The last article has probably got you thinking, no dreaming of barrels and those magical cylindrical water tunnels are probably consuming your every thought now. Me too, it’s perfectly natural and if you are fortunate to have squeezed into a tube of your own, this addiction is going to stay with you forever I’m afraid.
So the next logical thought to spend the hours daydreaming away is naturally where to get barrelled. Well thankfully for you the reader and less so for my employee’s I’ve spent the majority of the past ten years traipsing the globe in search of my next tube fix and coming from a very barrel barren land (Cornwall, UK) have sought out destinations that offer tube rides more the faint of heart than the mad charger.
So here is my guide to the best barrels for beginners.
Oh man, I love the waves here. They’re like a tropical, less powerful version of Hossegor, SW France without the terrifying closeouts. Playa Santa Teresa is a 2km beach on the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica, which is hidden from the sleepy hippy town by a 50m chunk of jungle. The setting alone is incredible, but the peaks up and down the beach are what draw me here every year.
The gradient of the beach at low tide is abrupt enough for the incoming swell to hit the sandbanks encouraging the wave to fold over itself (barrel), whilst remaining deep enough for the surfer to not really risk injury. As mentioned I return here annually to run a surf and yoga camp and every year there are good banks up and down the beach offering barrels for everyone. Check Rasta above, our surf coach sneaking into a friendly pit. I watched him get about 8 in a row whilst I was snapping our crew. Pura Vida indeed.
When to go: July & August
Where to stay: Santa Teresa
No, I didn’t slate Hossegor just now, I merely mentioned that the waves can close out, which they can, but what they also do is barrel, properly and very frequently. The swell coming in from the Atlantic Ocean into the Bay of Biscay, France has often traveled thousand of miles to be greeted by a very sudden shelf of sand which creates world-class tubes.
However, this 100km stretch of sand isn’t just back breaking barrels, there are peaks all over the place, with my favorite and in my opinion the most user-friendly barrel on offer being a couple of km south in Capbreton at ‘VVF’. I only say this as I went on quite a novice surf trip in my University days and remember getting a barrel on my backhand that felt like it went on forever, I was tucked in in pig dog, had the vision, didn’t need to do anything and then came out. It was magical. I returned to the wave last year and got a little barrel on my first wave right in front of my boss which ashamedly enough felt really bloody good.
When to go: October
Where to stay: Capbreton
Cokes in the North Male Atoll of the Maldives is guaranteed to quench the thirst of even the most barrel-starved. The wave is hollow on the fast take off, but providing you’re fit and have the commitment you can get at least one easy barrel as the (shallow) inside section tubes mechanically with a forgiving exit as long as you don’t get tempted to go for the second section, which will go dry. You can also get barrelled on the take off if you’ve got the balls, something to work up to perhaps after a few confidence builders.
When to go: June
Where to stay: North Male Atoll
Surfing Legend CJ Hobgood describes Macaroni’s in the Mentawais off Sumatra, Indonesia as the best wave in the world to get barrelled. “That ledge is a friendly drop, and the wave does relatively the same thing. At first, that’s what makes it fun, but then you kind of get over the wave because your surfing can become scripted.”
Poor CJ, what a problem to have. I think I’ll leave the description of this place at that.
When to go: June – August
Where to stay: Macaronis Mentawai Surf Resort
The wave known as The Peak is in my opinion the easiest wave in the world to get barrelled on when the tide is right, however, the tide in these parts tend to dredge out in half an hour or so as opposed to gradually decreasing like we’re used to on our UK shores, which means you can go from fun pits to shallow death slabs in a matter of sets.
The amateur picture above shows the author about to scoop into a lovely little peak a couple of years ago during a session shared with my friend and no one else. I am genuinely planning another trip which involves a 15 hour + 3-hour flight + 8-hour drive, just to surf this one wave.
When to go: June – August
Where to stay: Krui
Sri Lanka is known by most as a mellow version of Indo, which is justified, but there are some slabby little bombs to be found if you know where to look.
Ram’s Right, in Midigama, SW Sri Lanka is one of those gems. I guess it is comparable to a mini version of Porthleven (Cornwall’s only barrel). It’s a pull straight in type barrel and is quite forgiving if you have confidence in yourself. But you do have to pull straight in, as if you don’t you are left taking a drop followed by nothing else. This can get quite frustrating, but once you’ve got it dialed it is a refreshing escape from the crumbly waves offered by its neighboring breaks.
When to go: November – February
Where to stay: Midigama
Yes, Padang Padang, Racetracks and Impossible’s are world-class barrels throwing pro surfers out of spitting tubes all day every day, but this doesn’t mean you can’t get your fix.
If you head to the main point at Uluwatu, you will be pleasantly surprised by a barreling wave, which is all too easy to pull into. Getting out is the hard part, as I found when slotted in a turquoise gem one day, absorbing the beauty of the cylindrical tunnel around me to momentarily forget that I was traveling across a rather sharp reef and this lapse of concentration led to the wave closing around me, sending me into the said reef, snapping my board and giving me a painful memento of a beautiful memory. Harry Timson (above) however has the wave completely dialed.
When to go: June – August
Where to stay: Uluwatu
Rock Island in Siargao Island, the Philippines is so good. Seriously, so so good. Only accessible by boat this beautiful spot is home to the best wave in the area; a long right-hander that wraps around the reef surrounding a small offshore island.
The curve of the reef causes the wave to bowl offering perfect cutback sections and a forgiving barrel section. My colleague Chad Schwab, pictured, has just returned from running a surf trip out there and when asked for a quote regarding this wave he simply replied “funnest wave in the world bru”. Ok thanks Chad.
When to go: May – October
Where to stay: General Luna
At Chad’s local break, Ansteys in Durban, South Africa, the sand banks offer epic barrels, but Cave Rock is where the real magic happens. Situated 1km away from Ansteys, this wave boasts one of the heaviest barrels on the East Coast of Durban. With a relatively friendly rocky reef, this wave is for someone who knows what they’re doing.
The trick with surfing the rock is to use a smaller board than your normal board as the barrel can be so round at times and a step up board cannot fit in the curvature of the wave sending you over the falls. In order to surf Cave Rock you need 2 things, adequate barrel riding skills and some balls.
When to go: February & March
Where to stay: Bluff
Whilst on the subject of SA, let’s talk about Kalk Bay reef or “the Reef” as the locals call it. A colleague and good friend of mine Chris Bond says this is one of the best reef breaks in the country and is also one of the most consistent barrels around, from 1 ft to 6ft.
However, local Chris says that the wave is unique as you have to backdoor the barrel, if you try and take off in the peak you’ll get lip-launched straight onto one of the hungry sea urchins just waiting for you on the shallow reef. But when you’ve figured it out you’ll be smiling wave after wave as you get spat out of another perfect pit.
When to go: April & May
Where to stay: Kalk Bay
So there you have it, a world full of waves for you to get your barrel fix, so go out and get some, what are you waiting for?
If you’d rather be guided to tubes and coached on how to tube ride by a bunch of professionals who are at the peak of their game (Chris Bond is National Surf Coach for the SA team), we are offering an exclusive RAD RATE on all Ticket to Ride surf trips to RAD readers, giving you the tier 1 price on any trip. Want to join me in Costa Rica perhaps? 😉Last updated on Dec 17, 2020