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Planet Earth is accurately encircled by concentric lines of latitude and the tropical islands in this book are delineated and divided by three of the most prominent parallels of latitude. The Tropic of Cancer forms the northern limit of the tropics, where the sun will appear directly overhead for the June or Northern solstice, somewhere around the 23.5º N line of latitude. As the Earth’s slightly tilted orbit around the sun continues, the Equator is next to line up in the same plane with the sun, causing the bi-annual occurrence best described as the September equinox and March equinox. The southern border of the tropics is denoted by the Tropic of Capricorn, which mirrors its northern cousin by aligning with the sun at an almost identical latitude for the Southern solstice in December. Islands which are located between these two great lines cast on the surface of the earth by the sun are included, with the exception of large, multi zone islands (Papua New Guinea, Madagascar Sumatra, Java), any continental land masses (Australia, Central America, India) and islands that receive little in the way of regular surf.© 2014 Tavarua, Fiji / Bernard Testemale
A tropical cyclone is the generic term for a non-frontal synoptic scale low-pressure system over tropical or sub-tropical waters with organized convection (i.e. thunderstorm activity) and definite cyclonic surface wind circulation. (Holland 1993)
Cyclone, hurricane or typhoon are all geographically specific names for these strong tropical depressions, so choosing the correct name depends on where they form. Cyclone is the generic term used in the Indian Ocean and the Southwest Pacific Ocean (west of 160ºE). Hurricane is the Atlantic word, plus it is used for any storm that appears in the Northeast Pacific (east of dateline or 160ºE), while Typhoon and Super-Typhoon are reserved for the Northwest Pacific Ocean west of the dateline. There are also many different scales of measurement for tropical cyclones used by Regional Specialized Meteorological Centres and so the categories don’t always match up and some measure winds at different heights, for different lengths of time, arriving at different averages. The Saffir–Simpson Hurricane Scale is used for hurricanes only and the winds must reach 119km/h (33 m/s, 64 kt, 74 mph) in order for the storm to be officially named as a Category 1 hurricane. However this is equal to Cat 3 on the Australian scale (see table). Tropical storm and Tropical depression are further terms used at the lower end of the scale.© 2014 World Tropical Storm Tracks
Everything about the Pacific Ocean is big, covering 1/3 of the globe.
Dwarfing the Atlantic with a surface area twice the size, the Pacific covers a third of the globe and is by far the Earth’s biggest single feature. It is also the deepest ocean, holds the tallest mountains and the largest coral reef, but even more importantly, it is home to the planet’s biggest surf! Booming winter Aleutian swells saturate the North Pacific, while southern hemisphere lines roar out of the forties latitudes almost year-round, peppering the South Pacific and beyond. The Pacific is encircled by The Ring of Fire, where cracks and faults in the earth’s crust help the formation of 452 volcanoes that extend from New Zealand to Japan, across Alaska to the West coast of the Americas and all the way down to the Nazca plate off Chile. Sitting majestically at the centre of this enormous lava-fed halo is Hawaii, which fittingly represents both the centre of The Ring of Fire and the centre of the surfing universe.© 2014 Teahupoo, Tahiti / Ben Thouard
The spiritual home of surfing and the modern birthplace for all sorts of wave riding, Hawaii is and always has been the centre of the surfing universe. Here, on one of the remotest island chains on the planet, waves have been arriving from all the points of the compass and pounding the lava, coral and sand for eons. These waves have been shaping Hawaii and the Polynesian people, whose ancestors “fished up” the islands, while exploring the vast unknown regions of the Pacific in the 12th century AD. The “Sport of Kings” owes much to the Hawaiian royalty who enshrined the art of surfing into many aspects of day-to-day life, encouraging all levels of society to frolic in the waves.© 2014 Pipeline, Hawaii / Alan Van Gysen
The Asian corner of the Pacific may not have the same depth of surf culture that is apparent among the Polynesian nations to the east, nor does it benefit from both the booming northern and southern hemisphere swells, yet it is an enigmatic, challenging and ultimately rewarding surf destination when the conditions conspire. The biggest storms on earth (super-typhoons) travelling over the deepest water (Mariana Trench) can magic up swell events that awaken a host of waves throughout the Philippine and South China Seas. Typhoon swells are different to groundswells, often boasting around 8-10 waves per set, or sometimes as many as 12-15, reflecting the raw energy and power that these massive storms exert on the ocean.© 2014 Samar, Philippines / Alan Van Gysen
Trying to sum up or describe the definitive vision of “tropical paradise” that floats around most people’s imagination is probably best done in two words – South Pacific. This gigantic expanse of the deep blue Pacific, warmly embraces the randomly scattered island groups that dare break the surface, providing perfect conditions for an abundance of coral life in the form of fringing, platform, patch, barrier, oceanic ribbon, atolls and drowned coral reefs. Where there’s reef, there’s surf and early Polynesian cultures quickly learned how to integrate that surf into their daily lives. It’s not all plain sailing when it comes to catching some of these waves and many waves require a boat to reach them, high tide to cover them and above average skill to ride them.© 2014 Frigates, Kadavu Passage, Fiji / Waidroka.com
The Atlantic Ocean may play second fiddle to the Pacific Ocean in terms of size, depth and volume, yet it more than holds it own when it comes to other statistics.
