Places You Wouldn't Expect to Have Surf -- The 2019 Edition

Matt Rode

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Updated 34d ago

Each year, the surf world gets a little bigger. Sometimes our map expands because of new technology (like better wetsuits or transportation options). Other times, new surf zones become accessible to us as political situations stabilise. Most of the time, it’s simple creativity and a desire for adventure that sees our pioneers sniffing out new spots.

For awhile, we focused on the obvious zones—coastlines that enjoyed consistent swell, mild weather, and good conditions. But as the world becomes smaller and the marquee waves more crowded, surfing’s most intrepid explorers have looked farther afield, to coastlines that are cold, fickle, and inconsistent at best. While a lot of these new lineups are novelty waves, a handful of them are legit discoveries. Here are a few zones you probably thought you’d never surf, but that are actually holding.

The Great Lakes

© 2019 - Burton H.

Okay, surfing in the Great Lakes is nothing new—but who knew it could get this good! A few locals, as it turns out—guys who have the local breaks and weather dialled, and who chase down every shred of swell with more froth than the entire menehune division at your local contest.

Forecast: Great Lakes

A couple of those locals recently invited Dylan Graves out for a visit, and he ended up scoring legit barrels in fresh water—and we don’t mean the man-made kind. The Great Lakes as a legitimate surf destination? Yes indeed.

Poland

Yes, this is Poland.

Yes, this is Poland.

© 2019 - Krzysztof Jedrzejak.

Poland is probably the last place you’d think of visiting to surf—it doesn’t even have coastline on an ocean! But if you can surf in a lake, you can definitely surf in a sea—and Poland sits on the Baltic Sea, which gets its fair share of weather. Last year, we ran a gallery on just how good Poland can get, you can see there HERE.

Forecast: Poland

Weather means waves, so it’s just a matter of being in the right place at the right time, when short-period wind swell meets up with offshore winds and a well-formed sand bar or point. When that happens, the only hint that you aren’t surfing a well-known ocean break will be the complete lack of a crowd.

Uruguay

© 2019 - Juan Pablo Malcon.

That Uruguay has waves is not a fresh concept. It is mostly overlooked by the hard-heeled surfer due to the country not being as accessible, or as documented, as its South American counterparts in Brazil and Chile.

Forecast: Uruguay

If you do take time to get to Uruguay, you can expect more than 80 breaks scattered along 200kms of Atlantic coastline. Some of the best spots take a certain level of dedication to get to, so are rarely crowded. Want more? Check the gallery, HERE.

Netherlands

© 2019 - Michal Pelka.

Another European country on yet another sea, the Netherlands doesn't get good surf very often. But once in awhile a storm pushes swell across the North Sea, the local winds switch to a fortuitous direction, and the local banks turn on.

Forecast: Netherlands

When that happens, the patient locals who have endured months of onshore slop are rewarded for their grit—sometimes even with cold-water barrels -- see HERE.

Nova Scotia

© 2019 - Acorn Art Photography.

Most of the hype behind Canadian surf comes from the West Coast, where Pete Devries and the Bruhwiler brothers dominate the surf landscape of Tofino and the rest of Vancouver Island. The east coast of Canada suffers from the same plight of most northern hemisphere east coast zones—the storms form in the local area, then push swell across the Atlantic to the west coast of Europe.

Forecast: Nova Scotia

But as with the rest North America’s east coast, the beach breaks, reefs, and points of eastern Canada occasionally get a storm pointed at them—and when the elements align, Nova Scotia lights up with some of the most picturesque lineups on the planet, which you can view HERE.

Cold? Sure. Fickle? Probably. But also epic and beautiful on the right day—and for surfers in the know, those days come around a bit more frequently than the rest of us might think.

North Korea

Here's what sparked our curiosity.

Here's what sparked our curiosity.

A few years back, MSW joked (kinda) about North Korea having surf but the country being on such strict lockdown that we'd just never seen it. Google Earth proved fruitful for a near righthand pointbreak we spotted.

Forecast: North Korea

Then, a few years later, the first surf trip launched in the beleaguered country, which we had the skinny on. Just last year, Kalani Jabour toured the secret state, picking off waves and immersing in the culture -- "It was small, but this experience — surfing an empty beachbreak with thick snowflakes falling on my face as I looked back at the snow-covered beach — was unique and priceless," he writes for MSW. The realms of possibility are still there, see the feature HERE.

Additional reporting by Jason Lock.