The crystal clear waters, the beautiful heat, the perfect reef breaks and the array of palm trees…oh the tropics. Surfing in tropical areas of the world in some ways is a dream come true. Just like the post cards, the scenery is stunning and the weather magnificent, but are the tropics always a dreamy paradise?
The short answer no, not always. I will admit that the tropics are very inciting, particularly for those on a budget, but before you run away and strand yourself on a remote island have a read of the tips below to ensure you are well prepared for your time away.
Bring more bug spray than you think, and remember, DEET is not always your friend
One of the worst things that can happen to you on a tropical surf holiday is that you contract malaria, dengue or other forms of sickness through mosquito. I tell you now that these sicknesses are horrendous and worth avoiding at all costs.
It only takes one mosquito to change your trip so make sure you lather up with repellent. DEET is sold widely throughout pharmacies, but keep in mind that it is pretty toxic, and that there are other more natural options if you choose to look.
The sun is gnarly
This seems like an obvious point and it is. Don’t bring only sunblock, ensure you have zinc too. Better yet, grab a hat for surfing in. Warm water means that you can last much longer in the surf, however on the downside of that, it means that your skin will be sizzling past the point of no return. Lather up and ensure you put on much more than usual as it is likely that you will sweat half of it off before you even hit the water.
Schedule an off day
Allow yourself a day to fully recover from the surf and the sun. Choose a day when, if, the surf is looking average and use it to recharge. Taking a day off will allow you to surf at your maximum for the rest of the time, instead of pushing through and being slightly fatigued for the previous days. The sun will take a huge toll on you, especially if you are from a cooler climate. Be wise and look after your energy.
Prepare to feel nauseous, itchy and hot as hell
Though we all love surfing in bikinis there is a flip side to this. It is HOT! When I say hot, I mean sweaty, sticky heat which can cause you to feel tried, irritable and very uncomfortable. On top of the heat there are bugs. Lot’s of bugs. Prepare to wake up itchy every morning as bed bugs, mosquitoes and other critters may take a liking to you. Once you accept the fact that you may simply feel constantly itchy, you will probably soon forget about it and have a better time because of it.
If possible always find a room with a fan
Sleeping is essential if you are wanting to recover for the next day of surfing. If you are sleeping in a hot and stuffy room you will find it incredibly difficult to get a full nights sleep. If you are in a dorm make sure you find the bed closest to the fan. Your future self at 2 a.m will thank you for it.
Be aware of the sun sets!
The sunsets in the tropics are often absolutely beautiful. The sun is large and orange, painting a beautiful yellow tint across the land. On the flip side of this, it is good to know that often in the tropics, when the sun sets, it sets quickly becoming dark very soon after. Remember this on your sunset session when you have to scramble your way back across the reef to get to shore. Give your self a little time, as you probably do not have as much leeway as back home.
You can never have enough books
Though it is possible that you may surf for 8 hours a day, you will still have down time, especially if you are staying in a non tourist destination. Though the surf does often pump you may want to have some form of non electronic entertainment for the in between times. Besides, it is always good to keep your brain ticking in a world full of physical exertion.
Cuts just don’t heal
Make sure you bring an antiseptic/antibiotic creme and apply regularly to any cuts and and scratches you may have. When surfing constantly even the smallest of ailments will have a hard time drying out and healing. Often in tropical countries the water may appear crystal clear but don’t be fooled, third world countries do not always have the most tactful waste systems, and you may find some unpleasant objects floating past.
Learn some local sayings
This point here does not apply only to tropical countries, but I thought I would add this in here. The locals will really appreciate you making the effort to fit in and adapt to their culture. Simple sayings such as “hello”, “thanks” and “the surf is good” in their language acknowledges to the locals that you are in their territory, and are coming as a visitor. Be respectful of other cultural norms and always wear a smile.
Enjoy the small pleasures
Though I have pointed out the harsh realities of the tropics, keep in mind that they are painted in a beautiful way for a reason. The waves can be perfect, the locals kind and beautiful, the scenery stunning and the water like a bath.
Between the con's, make sure you enjoy the pro's. Enjoy the fine sand beneath your toes, the palm trees shading you as you lie underneath with the book, the tasty tropical fruit and of course, the amazing surf sessions. Book a trip, enjoy it, surf until your arms fall off and relish in the new cultural experience. You will never forget your time in the tropics, the good, the bad, and all of the adventures in between.