Things I wish I’d known before travelling solo for surf as a woman

Friday, September 22, 2017

Hi there! Finally back after a very busy summer, made of (little) surf, (lots of) work, surprises, sun and joys :) I admit I missed writing here, but this summer I decided it was time to spend the spare time left just enjoying the season. I hope you're not mad at me!

To start this new season, I would like to introduce you to Amy from Unleash, a remote working experience for surfers with wanderlust.
Today she will share a few tips for female solo travelers I'm sure you'll find useful :) Trust her, she speaks from experience !



My first solo trip to Indonesia did not start well. I got off the plane, bought a board that was too short and made directly for the peak at Uluwatu. My first wave left me bouncing off the bottom towards the cliff while a lifeguard frantically wailed on his whistle at me. When I finally clamoured out, gasping for air and humiliated, one (of the many) people who witnessed the debacle from the cliff-top offered to drive me back to my hostel and politely asked why I paddled out there. Tail between my legs, I considered cancelling my surfing plans right then and there.

Instead I patched up my pride and used that trip to become a smarter surfer and traveller. I’ve since done solo surf-journeys in Africa, Asia, South and Central America. But if I could’ve given my pre-Uluwatu self a few tips on travelling on her own for surf, here’s what they’d be:

Go when the swell window is right and a size you’ll enjoy surfing. Check out the seasonal forecasts for the destinations you have in mind on magicseaweed.com or wannasurf.com. If you don’t want to surf the biggest waves of the year in South Africa, go when the swell forecasts are more chill (fewer feet and smaller wave-periods). And make sure the local breaks can hold the forecasted swell. I recently got skunked in Japan because I didn’t realize that all the local breaks closed out with 5 feet of swell and the forecast was for 6-9 feet.

Pack no-fail surf outfits. I ensure my water-wear is surf-worthy by sourcing items designed for women surfers by women surfers. There has been an explosion of small companies focused on making quality surf-wear for women (check out Seea or Akela Surf) so try a few different combos and see what works best for you.


Bring your board and extra gear. Even if I plan on buying a board when I arrive, I always bring a favourite board with me. There’s nothing worse than finding out all the surf shops are closed the day you get there, or the available boards are too expensive or crappy - meanwhile there’s perfect peelers that your ol’ faithful would’ve made magic on.

Don’t forget a couple of good roof straps and know how to use them. They don’t take up much space and you’ll have a better choice of taxis to and from the airport and surf spots. And always bring extra wax, a spare set of fins, leash, leash-cord in case something breaks and you can’t find a replacement. Unleash has a complete list of gear tips for travel here.

Book into a hostel for the first couple of nights. Even if you think you’re too comfort-driven or introverted for a hostel setting, you might be surprised at how easy it is to find a surf-buddy and get oriented to the area. You can then look around in person for a place to stay for the rest of your trip that has the vibe and location you want.

Take precautions, but go with your gut. There’s plenty of fear mongering that will make you feel unsafe to travel alone as a woman. Do your research on the places you’re going and talk to other women who’ve been there. The most important thing when you travel solo is to be aware of your surroundings, observe how local women navigate things, commit to listening to your instincts and remember that you don’t have to be nice if something feels off.

My non-negotiable safety precaution is to arrive several hours before dark. If you arrive in the morning and your hotel turns out to be overbooked or a dump or you don’t like your guide, you’ll have plenty of daylight hours to re-arrange things so you feel comfortable while you get to know your new destination.


Chat with a local surf-shop. This is usually the best place to get the goods on surf spots, hazards to consider, where to eat and how to get around. Unless I get creepy vibes from the shopkeeper, I let them know I’m travelling solo and would like tips on women-friendly places. Be prepared that the staff in some surf shops are too cool for school and won’t provide much info, or might assume you can’t surf well because you’re a woman. Try a few places and eventually you’ll find someone who’ll give you good advice.

Follow the locals. If you’re on your own and don’t know the conditions or hazards yet, try to surf where and when the locals do. If you see a spot with perfect peelers but no one in the water - there might be a reason for it. Avoid getting in unless you’re sure it’s safe. 

Treat yo’self. It baffles me how many surfers overlook the delightful and affordable esthetic traditions in my favourite surf-destinations. Care for your sore surfing-muscles and salty skin by dropping a few bucks at a women-run salon on a facial, pedicure, manicure or massage. You’ll meet some local women and feel even more like the powerhouse solo surf-traveller that you are!


2 comments on "Things I wish I’d known before travelling solo for surf as a woman "
  1. I have not enjoyed any solo trip yet. but im looking forward for it. Thank you for writing about this. I wish to read more about this. Good luck.

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