The Atlantic is the stormiest ocean, boasting the largest tides and the underwater Mid-Atlantic ridge forms the longest mountain range on the planet, equivalent to the Himalayas, Andes and Rocky Mountains combined. It covers 25% of the Earth’s surface and holds almost a quarter of the world’s water, accepting more freshwater river flow than any other ocean. It is the busiest stretch of water, supporting more human populations around its perimeter, as it incorporates bastions of civilization like the Mediterranean Sea, the Baltic Sea and the Caribbean Sea. The Atlantic also provided the proof for the theory of continental drift and plate tectonics, explaining the jigsaw symmetry that exists between the west coast of Africa and the east coast of the Americas. While modern resource exploitation begins to put pressure on this most important of environments and pollution issues have been rising to the surface, there is little doubt that mankind sees the Atlantic Ocean as the most important body of water on the planet and plenty of surfers agree.© 2014 Cacimba, Fernando do Noronha, Brazil / Laurent Masurel
Strung out along a 1100km (685mi) oceanic front, the multitude of volcanic islands in the chain form an arcing Caribbean Sea barrier from the Atlantic swell train. Exotic, tropical, yet firmly Caribbean, each island group has its individual flavour in landscape, culture and also surf. Perfect pointbreaks over fire-coral, barrier reef passes, tabletop reefs and flawless sand point barrels are all fed with swell kicked up by the constant easterly trade winds or N swells from the cooler regions of the Atlantic. Throw in the possibility of hurricane swell from unusual directions and these Windward and Leeward Islands offer a rich diversity of wave-riding possibility.© 2014 Gas Chambers, Puerto Rico / Steve Fitzpatrick
Unlike the Pacific or the Indian Oceans, the tropical zone of the Atlantic beyond the Caribbean is conspicuously devoid of islands. Despite the mighty Mid-Atlantic Ridge bisecting Cancer and Capricorn, very few mountain tops break the surface and some of the ones that do are either too steep or under-exposed to the prevailing swell. Nevertheless, a few chains prove the quality not quantity theory, welcoming far-travelled swells from colder climes to their equatorial shores and turning on a seasonal wave feast for surprisingly few surfers.© 2014 Alibaba, Sal, Cape Verde / Ben Thouard
It is surprising that the Indian Ocean is home to the best waves in the world, considering the Pacific is the largest ocean and the Atlantic is the stormiest.
What makes it so good is actually the one ingredient that it is so obviously missing – land! When a storm crosses any other ocean, it eventually crashes into a continent, but not in the empty, marine kingdom between the Roaring Forties and the Great Southern Ocean, where low pressure systems have a clear path of circumnavigation, squirting the planet with all strains of south swell. Indonesia and a sprinkling of Indian Ocean islands have proved themselves the most able catchers of this reliable swell, transforming it into a glut of world-class spots in balmy, tropical latitudes, fanned by trustworthy trades and monsoons. Indonesia has fast become the centre of the surfing holiday universe, while a flotilla of charter boats troll the islands of this incredible archipelago for a never-ending “catch of the day”. Furthermore, out in the deep blue, sparkling atolls and islands beckon from the Maldives to Madagascar, challenging the traveller to plug into some Indian Ocean power lines.© 2014 Apocalypse, Panaitan Island / Pete Frieden/A-Frame
This corner of the Indian Ocean warms its hands closest to the fiery Roaring Forties low pressure systems that blast out a constant procession of quality swell events across the bottom of the basin. Just to the east of Madagascar the Mascarene Islands peep above the ocean parapet, copping a volley of SW swell and are peppered with famous, classy line-ups, hunkered down on the west coast out of the ever-present E trades. Further north, the obscure archipelagos of the Comoros and the swanky Seychelles both have a few draw cards, away from the masses, in a tranquil, tropical setting.© 2014 St Leu, Réunion / JS Callahan/SurfExplore
It’s strange to think that the lowest, flattest country in the world is in fact perched atop one of the most impressive mountain ranges on the planet and that these lofty peaks are flecked with sand instead of snow. From the Lakshadweep Islands off India’s west coast all the way to the British Indian Ocean Territories of Chagos, the 2000m high Deccan Plateau is a result of two tectonic plates meeting. The magma spewed out, massive volcanoes were formed, before sinking back into the sea, leaving behind the rings of limestone and coral we now call atolls. Circular reefs and their passes have turned out to be a pretty good shape for wave creation and this chain just happens to have 26 atolls slung across 2200km (1370mi) of ocean that receives plenty of pulses from the Great Southern Ocean.© 2014 Coke's, North Male, Maldives / Andrew Shield
