs, and scenic coves. The western shore comprises some of the most popular surf spots, including Tullan Strand and Strandhill, but even the east coast offers a gem (check out Tramore, Co Waterford). Beginners will be especially welcome surfing in Ireland, where beaches are dotted with surf schools. And did we mention how appealing a visit to the local pub sounds after?

Tanker Surfing in Texas

Locals say tanker surfing in Texas's Galveston Bay has been around since the 1960s, when fishermen and sailors began to ride the waves in the wake of cargo and tanker ships. But since his appearance in the 2003 documentary Step Into Liquid, which introduced tanker surfing to the wider public, James Fulbright is known as the unofficial godfather of the sport. Experienced longboarders can charter a ride with Fulbright's company, Tanker Surf Charters; he doesn't take beginners, and the sport has a somewhat exclusive, members-only vibe. There's even celebrity clientele, like ultimate beach fan Jimmy Buffet himself, who called tanker surfing "a surfing experience you will never forget." Indeed, playful dolphins have been known to leap alongside tanker surfers in the waves. Of course, traditional waves are on offer in the Lone Star State, with South Padre Island boasting the best waves in the warm, shallow waters of the Gulf.

Surfing in Iran

In the small Iranian village of Ramin in the remote region of Baluchestan, women are pioneering a surfing movement. Five-time Irish surfing champion Easkey Britton and two Iranian women, Mona Seraji and Shahla Yasini, were among the first people to surf in Iran, and the subjects of the film, Into the Sea. They've brought not only a sport to Ramin but a way to break down social and cultural barriers; as the women attracted attention, they began to teach surfing to boys in the local villages. Sports in Iran are generally open to women, but their bodies must be fully covered and their hair cannot be visible. The lack of sportswear suitable for Muslim women in water sports is a challenge for female athletes, Shahla Yasini told Huck Magazine. "The lack of freedom in movement prevents women from moving quickly and feeling comfortable in the water. It's also further distancing other women who are not used to sports, stopping them taking their chance to get close to water. Moreover, a very male dominated mentality is the greatest obstacle, especially here in Baluchestan. Myself and the other women involved in the surfing movement have to face and fight against." There are now a number of nonprofit organizations to encourage surfing in the region, including We Surf in Iran and the Surf Seeds Project.

The Great Lakes

A GI returning from Hawaii with a longboard in 1945 was the first to surf the Great Lakes—what some have called America's "Third Coast"—but surfing didn't really take off on the eastern shore of Lake Michigan until the 1960s. There are only about ten surfable days a year and the frigid water requires a thick, hooded wetsuit—and sometimes even that's not enough. "Winter swells mean 30-degree water temps and sometimes subzero air temps; sometimes you get frozen into your wetsuit," a Duluth, Minnesota surfer told the Adventure Sports Network. Still, boosters have been known to call Sheboygan, Wisconsin "the Malibu of the Midwest" for its freshwater surfing, and you can't beat the friendly vibes of the local communities. "Don't be surprised if everyone in the lineup chats you up or invites you for a post-session drink," the magazine advised.

Surfing in Iceland

The Guardian called Iceland "Europe's last surfing frontier," and surfing veteran Atli Guðbrandsson called the arctic waters, "cold, beautiful and unpredictable." Midsummer in Iceland means long days of daylight and empty waves—as long as you can take seas that "strike like a slap in the face." The waves around the Reykjanes peninsula break over a rough volcanic reef—wetsuits and foot protection required. Imagine a lunar landscape that is only an hour from cosmopolitan Reykjavik. If hostile weather and tricky logistics sound like fun and you are willing to do your homework, than the glorious scenery onshore can more than compensate. Or skip the cram session and book your adventure with Arctic Surfers, founded in 2011 by Ingó Olsen, one of Iceland's surfing pioneers, who remembers the early days. "I was, like, 'Surfing? In Iceland? Are you kidding me?'" Olsen told the Guardian. "I went one summer evening with a really old borrowed wetsuit, wool socks with plastic bags over them, and sneakers – and it was so much fun."

Surfing in the Netherlands

From April to October, Holland has its own surprising surf-scene on the North Sea that is "absolutely epic." Summer is the most welcoming time for beginners—seasoned pros will get their kicks in spring and autumn. And you won't have to venture far from Amsterdam. One of the Netherlands' best surf spots is Wijk aan Zee. Sign up for a lesson at Ozlines surf school for surfing lessons. Or head to Zandvoort, where surf schools Surfana and First Wave can help you ride the waves. In Bloemendaal there's a surf camp in the summer months. But locals call Scheveningen in The Hague the Dutch surfing mecca. Wherever you go, supplant visions of sun, sea, and palms with one that is windy, cold and gray. But as surfers say: that can make for an ideal day of waves.

Any one of these adventures could you leave you feeling like Wilma Johnson, author of Surf Mama: One Woman's Search for Love, Happiness, and the Perfect Wave. "In a moment I might be under the wave swallowing seawater and small jellyfish, but right now I am an ancient princess of Hawaii, I am a bikini model, I am a goddess before the crest of a monster billow."

To which we say, right on.


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