22 april 2016 a sea­soned surfer’s guide to the world’s best spots to hang ten khalee­j­times. com/ wknd

WKND - - Travel - By alex wade

You never for­get your first wave. Not your first whitewater wave, but your first ride along the face of a green- blue, un­bro­ken and peel­ing wave. The­first wavey­outruly surf. Every­thing changes. You just want that feel­ing — of free­dom, speed, ex­cite­ment and grace, some­how all at once — again and again.

The first wave I surfed prop­erly was at Saun­ton Sands, a beach on the North Devon coast in Eng­land, when I was 18 years old. I grew up in Ex­mouth, on Devon’s south coast, where sur­fa­ble waves were hard to come by. I wind­surfed and rode my skate­board, but I felt my­self drawn to what seemed to be the best of all the board sports — surf­ing. As soon as my friends and I could drive, we would reg­u­larly head up to North Devon and try to master what, at least for Hawai­ians, has al­ways been the sport of kings.

We would pad­dle out at Saun­ton Sands and the area’s other well- known surf breaks: Puts­bor­ough, Woola­combe and, the best of all of them, Croyde Bay. We just wanted to learn to surf; we didn’t care if it was a freez­ing win­ter’s day or high sum­mer — though the lat­ter was cer­tainly prefer­able. Af­ter all, surf­ing’s most iconic film is Bruce Brown’s The End­less Sum­mer, in which two surfers fol­low the warm weather around the world, do­ing noth­ing re­ally, ex­cept surf. The movie re­mains most surfers’ dream, a point of ref­er­ence to help mea­sure how far away they are from the life they would most like to lead. The sum­mer af­ter I turned 18, I jumped to my feet, an­gled my board to the right of a per­fectly peel­ing chest- high wave and sped along its face. The sheer joy was like noth­ing else on Earth.

Many years later, John Mccarthy, a renowned Ir­ish big wave surfer, summed up the ap­peal of the sport to me. “Surf­ing is the most bliss­ful ex­pe­ri­ence you can have on this planet,” he told me. “It’s a taste of heaven.”

FEEL THAT SPRAY: 1 Surfers at Jef­frey’s Bay 2 A surfer and a fish­er­man at Peru’s Chi­cama North Burleigh beach, on the Gold Coast in Aus­tralia 4 A pro­fes­sional big wave surfer at Lan­zarote 5 A surfer walks out to­wards the crash­ing waves 6 Brav­ing it in Bathsheba, Bar­ba­dos

With­out buy­ing into cos­mic clichés — well, not too much — Mccarthy is right. I’m turn­ing 50, and a lot has hap­pened in the 32 years since I first rode a wave. I’ve worked in Lon­don and missed the ocean ev­ery day I did; I’ve ex­as­per­ated part­ners by in­sist­ing that ev­ery va­ca­tion had to be some­where with de­cent surf; I’ve given up the rat race to live min­utes from the sea in the far west of Corn­wall, Eng­land. And I’ve lived the dream, surf­ing ev­ery swell that came in, or­gan­is­ing my life around the tides, wind and waves.

It’s not all been good. I’ve seen the rise of lo­cal­ism, where Ne­an­derthal fools be­lieve that only they have a right to surf their breaks, and the spread of surf­ing’s all- per­va­sive com­mer­cial­ism. And I’ve had some bad in­juries, in­clud­ing bro­ken ribs and one that left me need­ing neck surgery.

Bro­ken bones, worn joints, the changes mid­dle age bring — all th­ese things have made me adopt a more mel­low ap­proach, only surf­ing when the con­di­tions are just right. But here’s the thing: even now, af­ter a good ses­sion, I can’t stop think­ing of the last wave I rode. Af­ter all th­ese years, that feel­ing still makes me want to pad­dle back out for more. So that’s what I do — be­cause you never for­get your first wave, and your last one takes you right back to where it all be­gan.

Not con­vinced? Try surf­ing — or even just watch­ing it — at any of th­ese world- class breaks.

