The World's Most Unexpectedly Awesome Surfing Locations

01/10/2015 9:53 AM AEST | Updated 15/07/2016 12:51 PM AEST
Jeremy Woodhouse via Getty Images
Caucasian surfer carrying board near glacial water


Thanks to wave technology creating artificial sets in land locked locations, surfers may finally be able to go for gold in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. But it's not only wave technology opening up breaks in the middle of continents. Hidden reefs, tankers, tidal bores and modern wetsuits are providing some awesome opportunities for surfers -- sometimes in the most unexpected places.

Qiantang River, China

It's muddy and sometimes littered with rubbish, but the Qiantang River near China's east coast wins in the novelty department. The river and bay is known for being the world's largest tidal bore, a big river wave which peaks at the full moon and barrels for kilometers. Qiantang's first surf competition, the Qiantang Shoot Out, was held by Red Bull in 2012, and was considered to be the most unusual wave in the world for a surfing contest. It's very different to ocean surfing, as riders need to manoeuvre through river traffic, piers and cement pilings as they spend some quality time in the, err, brown room.

Eisbach, Munich

Eisbach, meaning 'ice brook' in German, is a 2km long, man-made river in the German capital. Swimming is prohibited as people have drowned in the river, although it is not enforced, and on hot summer days you can regularly see people taking a dip. Surfing was officially allowed in 2010, with a sign reading 'due to the forceful current, the wave is suitable for skilled and experienced surfers only'. As it is a standing wave, it can be surfed for as long as one's balance holds, so there is often a long line of surfers waiting for their turn.

Dubai Wave pool

The largest wave pool in the world, Wadi Adventure surf park in Dubai, allows beginners and experienced surfers alike to get barreled from the comfort and safety of its luminescent waters. The 'state of the art wave pool technology' can create waves of all sizes, from beginner waves to over 3m lefts, rights, A-frames and closeouts. You can even hire out the entire pool and create the perfect sets just for you.

Cortes Bank, California

Cortes Bank, off the coast of California, is one of the most dangerous big wave surfing locations in the world. The barely submerged island deep in the North Pacific creates waves on an almost unbelievable scale, making it a coveted surf spot for big wave surfers and daredevils. The bank was first surfed in the '60s, but was only known by a select few surfers and divers who braved death to experience the incredible phenomenon. However, in early 2001, a couple of Californian big wave surfers brought it on to the world stage in a surfing mission they called 'a shot to the moon'. One of the surfers, Mike Parsons, dropped in on a 66ft wave and claimed a world record at Cortes' Bishop's Rock.

New York City

The concrete jungle of New York would probably be the last place on your bucket list of surfing destinations, but it's actually got some pretty great swell for beginners and experienced surfers alike. Just a metro swipe away at Rockaway Beach, Queens, people come to catch some sunlight, sand and surf. More experienced surfers hit the beach in winter for bigger sets and less people, but in summer it's the perfect place to come and learn the basics.


If you're looking for empty waves in the middle of your European summer, look no further than Iceland. While surfing may conjure up images of board shorts and Palm trees, serious surfers are heading to cooler climates to escape the crowds and surf the best breaks. The midnight sun means it never gets dark, so you can surf at any time of day, and advanced wetsuit technology means you can stay relatively warm in these chilly northern waters. An added bonus -- between sets you can gaze at the incredible surrounding mountains, watch storm petrels soar and bask in the beauty of this natural wonderland.

Tanker Surfing Texas

The first ever Tanker Surfing Competition took place earlier this year at the Texas City Kite Festival. Tanker Surfing is a sport unique to the Texas Gulf, where surfers ride magnificently long waves created by Tanker ships. The size of the waves depends on the weight and speed of the tankers, but they can go for more than 1.5km. The home of Tanker surfing, the Houston Ship Channel, is one of the busiest waterways in the world, and connects the Port of Houston and dozens of petrochemical plants to the Gulf of Mexico. It's not particularly scenic, but the novelty factor alone makes it worth a visit.


Like Iceland, surfing in Alaska is cold. Really cold. But it is also exceptionally beautiful untouched wilderness. You will surf among breathtaking fjords, hanging glaciers and snow capped mountains, eat fresh fish and enjoy the remote sets that roll in among sea lions and floating blocks of ice. A top tip from a seasoned Alaskan surfer: bring a few litres of hot water in a Thermos on your adventure to pour into your freezing wettie - it might just save your life.

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