By Tomkat, Steven A. Martin, and Joob Aiyarak

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While Phuket is far from a world class surf destination, fun waves can be found by those with a bit of time, patience, and a good attitude. Besides, Phuket is a fantastic place to visit and catching an occasional wave is just icing on the cake!

Phuket’s surf is ruled by the prevailing monsoonal flow. The “surf” season runs through the Southwest monsoon from May to October and is characterized by consistent onshore winds and frequent rain.

During the “high season”, or Northeast monsoon (November to April), the weather is great but surfers will have trouble finding even a ripple at their favorite break.

Because of North Sumatra’s position directly in what would otherwise be a perfect swell window, very little groundswell reaches Phuket. 85% of the island’s waves are generated by local windswell. Most surfing in Phuket is done in gusty, onshore conditions. Luckily, many of the surf spots are able to handle the onshores or have land features that offer some protection from the wind.

A typical swell cycle will start with an approaching storm creating small, weak, short period dribble. As the storm intensifies the waves build, and so does the wind. Over the course of the storm wave size and period increase as the windswell starts to organize itself.

During this phase the surf will typically be messy but can be quite fun. When it finally clears up surfers are rewarded with a blessing of good, clean, reasonably long period swell. This will stick around for a few days depending on the length and intensity of the storm and will taper off until the next storm arrives.

Unfortunately, storms can follow each other so closely that an entire month may seem like one messy stormswell. If this happens to be the month you decide to spend in Phuket, well . . . better luck next year!

Average wave heights are in the chest to head high range. Maximum wave heights can reach double overhead, though this is rare. Conditions change rapidly. If you find a decent wave it’s best not to spend time driving around looking for a better one. Hit it while you can!

Following are the better known surf spots in Phuket . . .

NAI HARN

Overview: A relatively short stretch of sand at the South tip of the island, Nai Harn is one of Phuket’s most picturesque beaches. A lake just inland is sometimes drained into the South end of the bay creating a perfect left hand sandbar especially at the beginning and end of the Southwest monsoon. Nai Harn is also open to the occasional Southwest groundswell.
Description: Beach Break. In the right conditions, waves bounce off the rock headland at the

South end and peak up on a sandbar creating a hollow, fast left hander. There is also a right and left peak that forms towards the middle of the beach.

Size: 2 – 7 feet

Direction: Right and Left

Tide: All tides

Wind: Turns into a washing machine in anything but offshore or light onshore winds. Good place to go if the swell is small and the wind calm or offshore

Tip: Very occasionally at the beginning and end of the Southwest Monsoon, and sometimes even during the high season, a groundswell will sneak past the tip of Sumatra and hit Phuket. This will be characterized by glassy 1 to 2 foot lines hitting most of the beaches. If you’re lucky and everything comes together, the sandbar at Nai Harn’s South end can be 6 foot and pumping.

Kata Noi
Overview: Small Bay South of Kata Beach. One of the more powerful spots in Phuket. Can produce some of the best waves on the island when it’s on. Tight take-off spot at the main break can get crowded quick. Usually bigger than other spots.
Description: Beach break. The main break is produced by waves bouncing off a rocky headland at the North end resulting in a nice right-hand peak with a steep take-off.

Size: Surfable from 2 feet up. Can hold a bit of size.

Direction: Right hand peak at the North end with a left hander just South. Right and left peaks along the rest of the beach.

Tide: Breaks well on all tides if it’s working

Wind: Gets really messy with heavy backwash on stormy days.

Tip: Best spot to check the lineup is on the stairs leading down from the road on the hill above the North end of the beach. Also, if you’re on the road from Kata to Nai Harn, you can get a great overview of the lineup from above.

KATA

Overview: By far the most popular surfing beach in Phuket. Also offers the most consistently surfable waves on the island. Picks up most swell directions. Rental boards and lessons are available from numerous surf shops at the South end. Can be quite crowded but there are plenty of waves to go around.
Description: Beach break with largest waves at the main break just North of the South end, getting progressively smaller as you move North

Size: Surfable from 2 feet up. Tends to close out above 7 feet but corners can be found if you are patient.

Direction: Right and left peaks

Tide: Best on mid tide. High tide tends to be fat and low tide usually closes out but it can be fantastic on all tides in the right conditions.

Wind: Fairly exposed to onshore winds. Headland at South end can provide some shelter

Tip: If you want to avoid the crowd try the peak 100 meters North of the main break. It can be just as good if not better.

KARON
Overview: Situated between Kata and Patong, Karon is one of Phuket’s longest beaches and is well worth checking while traveling up and down the coast looking for surf. There is no particular main break, though the very South end and the area in front of the traffic circle in the middle of the beach seem to get the most attention. Karon is relatively quiet and doesn’t seem to get as much attention as other beaches by either surfers or sunbathers.
Description: Beach Break. Karon is quite open to swell and picks up more than most other breaks. Unfortunately it is also wide open to wind. Larger, stormy days tend to be extremely messy making Kata a better option. When the swell is small and the wind light, Karon can have fun, surfable waves even if other beaches are too small. 

Size: 2 feet and up.

Direction: Right and left peaks

Tide: Best at mid to high tide. Low tide tends to close out if the swell is over 4 feet.