Near the vil­lage of Bathsheba, on the east coast of Bar­ba­dos, is an ex­perts- only reef break known as the Soup Bowl, rated as one of the best by 11- time world cham­pion Kelly Slater. At the age of 20, Florida- born Slater be­came the youngest pro­fes­sional surfer ever to win the world ti­tle. ( At 39, he won it again, be­com­ing the old­est world cham­pion.) So when Slater rates a surf spot as good, it’s go­ing to be some­thing spe­cial. Down the coast, Surfer’s Point is also a per­fect wave for be­gin­ner and in­ter­me­di­ate surfers. Ask for the charis­matic Zed Layson, a Ba­jan who runs the show there, and he will have you up and rid­ing in no time. Oh, and the wa­ter tem­per­a­ture is 77° F all year.

Santa Cruz has many fan­tas­tic surf breaks, but Plea­sure Point may top them all. With good surf rolling in 320 days a year, this right- hand point break of­fers a num­ber of dif­fer­ent peaks. Nearby Steamer Lane is the home of the fa­mous O’neill Cold­wa­ter Clas­sic con­test. The cliffs above Santa Cruz’s breaks make them great for surf watch­ing.

Once dubbed “Lan­za­grotty,” the Ca­nary Is­land of Lan­zarote off the west coast of Africa has un­der­gone a makeover in re­cent years, be­com­ing an eco and sports haven. Europe’s first un­der­wa­ter mu­seum, the Museo At­lantico — fea­tur­ing re­mark­able work by Bri­tish sculp­tor Ja­son de­caires Tay­lor — opened in Fe­bru­ary. But for all the changes, one thing has stayed the same: the surf. It’s not for noth­ing that Lan­zarote is known as “the Hawaii of the Atlantic”. The pow­er­ful right­hand reef break at La Santa is a clas­sic, while there’s also an ul­tra- heavy left- hand slab. Nei­ther are for be­gin­ners, how­ever — and watch out for the sea urchins ( they’re every­where).

This wave on Oahu’s North Shore is still the surfer’s mecca, a prov­ing ground for elite surfers from all over the world. It’s a pho­to­genic wave — fast, hol­low and crys­talline — but also deadly. More peo­ple have been in­jured or killed surf­ing Pipe­line than at any other surf spot. It’s def­i­nitely not for am­a­teurs, but if you fall into the ex­pert cat­e­gory, Pipe­line is where rep­u­ta­tions and mem­o­ries are made. If not, you can watch the ac­tion from right on the beach.

Jef­freys Bay, in South Africa’s East­ern Cape prov­ince, has a leg­endary wave named af­ter the town: J- Bay. The fast right­hand point break of­fers tubu­lar heaven, but there’s just one prob­lem: sharks. J- Bay is where Aus­tralian surfer Mick Fan­ning, three- time world cham­pion, was wait­ing for a wave in a con­test last year when a shark at­tacked him. But you could learn a trick or two from him: Fan­ning punched the shark and sur­vived un­scathed.

The av­er­age surfer rarely needs to com­plain of tired legs — the typ­i­cal surf ride lasts for 10 to 20 sec­onds. But the Peru­vian left- hand point break of Chi­cama, si­t­u­ated half­way be­tween Lima and Peru’s bor­der with Ecuador, is be­lieved to be the world’s long­est wave: You can surf for four min­utes here — and leg cramps are a con­cern. Once de­serted, Chi­cama now draws crowds from around the world. The up­side is that this re­motesurfin­gout­post­nowhas­plen­ty­ofac­com­mo­da­tions, from bud­get to lux­ury.

With awe­some waves such as Kirra and Burleigh Heads along the Gold Coast, it’s easy to see why Aus­tralia has pro­duced more surf­ing world cham­pi­ons than any other na­tion. A sub­urb of the city of Gold Coast is even called Surfer’s Par­adise. Crowds aside, surfers of all abil­i­ties can find some­where to surf here.

( Alex Wade — www. alexwade. com — is the author of Surf Na­tion. He is cur­rently work­ing on a bi­og­ra­phy of Rus­sell Win­ter, the UK’S most suc­cess­ful surfer.)

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