We’ve been indoors more than expected since March, and now that it’s Summer 2020 dare us to dream about paddling out into the surf and ripping a wave through misty salt-filled air. As planet earth and its cities begin to flick its neon closed sign to open* (yes there is an asterisk on that neon sign) we can’t help but plan out the most epic endless summer surf trip to the best urban surf cities in the US and beyond. Now, we understand there are majestic and sought after waves all over the planet—we get it. What we’re talking about here is city life that also offers the chance to grab an unforgettable wave, the ultimate tandem. So, toss your bag in the back of the Vanagon let’s get to chasing the section, boogie on down the line, grab a barney, get tubed… or how bout, let’s just go surfing.
Honolulu, HI USA
Breathe in that sweet purified air, you’re in Hawaii, baby! If you haven’t been, you’re seriously missing out on perhaps one of the coolest destinations on this planet, and on Oahu, the waves crash in front of the glowing skyline of Honolulu, which is home to some high-quality lefts. From here, you can voyage out at Waikiki or pick or rip up premiere town spots like Ala Moana Bowls. Off the beach, you’ll also find art museums, bike paths, and some of the most stunning scenery on the islands. For majestic Oahu views, climb to the top of Diamond Head.
San Francisco, California
If you’re going to shred a wave, why not add the most epic background while you’re doing it. Yes indeed, there are waves in SF, and the view is spectacular. Ocean Beach offers one of the most dynamic waves breaks in the USA; the winter brings massive 20ft waves, so bring your drysuit. San Francisco is home to some of the most eccentric and unique places to dwell, and OB adjacent neighborhoods the Sunset and the Richmond is stacked with an array of antics. As far as outdoors balanced with city life, you can point your compass towards snow-capped mountains, the Red Woods, or historic Vineyards. If you care city life and love to ride, SF is at the top of the pack for you.
Bilbao, Biscay, Spain
Bilbao is a modern city balanced between the past and the present. New-world buildings meet old-world architecture with gothic and neo-gothic Art Deco influences. Filled with cafés and bars, the vino is flowing and so are the urbanized vibes. This is the kind of place you accidentally visit and never end up leaving. Let’s get to the beach, a mild climate is present at the central location of this 125-mile stretch of coast, Bilbao is the Basque Country’s coolest and busiest surf city. Cliffs collide with the ocean, and the break is consistent in offering incredible lefts. Be prepared to rip all day long with these sets, and take note that Autumn and winter are the best times of the year to enjoy and experience the swell of the Basque coast. Oh, some beaches here are clothing optional too, so olay!
Los Angeles, California
There is a reason the Beach Boys couldn’t stop falsetto singing about it, it’s LA baby. Carefree Southern California life offers an array of surfing opportunities, yes, the westside is built for it, but you will even find surfboards on balconies as far as Korea Town and DTLA, it’s woven into the culture of the city. While the waves off Santa Monica and Manhattan beach are considered “just fine,” the more you move north the more things get exciting. Let’s say it all together now, ready? MAAAALIIBUUU. Sunset to County Line offers some rip city sets. Los Angeles, one of the biggest cities in the entire world, has some of the greatest outdoor adventure gems around it. Pick your neighborhood, make sure you have a car (though the Metro is getting much better) and rest assured this surf city also offers incredible food, art, music, and never has a dull moment.
Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
Simply put, a treasure trove of amazing waves and perhaps the best-0f-the-best when it comes to surfing and city life. The stretch of sand and headlands extends beyond what eye cans see as the world’s largest harbors cut right down the middle of the land. The two most sought after swells are Bondi and Manly, offering mind-blowing sets within proximity of city life. Waves can be found for beginner style breaks, longboarding, or spots strictly for professionals. From the Northcoast to the Southcoast, it’s heaven in salty form. Australian film director, Baz Luhrmann, said of the city, “Sydney, in general, is eclectic. You can be on that brilliant blue ocean walk in the morning and then within 20 minutes you can be in a completely vast suburban sprawl or an Italian or Asian suburb, and it’s that mix of people, it’s that melting pot of people that give it its vital personality.”
Rio De Janeiro, Brazil
The wild city indeed. If you are a surfer, you have no doubt dreamed of a random Rio trip to sift through the crowds and get to the waves. The coast holds miles of warm crystal clear wedgie style beach breaks. Yes, they are EXTREMELY crowded. Surfing is, how do we say this, a very popular hobby in Rio. But rent a little beat up truck and get to some local beaches like Ipanema, Leblon, and Barra, to rip around and get your fin fix. Rio is a jungle of culture and curiosity, and the ride will be just as exciting off the sand and into the bellows of the skyline.
Libson, Portugal surf is known for its doorstep accessible waves within a distance of the bustling vintage-European-meets-contemporary Metropolitan city center—you’ll find sharp beach breaks just ten minutes out. Carcavelos is a vigorous beach break that will keep you happy for a day in the swell, especially during high tide. This beach a full boardwalk with rental options. If you’re looking for more exclusivity with your rides, aim for Praia do Guincho, a rugged, cliffed beach with big-waves. Just hold on tight, cause the winding can get cranking here. More mellow points like Sao Pedro, which offer a cruise control kind of waves because cruising easy is always a good thing after a few Vinho Verdes’. Libson is an epic surf escape, not to mention they have the city of 7 hills to explore when the wetsuit is off, as well as national parks like Oceanarium, Sagres.
New York City, New York
New York is an epicenter of culture, you’ve got to have street smarts and a little natural grit to make it in The Big Apple, and if you think surfing isn’t a thing here, think again. East of the Empire the surfing gets extremely interesting and diverse. Jersey beach breaks lead the surf compass along the Atlantic and all the way to the vacation town of Montauk with spots like Ditch Wave, Turtle Cove, and Camp Hero. Yes, the city gets FREEZING cold, but if you hold onto that big city summer feeling, you will be rewarded. With over 8.5 million people, no doubt you’ll find a surf culture that commutes to the waves. So yes, you can live in NYC and still get a wave.
Bonjour! Hossegor brings it when seeking out fast-breaking, hollow waves, and is what some consider the best surfing in the world. With over three kilometers of beach, it offers diversity on the surf depending on what part you decide to paddle out on, with different breaks from the South of Estagnot, La Nord, and La Sud. Shred into the widely renowned tubes of La Gravière. With stunning natural features, the city is accessible by bike for mind-blowing nature and coast rides. Pre COVID and Post COVID (fingers crossed soon), the streets are packed with surf shops and chocolate croissants. No matter your skill level, there is certainly a type of wave for you in Hossegor.
New Syrmna Beach, FL
While it’s obvious this isn’t a big city, the local community of surfers living in New Syrmna beach are fine keeping it that way. This stretch is the most consistent break along Florida’s coastline, offering mind-blowing surfing, which is while we have awarded NSB our Honorable Mention. If you’re a surf rippin’ aerialist, these bowly barreling reforms are an aquatic paradise. A leisurely cruise over the bridge to Ponce Inlet accommodates larger south swells with a righthand pointbreak experience, just watch out for fins. When you’re roaming around Ponce, be on the lookout for Captian Frank Thompson, and stock up on as much Wilbur Outfitters Gear that you can get your hands on ( this stuff goes quick). Warning: If you do see Capt. Frank, be ready to crush some ice-cold Miller Lights and listen to some epic fishing tales, YEEEWW!