Wind: High wind exposure means it is often totally blown out. Can be excellent and uncrowded on light wind days.

Tip: On small, calm days the sandbars near the traffic circle can produce great rights and lefts peeling off perfectly. Also, try taking the dirt road from where the main road meets the coast to check the North end of the beach. This area can be excellent and is rarely surfed.


PATONG

Overview: Most popular tourist beach in Phuket yet the surf is relatively uncrowded. Very friendly local surfers and plenty of entertainment between and after surf sessions. Surfboard rentals and lessons available at several locations along the beach.
Description: Beach break with progressively larger waves as you move North. Northern 1/3 tends to pick up the most swell and has the best waves. Can occasionally have classic waves off the rocks at the North end of the beach.

Size: 2 feet and up. Days over 6 feet usually close out but a cloud break can form on the outside if it’s big enough. On these days, stronger paddlers who battle past the inside close-outs can get some intense rides. Also, on the largest days, check out the areas around Bangla road and South. It may be smaller but can have better shape (and you can check out the “shapes” on Bangla right after your surf!

Direction: Right and left

Tide: Rarely surfable at low tides due to closeouts

Wind: Fairly exposed but can handle more wind than most breaks

Tip: Patong can be surprisingly good at the right times but turns on and off by the hour with the tide. Best to catch it during the few hours on either side of high tide. If it looks fun, hit it immediately and don’t wait for it to get better because it probably wont.
KALIM
Overview: An extension of Patong Beach, Kalim is a reef bordered by a rocky headland at the North end of Patong Bay.? It is surrounded by lush, picturesque mountains but rampant development is slowly eroding it’s beauty. Can be crowded at times. The local Muslim surfers are friendly but bad surf etiquette is dealt with accordingly.
Description: Rock/coral reef break with several take-off spots that help to spread the crowd. Take-off is slow but waves pick up speed down the line. Rides of up to 100 or more meters are possible on good days.

Size: 3 feet and up. Can hold pretty much any size Phuket can deliver

Direction: Mostly rights. Occasional short left-hander

Tide: Large swells can be good at all tides but it’s normally not very good on the low. The inside section can be extremely shallow at low tide with exposed rock.

Wind: Fairly sheltered from wind and can hold it’s shape even during strong onshore days

Tip: On larger, more consistent days paddle out from the bridge at the middle of the beach to avoid getting dragged into the “impact zone”. During low tides, paddle in and out from the small, sandy beach just South of the parking area to save a long walk over dry reef.

KAMALA

Overview: Located inside a large bay sheltered by extensive headlands at either end, the waves at Kamala tend to be slower and weaker than most other spots though plenty of fun waves can be found. The main breaks are off the sand point near the south end and towards the North end near Phuket Fantasea. A tight knit group of local surfers often all enter and exit the water at the same times. Be nice to them and they will be nice to you!

Description: Beach Break with slow rollers especially good for longboarding.

Size: 3 feet and up

Direction: right and left peaks

Tide: Surfable on all tides

Wind: Well sheltered from onshore winds by headlands

Tip: Head to Kamala on big, stormy and windy days when other spots are totally blown and out of control.

Surin

Overview: Small beach overlooked by tall hills crammed with million dollar homes. The beach itself is beautiful and not overbuilt. Check out the new surf club located right off the beach.

Description: Beach break. As the bottom here drops off quite steeply, Surin is probably the most powerful wave on Phuket. When it’s big and stormy, heavy grinders roll in haphazardly up and down the beach and currents are fierce. Tourist drownings are common as are rescues by surfers. On the other hand, during clean days Surin can be epic and is one of the few places on the island that can produce proper barrels.

Size: 2 feet and up

Direction: Right and left

Tide: Can break well on all tides,though it’s better on mid to high.

Wind: Very exposed to wind

Tip: If you’re in good shape and feel like a challenge, paddle out at Surin on one of it’s big, windy “victory at sea” days. Getting to the outside will be brutal, but once there you’ll be able to pick off some wild rides on one of the most solid breaks in Phuket.

NAI YANG

Overview: Very long beach bordered by national park lands close to the airport. Nai Yang still has a taste of old Phuket with a quiet, laid back atmosphere and fishermen launching their longtail boats straight off the beach. Nice place to go even if the surf is flat to enjoy a good seafood lunch or dinner on the sand

Description: Rock/Coral point/reef break. Nai Yang is one of Phuket’s more fickle waves but is arguably the best. It is the only proper reef setup on the island with waves wrapping 90 degrees from the takeoff to the inside. There are a few additional breaks to the North that also work well depending on swell, wind, and size.

Size: 3 feet and up. You need to see a bit of size at other beaches before Nai Yang starts working

Direction: Left hand reef break

Tide: Breaks well on any tide when it’s working

Wind: Unfortunately, Nai Yang is very exposed to wind and gets blown out easy.

Tip: Nai Yang is difficult to catch at its best. Wait until other spots are breaking well with good size and light winds before making the trek. Even then you may regret not hitting a closer spot while it was good. Don’t be fooled; the break is further out than it looks. At low tide you can cover a lot of distance by walking out on the sandbar to the point. At high tide, expect a paddle of a half kilometer or more.