It has been awhile since many of us have travelled for surf, and when the world finally opens up again, it will likely be much different than we remember. In addition to the threat of COVID-19 infection, many of the countries that we love to chase swells to are suffering through an extended global economic downturn, which means that petty crime, corruption, and unrest are likely to increase.
When we are travelling in a foreign country, the last thing any of us wants is to get robbed, stuck in the midst of a civil war, or get mixed up in a bit of violence—especially if we are adventuring alone.
Fortunately, there are a number of world-class surf destinations that are incredibly safe and secure—some of them even more so than the countries that we call home. Here are a few of the safest countries to visit that also have amazing waves.
A low crime rate, welcoming local population, lack of big, scary animals, and established tourist scene are all testament to the safety of this island country—not to mention the theory that during nuclear war/fallout, New Zealand will be the last place on earth to get affected (due to proximity to currents, winds, and the fact that there are no major nuclear powers nearby).
Combine that with the incredible natural beauty of the country and a huge variety of consistent waves, and you could do a lot worse than a trip to Land of the Long White Cloud.
Spot guide: New Zealand
Canada’s main surf zone is a quiet little town on the Pacific coast of Vancouver Island, with incredible scenery and access to both user-friendly waves and a few heavy water slabs.
Although the water is cold and there are bears in the forest, Canada is generally one of the safest and friendliest countries to visit, with minimal crime, corruption, or political unrest. If things get any worse in the US during the run-up to the November election, you will know where to find me—paddling a longboard across the Strait of Juan de Fuca and hitching my way north to Tofino.
When to go: Canada west
I’ve spent a lot of time in Japan over the past year, both surfing and snowboarding, and it is quickly becoming one of my favourite countries. The people are kind and respectful, crime is virtually non-existent, the culture and landscape are amazing, and as long as you stay outside of Tokyo, it’s surprisingly affordable.
The only real safety concern for a visiting surfer is fallout from Fukushima, but to be honest, the entire Pacific is probably inundated by now, so if you are truly worried about radiation, you should probably head to New Zealand (see above).
Spot guide: Japan
Sure, Iceland is about as cold as they come, and has a lot of volcanic activity—but the small, friendly population and nearly complete lack of crime or civil unrest makes up for any risk of eruption or hypothermia.
The country has spent the past decade setting itself up as the ideal tourist destination, so if you are looking to explore somewhere completely different, extremely beautiful, and incredibly safe, Iceland is the obvious choice. The huge variety of empty waves is just a bonus.
When to go: Iceland
True, Fiji has experienced four coup d’etats in the past 20 years, but the last was in 2006, and none of them put tourists in any real danger. And if you can look beyond the (relatively) recent government strife, you will find a country that is home to perhaps the happiest, kindest, most genuine people on the planet.
Fiji’s economy is based around tourism, so it makes protecting visitors a priority. Plus, the culture is incredibly welcoming, with hosts often treating tourists like family—and when your adopted family is full of 200-pound, muscle-bound Fijians, you don’t have much to fear.
Europe has remained relatively stable over the past few decades, and Portugal is one of the mellowest and most surf-friendly countries on the Old Continent. Between friendly locals, good infrastructure, a relatively stable government, and a ubiquitous community vibe, Portugal’s cozy, coastal cities are the perfect place to fall back in love with surfing.
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