Where to learn to surf in Asia.
April 21, 2008 6:18 PM   Subscribe

First-hand surfing advice. My 29 year old son lives in Hong Kong and is looking for a place in Asia to spend two weeks learning to surf preferably within the next few months. He's reasonably athletic, but a complete beginner. He's thinking Bali, but is open to any location. He's searched Google and found lots of possibilities, but he's looking for first-hand recommendations from someone who has done something similar. He's ready to spend what it takes, so low cost is not a requirement.
posted by Jackson to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (6 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Kuta Beach is good, touristy with lots of Aussie surfers hanging around. Pretty good night life too, a few years ago Bali was very cheap, with Kuta the most expensive place, but still a great deal.
posted by Scientifik at 7:21 PM on April 21, 2008

Not quite Asia (but easily accessed from Hong Kong, the Gold Coast has a number of surfing schools. I have heard good things about Godfathers of the Ocean but, as always, you should conduct your own investigations.
posted by dg at 7:46 PM on April 21, 2008

When I was in Vietnam, I heard about good surfing in the south, maybe around the Ho Chi Mihn area(?). Not a lot of Vietnamese surf, but plenty of foreigners visit to do so.
posted by zardoz at 10:16 PM on April 21, 2008

Best answer: Nearly three years ago now, I spent 5 weeks in Bali learning to surf. It was an amazing experience - one I would highly recommend.

The brilliant thing about Bali is that there’s lots of good surf there, accessible for beginners. Even someone as rubbish as me was able to catch waves. There aren't the huge crowds in the water that you get in Australia or the UK and it's a friendly scene with little localism although the locals have right of way on anything, at any time. It's just the way that it is, and everyone laughs it off. Particularly because the locals have such a beautiful, unique surfing style supposedly influenced by the rhythms of the traditions of Balinese dance. Perhaps wishful thinking but those kids rock.

So, as a place to learn, Kuta beach will do for the first few days. There are lots of local surf schools. We used Pro Surf who were amazing (small classes, patient instructors, didn’t laugh at English snowboarders) and helped us buy a board locally - the range of imported second hand boards and locally made new boards is bewildering and a bit of guidance is preferable. Otherwise, as I did, you’ll end up doing something dumb like buying a second hand 'gun' as your first board. Brilliant for big wave surfing by experts, utterly impossible for me to use despite the assurances I got in the shop. Live and learn; be aware that board choice is important. We like local board shaper Palu who sorted us out with locally made new boards for well under a hundred pounds.

Once you've got a board and had a few days of lessons, the island is your oyster. It's tiny and transport is ok. There is always a number of surfers to split taxi costs with where there are no busses and once you get to one of the beaches, food, sunscreen and water aside, your costs are virtually nil.

Dreamland was by a long way, my favourite spot but there are loads more which were great. Be aware however that surfing can be put in the same box as golf - it's one of those things that looks really easy to do but is in fact super difficult. Your familiarity with snowboarding, skateboarding et al counts for jack shit. It’s the hardest of the board sports by a long chalk not least because of the outrageous physical demnds it makes on your body. Those muscle bound stereotypical ‘surf dudes’ look like that for reasons other than vanity.

Tell your son to get himself to the gym in preparation for this trip now. He wants to work on his arms and shoulders and wants to have as high a level of cardiovascular fitness as possible. Surfing is really all about swimming and he needs to be doing as much crawl as he can fit into his life right now – he’ll thank himself once in Bali. If he smokes, give it up right now. Those long paddles are hard enough without giving yourself, as I did, a handicap.
posted by dmt at 1:49 AM on April 22, 2008

Bali is your best bet. dmt's advice is sound
posted by singingfish at 5:20 AM on April 22, 2008

Best answer: N'thing Bali and everything dmt says.

Paddling out is the hardest part. Stronger arms and shoulders help, but its actually mostly core. Yoga is good in general, a lot of cobra pose specifically, since he'll spend a lot of time with his head up, back arched and trying to put as much power into his arms as possible.

Also, suggest he get an old board with no fins (or even something vaguely board-shaped) and pop up and hold that classic bent-kneed arms out surf stance for about 20 seconds. Do it about 100 times a day. When that's easy, put something under the board that makes it a little unstable, like a deflated basketball. When that's easy, starting putting some air in the basketball.

Come to think of it, summer is coming and I should start doing that too.
posted by RandlePatrickMcMurphy at 9:47 AM on April 22, 2008

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