Best Coldwater Surf Destinations 

When it comes to your dream surf trip, what do you think of? Tropical waters, palm-fringed ribbons of golden sand, easy, playful peaks breaking over sand? Yep, me too. What we don’t tend to think of is pulling on a 5mm+ of rubber, and walking through snow to get to the line-up. But if you want to score a few waves to yourself these days, the cold fringes of our planet ate the go. Here are some of the best coldwater surf destinations on Earth. 

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While by no means the coldest surf destination on our list, Chile is well-established as a top surf destination. With thousands of kilometers of coastline wide open to the brunt of South Pacific swells, it’s no surprise that Chile boasts every type of wave you could ever hope to surf. From big wave bombies, and death-defying slabs to hollow left points and friendly beach breaks.

But don’t be fooled, A Chilean surf trip isn’t for the faint-hearted. Scoring waves here requires hours on the road, chasing forecasts and searching Google Maps for potential setups. It’s also cold and during winter, you’ll need at least a 4-3mm, boots, and a hood for the colder days. The further south you go, the more cold and the more remote things get. Make Pichilemu your base and go from there! 

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Chile - Left Point break
Water Temps Don't Matter With Set Ups Like These...


Norway is another wicked cold-water surf destination. While not as well known as Chile, there are some incredibly fun waves in Norway. While you might need to do your research or befriend a local in the know to make the most of your surf trip to Norway, the potential is there. The Lofoten islands are the most frequented by traveling surfers and are home to Norway’s main surf community and your best bet to head to score waves. Expect to battle the elements–wind, snow, large swell, sometimes all at once. 

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South Island, New Zealand 

The South Island of New Zealand has some excellent waves. We’ve all heard of NZ’s famous north island zones such as Raglan and Gisborne, but the South Island has every type of wave you could ever hope to ride. Dunedin is the surfing capital of the South and this is where you’ll want to base yourself. Around here, you’ll find everything from leg-burning right points, slabs, and a-frame beachies. Their exact whereabouts–I’ll let you find for yourself.

The place also gets hammered by the full brunt of the Southern Ocean, receiving swells from West, South to East, with spots to handle them on all sides. But scoring waves here isn’t for your average fair-weather rider, it gets bone-chilling cold in these parts, and in winter you’ll need a 5mm, boots, and a hood. Oh, and tolerance for constant rain, winds, and windy car park changes. 

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In recent years, Ireland has burst onto the international surfing scene. While Ireland is wide open to the frequent (and massive) North Atlantic swells, these storms often come with strong onshores and lashing rain. But time things right and you can score waves here between such storms. While the Emerald Isle is famous for its slabs and big wave breaks, like Mullaghmore, there’s more to things, if you know where to look. Bring a step up, 6mm, boots, gloves, and hood! 

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At the top of the United Kingdom lies an incredibly wave-rich stretch of coast. Across the northern Scottish coast, you’ll find points, beachies, and slabs aplenty. While you might have to do a ton of driving and jump the odd fence to find them, explore here and you’ll be rewarded. Thurso is the most well-known break in the area–which on its day is a world-class right-hander, a freight train tube to rival anywhere on Earth. Bring heaps of warm clothes and your 6mm. Boots, hoods, and gloves are non-negotiable. 

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While not a nation that springs to mind when it comes to top surf destinations, Canada does have surf. Good surf. In Nova Scotia on the eastern coast, lay several epic point breaks, while on the western coast, particularly around Vancouver Island, you’ve got beachies, points, and slabs. Many of these are only accessible my boat or sea plane, but there are still plenty of waves to surf from the shore. Tofino is your best base for surfing in Canada and who knows, you might even meet a local who’ll show you around (Canadians are a friendly bunch). 5mm, boots, and hood required. 

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Down in the far south of Australia, the state of Tasmania is an incredibly consistent coastline for surf. Battered by huge Southern Ocean lows all winter long, there’s no shortage of swell here.  Your only problem is finding the right cove and headland offering enough swell and wind protection to shape such swells into something rideable. Start with the South Arm area; Clifton Beach and the Points just outside of Hobart. Or, for a spectating spectacle, head down to Shipsterns Bluff and watch one of the most death-defying slabs on Earth. 

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Iceland has word class waves on its day. But finding them and scoring them under the right conditions is a different story. With right-hand cobblestone points, hollow beachies, and the most dramatic scenery you’ll ever surf under, Iceland is a unique surf destination. In winter, (when the biggest and best swells happen), your only issue is having enough light, to find and surf the waves. (You’ll only have 5-6 hours of true daylight). Check out Acrtic Surfers, who show you when and where to go. Obviously, pack lots of rubber! 

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Alaska has a humungous coastline (6,640 miles of it to be exact), and much of it contains some epic waves. We’re talking up there with the best of the best–coldwater Jbay-type shit. But accessing them is a different story. If you’re willing to explore or know a local with a boat or plane, you can find some epic surf here. If you don’t, head to Kodiak Island–this is your best bet for scoring waves of your own accord. But even here, your access will be limited. With bone-chilling temps, almost no winter light, and poor accessibility, this is one of the toughest (but most rewarding) cold water surf destinations out there. 

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Final Words

Have you been to any of these top coldwater surf destinations? I’d love to know fo your experience, please comment down below. I hope to go and explore many more of these spots soon, and can’t wait to share the experience. 

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