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Hanging Ten in Taiwan – The Best Spots for Surfing around the Island

June 24, 2013 DESTINATION No Comments Email Email

On traveling surfers’ itineraries Taiwan is a relatively new spot, but the surfing community is gradually taking notice of this wonderful place.

Indeed, the beauty of Taiwan’s coastal regions, coupled with the consistent waves, is one of the reasons that Taiwan is such an inspiring place for anyone who possesses a love of nature and the ocean.

The Tropic of Cancer runs across the lower-middle section of Taiwan, and serves as a rough indicator line for two climate zones.  There is a tropical monsoon climate in the lower half, and a subtropical one in the upper.  Basically, this means that you’ll be surfing in boardshorts for most of the year if you’re used to cool climes!  I even have a friend who proudly refuses to over go surfing in a wetsuit in Taiwan.  In the seven years he has been here, he’s managed to keep this record intact.  Admittedly, he is a bit of a fair-weather surfer.  Taiwan’s waters generally stay relatively warm, so even on the coldest winter days you’re unlikely to need any wetsuit thicker than a 2/3mm spring suit.  How’s that for an “endless summer?”

Taiwan’s surf potential is great.  The east coast receives swell throughout the year, broken up into two distinct seasons.  There’s the winter season from October through March, when storms off the coast of Japan send swells to Taiwan, and there’s the summer season, when intense low-pressure systems build around the Philippines, sending swells rolling north to the east coast.  Therefore, hardly a day goes by when you can’t find someone riding the waves in Neptune’s local playground.LP250x250-1

Although surfing in Taiwan has emerged as a popular pastime only in the last decade or so, there is a vibrant surf community, and it is one that is ready to welcome you and share the bounty that this island has to offer.  Following is a breakdown of the most popular places to surf.

The north and northeast coastal areas have some beautiful beaches that are perfect for surfing.  On the north coast, traveling east from Tamsui, one of the first beaches you will come to is Baishawan, an exquisite stretch of fine white sand on a picturesque bay surrounded by rolling hills.  Baishawan is a great location for beginners, because the gently shoaling shore reduces the intensity of the waves.  There are a number of surf shops and cafés off the eastern end of the beach, and the people there will be happy to rent you a board.  Most shops have surf instructors who will explain the basics to those just starting to learn.  These outlets also offer coffee and refreshments, giving you energy pre- or post-surf.  The beach can get crowded mid-summer, but that just adds to the fun of life on the beach.  Baishawan can be accessed by taking a bus headed for Jinshan or Keelung from the stop next to MRT Tamsui Station.

The next stop on our Taiwan “surfer” is Jinshan, also on the north coast.  The golden-sand beach here is on a long, sweeping bend of a bay backed by the majestic mountains of Yangmingshan National Park.  Surf shops line the road behind the beach, but most do their business on the beach itself.  There you will find a number of surf stalls offering a variety of boards for rent.  The waves at Jinshan vary greatly with the tides and the size of the swells.  On a big swell, the wave breaks just outside of the small harbor’s breakwater and, if you’re lucky, it will peel all the way into the bay.  During the summer months you can usually find a small wave breaking inside the bay, about 20 meters from the shore.  Jinshan also has a small selection of cafés, which offer grand views from their terrace balconies.  There are regular buses from Tamsui and Keelung, as well as from Taipei via Yangmingshan.

For anyone living or staying in Taipei, Fulong Beach on the northeast coast is perhaps the easiest surf spot to access.  It’s only a short train ride through Taipei suburbs, then exurbs, then lush valleys and coast.  The journey from Taipei Railway Station to Fulong takes only a bit more than an hour, but this beachside town seems light years away from the hustle and bustle of Taiwan’s capital.  After arriving at the small Fulong Station, just head straight down to the beach.  Once there, look south and you’ll see the stunning Dongxing Temple, which radiates like a beacon over the bay.  At the steps leading up to the car park, you will usually see a whole stack of boards.  Just ask one of the friendly local surfers hanging out there about board rental, and they will set you on your way.  Chances are high that it will be a guy named Dollar who also runs a nice guesthouse next to the train station.  Not only is he a great surfer, but he’s also happy to chat and share his love of the ocean with you.

Fulong is an underrated spot for surfing.  There’s a surfable wave most days of the year, and the right-breaking wave in front of the river mouth here offers fun, peeling waves.  One place that you have to go when you’ve finished surfing is The Fu Bar.  It’s run by two friendly and fun South African expatriates, who serve up some of the most delicious barbecue treats you can find in Taiwan.  Fulong also has some lovely sunsets, so don’t leave too early!

The black volcanic sand beach at Wushi Harbor, further down along the northeast coast, is one of the most popular surf spots for beachgoers living in north Taiwan.  Backed by a roofless canopy of green mountains, it’s a beautiful place to be when you’re waiting between sets in the warm, azure ocean.  Wushi Harbor has a bustling surf and beach scene during the summer months, when it seems that just about everyone in Taipei decamps to be beside the sea.  You’ll find a whole street of surf shops and surf inns selling all the latest boards, boardshorts, bikinis, and beach towels.  The beach is quite long, so if you require a little less bustle you can head back a bit north, away from the harbor area, to the more tranquil setting of Wai’ao.  The beach is open to a wide swell window, so it has waves pretty much year-round.  You can access it by taking a train to Toucheng and then taking a short taxi ride to the beach.  Wushi Harbor is a splendid location to view the sunrise over the Pacific Ocean.  If you want to do this, book a room at one of the numerous guesthouses found along the length of the beach.

Taitung County, in southeastern Taiwan, is a magical place.  You can feel it in the air, see it in the magnificent mountains, and taste it in the roaring brine of the ocean.  It’s home to a myriad of terrific waves along its wild and stunning coastline.  There are a number of surf guesthouses around Donghe, the center for Taitung surfing, and the pick of the bunch is the friendly, funky, charming Low Pressure Surf Hostel.  Run by Jun and Ibu, this is a place where any surfer could happily spend the rest of his/her days.  Unlike the coastal regions of the north, Taitung does not really cater to the beginner surfer, as most of the spots are not easy to access and the waves are pretty challenging.  However, if you know what you’re doing, and you’re happy to explore, you’ll find surfing treasures all along the coast here.

We end our surf trip around Taiwan at the island’s southernmost point.  Kenting National Park is home to some of this land’s most beautiful beaches, so naturally there are a number of stunning surf spots.  The town of Kending has – the distinctive vibe of a tourist surf town, and its main street (a section of Provincial Highway No. 26) is packed with surf shops.  To the west of the town is Nanwan, which has a nice white-sand beach that gets pretty busy on weekends.  If you follow Highway 26 east from kending and then turn north, you’ll soon come to Jialeshui, a more rustic option.  Its sandy, pebble-dashed beach receives some great waves, and the water turns a brilliant shade of turquoise on the frequent sunny days of the tropical south.

Taiwan’s surf spots do not suffer from the overdevelopment that casts a shadow over some of the surf regions elsewhere around the world.  As a resident surfer in Taiwan, I hope this situation doesn’t change.  There are waves for everyone on this paradise isle, so if you come to enjoy them please remember to smile, share, and salute the bounty that falls at your twinkling wet toes as you hang ten.  Shaka!

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