While Tonga as a surfing destination may be overshadowed by some of its larger and well-known pacific neighbors such as Fiji and New Zealand, this small island nation offers plenty of surfing opportunities at some of the most beautiful surfing spots in the world!
Tonga offers surfing all year round, with the winter months producing powerful swells due to storm activity in the South Pacific Ocean, although Summer still produces consistent swell for beginners. Most of Tonga’s surf breaks are over coral reefs, so reef protection is essential.
Due to its remote location, Tonga can be a difficult destination to get to. Furthermore, the surfing shops do not always stock the equipment needed, so bringing your own equipment is advisable. That being said, let’s explore why going the extra mile to surf in Tonga is worth doing:
What To Know About Surfing In Tonga?
Tonga is a friendly island nation that is easy for international tourists to navigate; however, there are some things one should know before they decide to visit Tonga for a surfing trip.
1. When Is The Best Time To Go Surfing In Tonga?
Different seasons can change up ocean swells, meaning that the various ocean temperatures and conditions will appeal to surfers of varying experience levels throughout the year.
As a result, every season needs to be analyzed with regard to the area you want to surf, as this will determine the ocean conditions and temperatures that require different preparation.
Tonga has two distinct seasons:
- Winter: despite being winter, the temperature in Tonga between April and October still manages to reach between 66 and 84F, while the water temperatures sit at a balmy 77 to 82°F.
Winter is also considered Tonga’s dry season, meaning there will be fewer rainy days, and generally, blue skies mean that UV protection remains a priority.
The winter months also produce large, consistent swells resulting from storm activities in the South Pacific Ocean and the Tasman Sea, making Tonga a perfect destination for advanced surfers during winter.
- Summer: running from the months of November to March, the swell in Tonga shifts to smaller, consistent surf breaks across the North Pacific.
Although this is Tonga’s rainy season, the temperatures shoot up to 74-88°F and the water temperature at about 83F. Despite the heat, rash vests and reef protection still need to be worn due to coral breaks and the UV intensity.
Although Tonga does not have issues with large crowds, take note that summer may result in busier beaches and higher costs, while winter can prove a cheaper but more advanced option more accommodating to serious surfers than casual hobbyists.
Knowing what time to surf, as well as which months to surf, is also very important in Tonga. This is because it is a swell better suited for advanced surfers, meaning that beginner surfers have to plant their day trips accordingly.
Generally speaking, more advanced surfers should look to surf at three hours on either side of high tide, while intermediate and beginner surfers should schedule their paddles for two hours on either side of high tide.
2. Is There A Surfing Culture In Tonga?
Although surfing and other water sports have been recorded in Tonga as earlier as the 18th century, there was a noticeable drop in the popularity of surfing in the 19th century due to the arrival of European settlers and traders.
However, as one of surfing’s ancestral homelands, surfing began to gain popularity in the 1960s when Tongan king Tupou the 4th was gifted a surfboard by Hawaiian surfing legend, Duke Kahanamoku.
Following this growth in popularity came the establishment of Tonga’s first surf camp in 1979, international recognition in the surfing movie Ticket To Ride in 1986, and the founding of the Tonga Surf Riders Association in 1994.
In 2000, Tonga played host to its first international surfing competition, the Tri-Nations Surf Challenge, which saw Tonga emerging as champions over its larger island competitors: Fiji and Samoa.
Despite Tonga’s success in international competitions, it remains a niche sport given the popularity of more accessible sports, such as rugby union. This means that tourists visiting Tonga may not have the support from surf schools and surf camps one may typically find in other countries.
That being said, the surf schools and camps that are available are well run and very accommodating, with local surfers known for being some of the friendliest and inviting communities in the global surfing fraternity.
However, always remember to be polite and friendly while respecting the spaces of other surfers when visiting Tonga, and it is more than likely that many a local will treat you to a secluded surfing spot or popular hangout!
Which Are The Best Surf Spots In Tonga?
Stretching over 500 miles, Tonga’s coastline is home to various surf spots that cater to beginner, intermediate, and professional surfers.
While it isn’t possible to list them all, especially since the locals keep many of the best surf spots a secret, let’s look at some of the best and most well-known surf spots across Tonga:
1. Ha’atafu Beach, Tongatapu
Home to the world-famous Ha’atafu Beach Resort, Ha’atafu Beach offers various swells and breaks to suit surfers of all experience levels just a 100m paddle away from the numerous resorts and camps that dot the coastline.
Some of Tonga’s best surf spots are found along Ha’atafu Beach, including but not limited to:
- Fishtraps: long reeling lefthanders upwards of eight feet and known for rides between 100 and 200 meters. Best for intermediate surfers.
- Motels: consistent, fast barrels upwards of twelve feet. Considered fun and easy two hours on either side of high tide.
- Kamikazes: as the name implies, Kamikazes is an “all-or-nothing” surf spot with great barreling and shallow coral reef breaks. Best for advanced surfers.
- The Peak: a popular spot with the local surfers. The Peak offers summertime right-handers and easy, small, consistent waves. Best suited for new surfers to Tonga looking to immerse themselves in the community and conditions.
2. Kanokupolu Beach, Tongatapu
In close proximity to Ha’atafu Beach is Kanokupolo Beach. Similar to Ha’atafu Beach, this popular surfing hangout has some of the best surfing spots in Tonga, including but not limited to:
- Pass Lefts: one of the most beginner-friendly left-hand breaks in Tonga.
- Pass Rights: one of the most beginner-friendly right-hand breaks in Tonga. Just be aware of some strong currents.
- Leftovers: A fast break that doesn’t have much power. Better suited for beginner surfers.
As one of the best holiday destinations in the world for diving, snorkeling, and enjoying unspoiled beaches, Tonga offers equally world-class options for intermediate and advanced surfers all year round!