Surfing in Phuket

Think surfing. Think waves as big as houses, curling breakers with surfers shootin’ the tube, spectacular wipeouts.

Think Phuket. Surfing? Hmm. Nah. But if you think that, you’re wrong. Phuket has a small but lively community of surfers. Some live here. Others have been coming back time and again for as long as 20 years.

Surfing in Phuket

Some of the local Thais got in on the act as long as 10 years ago. But surfing had a slow start here and for a long time was limited to a small group of enthusiasts, mostly because of the cost – initially there was nowhere to rent a board, and buying one was simply out of reach for most people. But that’s been changing.

Surf culture
Sujira “Nui” Sangkakun

Sujira “Nui” Sangkakun told Phuket.com that surfing began to take a real hold in Phuket about four years ago. “I am a dive instructor,” she explained, “and I’ve run a dive shop, Nautilus, here on Kata Beach for many years. In the low season – when the [dive] business gets slow – I had tourists coming in and asking if I knew of anywhere they could rent surf boards. There wasn’t.

“The number of request increased rapidly over the years. We realized that many enthusiasts find Phuket has waves that can be surfed. It may not be a surf destination with big waves [such as in Hawaii or Australia] but it has interesting waves. “So we started renting out surf boards. The business has been going very well. We have more than 30 boards now,” Khun Nui said.

For surfers, who are mostly young people, there is another big advantage: the surf’s up between April and September, which is the low tourist season on the island, when prices in general fall to half of what they are in the high season, or less.

Surf spots
The waves on Karon Beach in August

Kata, Karon, Nai Harn, Surin, Kamala and Kalim are the beaches surfers head for. We collared Mark, an experienced American surfer, on Kata Beach. He told us that he has been surfing for 40 years and he frequently surfs in Phuket. Where is his favourite surfing spot on the island? Half-joking, half-serious, he replied with a smile, “I can’t tell you because you guys will publish it and that will send more people to my spot.”

But Peter from the UK was more open; he reckons the north end of Kamala Beach has the best surf. “Kata’s good, but for me Kamala is more fun,” he said. We talked to a few more surfers, and they all said they enjoyed the friendly atmosphere at all the beaches they surfed from. Read more about surfing in Phuket.


Kata beach is the main place for renting boards, with about seven rental outlets. You won’t have to look far as some of them are right on the beach. Ask around a bit before deciding where to rent. The best offers we found were: One hour, 150 baht; one day 500 baht; one month 7,000 baht. You can also inquire about 10-hour packages, which cost around 1,000 baht and allow you to decide when to use the hours.

Surfing lessons
Let's go surfing

“If you’ve already done skateboarding, snowboarding or skiing, then surfing will be easier for you to learn,” Khun Nui said. “But for someone with no experience of a sport involving balancing, it will take longer before they are able to get up on the board. “But anyone in good health can learn to surf. I’ve seen youngsters – from, say, six years old – become very good at it too.

Khun Nui started surfing herself about three years ago but still considers herself a beginner. “I don’t have enough time to go surfing because of my work. Surfing’s not about how many years ago you started. It is all about how much time you spend on water,” she explained.

The shops that rent out surfboards always brief newcomers about which locations are good for surfing and about local currents and rips. Many offer private tuition, which costs from 800 baht an hour to as much as 3,000 baht for a couple of hours – it depends on which company you talk to.

Secondhand boards
Surf boards for rent on Kata Beach

Pat Nakinchart, a beach boy whose job, among other things, is to rent out boards in front of Club Med on Kata Beach, told us that some tourist bring their own boards to Phuket but don’t want to carry them back home. Many of these surfers leave their boards with local shops they have become friendly with. That way they can use the board when they are back on the island.

“The bigger shops also do board exchanges and buy secondhand boards too. The price is quite good,” said Khun Pat, adding that Phuket is not a good place to buy a new board because there is only one shop he knows of that sells new ones, and it has a very limited choice. This, he theorized, is probably because, apart from Phuket, there is no other surfing centre in Thailand, so the market is still very small.

Surf competitions
Seeking the waves

Small it may be, but the market is enthusiastic. There are no fewer than three annual surf contests on Phuket. The oldest, the Phuket Surfing Contest, started on Kata Beach seven years ago. It usually takes place in mid-September but this year it will be from 31 August to 2 September. The contest is split into five categories, with cash prizes totaling more than 100,000 baht up for grabs. For more information, contact Wallop Nadon by email to wallopsurfshopkatabeach@hotmail.com

The Kamala Go Surfing Contest has been going for five years and will take place this year on 25 and 26 August at the north end of Kamala beach. It is organized by the local Kamala Go Surfing Club.
The third competition, organised by the Phuket Boardriders Club, is on Kalim Beach. This year’s contest, the third, took place in late June, and attracted 80 surfers and about 200 spectators.

Article Source: http://www.phuket.com/magazine/phuket-surfing.htm

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