Sometimes the best way to celebrate the time that is supposed to be spent with family is to surf your brains out at world class waves. But what makes this different from any other time of the year? Aside from most professionals having time off work to accommodate travel, late December and January happens to be one of the best time frames for excellent surf conditions at multiple dreamy destinations. The best part is that if you would like to keep the holidays as family time, some of these areas have not only fantastic surf but some also great amenities and activities for the non surfer.
Starting off with the so called “old world”. This coastline includes Portugal, Northern Spain, and Western France. December and January see massive storms track up the East Coast of the United States and then turn East toward Europe. These deliver solid (see Nazare) and highly consistent swells across the North Atlantic.
Once they hit Europe they first come into contact with Portugal. The twisted and varied coastline takes the brunt of the swell head on, so pick your spot wisely! Then it will wrap North into Spain, offering up a slight decline in size but continuing the variety of surf. You might find yourself in a double overhead barrel at Mundaka while people get towed into 80 foot monsters at Nazare. Continuing along the coast you will come to France. Make sure to sample the wine as well as the phenomenal beach breaks on offer, like Biarritz and La Graviere. Water temperatures will be cold this time of year, colder as you move toward France, so make sure to give your body the gift of thick neoprene. If you fancy a white Christmas you might be tempted to head North toward Ireland or Scotland, which receive the same swells, perhaps even rawer, and will definitely be colder.
Feel like something little warmer? Dying to escape the Christian vibes of the holidays? Want to get some extremely long right hand point break waves? Look no further than Morocco. While this destination is not the most family friendly, the surf more than makes up for a lonely trip.
The same swells generated in the North Atlantic march down towards Africa, projecting onto the perfectly angled coastline of Morocco creating some of the dreamiest right points you will find anywhere in the world. The epicenter of surf in Morocco is found at Taghazout which boasts a collection of world class breaks, most of them right points, including Anchor Point, Banana Beach, and The Source. You’ll have to remember to keep the Christmas music down though, Morocco is a Muslim majority country, but can’t the world do with a little less of Mariah Carey? Take care to remember a wetsuit, the water will be the chilliest thing there as the climate stays quite warm.
For the East Coast of the United States, Puerto Rico is the pinnacle of accessible, tropical, and high quality reef break surfing. This is the best time of year to visit, as the climate is still tropically delightful (especially compared to, say, the snowy Northeast) and consistent swells are sent down to the pretty exposed coastline.
The fact that Puerto Rico is an island greatly benefits the surfer that wants variety. On any given swell you can drive around the corner and drop the size of the waves by half. Some of the best surf spots include Playa Domes, La Ocho, and Tres Palmas. Puerto Rico will definitely offer some excellent tropical Christmas vibes for the whole family. There’s not only excellent surf but 5 star resorts and plenty of activities to keep everyone happy. For the family check out the wonderful nature reserves and markets in San Juan. For other fun, I’ll just say that the Bacardi factory is here, and supplies all local watering holes well. Just remember, down here it’s not “Merry Christmas”, it’s “Feliz Navidad”.
There has to be one area on this list for those that want absolute isolation from everything Christmas. This could be an extremely remote island in the Pacific, or something a little more attainable. Enter: Baja California. This long stretch of coastline can be extremely remote, and will require good camping gear and a solid 4×4 to access some of the best spots.
The winter sees massive storm systems develop between Asia and Alaska in the North Pacific. Once they travel down the North American coastline a ways they will reach Baja California. Here you will find long stretches of empty roads and desert, interrupted with amazing right points, barreling beachbreaks, and heaving reefs. Can’t miss spots include K-38, San Miguel, and Punta Abreojos. Be prepared for a remote journey, this is the best option for those looking for no family contact whatsoever (no judgement from us!). Cell service is spotty and this is not a trip to bring the family on if they are not of the hardcore surfer ilk. You’ll have loads of good surf and solitude, but not much else. Except for cervezas!
Oahu has been described of the epicenter of surf during the winter, specifically the North Shore, which is exposed to all of the energy the North Pacific can generate. The 7 mile miracle is named so for a reason. Within it’s borders lies the highest concentration of world class breaks in the world. From Pipeline to Haleiwa to V Land and everything in between, it really is the Disneyland of surfing.
Coming here you will find a tropical paradise, perfect for surfers, adventurers, and relaxation seekers alike. The reefs here are perfectly aligned and there is no continental shelf to dampen the incoming swells, creating the mythical “Hawaiian Power.” When the swell isn’t pumping you’ll find many spots suitable for learning, but when the energy arrives it is best to leave it to the expert surfers. Hawaii has some of the best hiking, food, and culture around; You and whoever comes with will have plenty of activities to fill the flat days. The benefits of it being part of the USA include high class amenities, English speakers everywhere, and ease of travel (from most countries). The downsides are really only the crowds which have become rampant, however there might not be some many on Christmas day. Have fun!
The holidays are a time to create good memories, it’s up to you choose where you do so!