The countries surrounding the Bay of Bengal are usually not considered to be true surf destinations, yet the fact that Sri Lanka and the Andaman Islands are stacked with waves should come as no surprise. They are close neighbours to the Maldives and Mentawais, two heavyweight surf destinations and cover all the bases from crowded, fun beachbreaks along the cheap tourist strips of Sri Lanka to empty, intense reefs in the adventurous wilds of Little Andaman. Add the exotic draw of Myanmar and Thailand, where perceptions may be altered and 2ft monsoonal wind slop gives way to waves of surprising height, power and shape during their on season.© 2014 Arugam Bay, Sri Lanka / Jason Feast
Bali is where it all started, first in the 1930s at Kuta, then reignited with interest by the discovery of Uluwatu in the early ‘70s. The Bukit peninsula soon became synonymous with perfect barrels as more world-class waves were introduced to an insatiable surf world. Surfers flocked to the region, crowds grew and so started the eternal search for perfection in every corner of the huge Indonesian archipelago. Yet the discovery of G-Land, Panaitan, Nias, the Hinakos, the Banyaks and the Telos all paled in significance compared to the Mentawai Islands, which quickly ascended the throne and ruled the world as the most sought after surf on the planet. This embarrassment of riches doesn’t only apply to the western islands and it wasn’t long before the southeastern islands of Nusa Tenggara formed stepping stones from Bali, with each major island hosting at least one world-class wave including probably the world’s best wave, Desert Point on Lombok. This area should attract surfers by the thousands, but in true Indo style, it is not so simple. While surf camps draw in visitors to a few prime spots, the rugged terrain and sparse infrastructure have left many coasts wild and undeveloped, offering the sort of vibe and exploration potential that existed on Bali 30 years ago.© 2014 Lagundri Bay, Nias, Indonesia / JS Callahan/SurfExplore
In a very short period of time, this wild and remote chain of islands, lying about 90k’s (55mi) off the Sumatran mainland, have become the most sought after destination for surfers looking to ride “the best waves in the world”. This bold claim is rarely disputed, as those who score a solid SW swell will testify and few return from the Mentawais disappointed with the wave quality and quantity. The key to this rapid ascension to the pinnacle of world surfing lies in the sheer concentration of truly world-class breaks and an unmatched flexibility when it comes to handling different swell and wind combinations. Being a degree or three below the equator helps massively, as the light, flukey winds provide a variety of directions unseen in other parts of Indonesia and it often transpires that proper glassy conditions bookend the day. Furthermore, the geomorphology of this seismically active region seems to cause unusual swell refraction and diffraction, creating unexpected waves round the back of islands and islets where none should normally exist. These coral encrusted lava reefs fringe a still relatively untouched rainforest and many of the tribal inhabitants of the remoter regions, still cling to a traditional subsistence lifestyle, maintaining little contact with the outside world. Progress is unavoidable though and whereas 15 years ago, yacht charters were the only way to go, now a half dozen land camps have been established at the banner waves and many more are planned.© 2014 Macaronis, Pagai Utara / Roger Sharp
The Stormrider Surf Guide have released a new book focussing on Tropical Islands and have donated a few select slices to wet your warm water appetite.
We’ve created an island-hopping journey exploring the world’s best warm-water surf zones. Many of the planet’s finest surf breaks are found between the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn, from the powerful, mountainous waves of Hawaii and Tahiti, through the exotic Caribbean to the pristine perfection of the Maldives and Mentawais. Coral encrusted atolls, dazzling white sands and gently swaying coconut palms fringe the backdrop for many of these islands found in the shimmering, equatorial waters of the Pacific, Atlantic and Indian Oceans. Here are a few of our favourite extracts.
With two events already down the “Dream Tour” is well underway for 2014.
Ferg talks about his eclectic quiver of surfboards before putting them through their paces in some of the best waves the North Atlantic has to offer
Internationally renowned filmmaker Kepa Acero comes to Cornwall to host a very special event as part of the Approaching Lines Festival.
Sandy barrels beat the grind hands-down but the heartbeat of competition never stops pulsing.
A Dublin fire fighter and his obsession with Ireland’s biggest and deadliest wave.