Stab Magazine | The World's Best (Unsurfable) Waves

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The World’s Best (Unsurfable) Waves

It’s more fun when it’s dangerous!

travel // Mar 22, 2018
Words by James Royce
Reading Time: 5 minutes

Comparatively to the rest of the world, we’re an odd bunch. Surfers are suckers for punishment. We love danger, and the rewards that can be reaped from it. You’ll spend half of any conversation insisting that the hazards of chasing surf are vastly overrated, and the other half talking about how six months ago your pal broke his neck being driven head-first into a remote sandbar. But it’s ok because, now that he’s off life-support and has relearned to walk, he’ll be joining you for an annual summer sojourn to Mexico where you’ll be braving cartel bullets to enjoy thick pointbreaks detonating in two feet of water. 

It seems that an awfully large part of surfing is an unfortunate juxtaposition of pleasure through pain. Our penchant for finding waves isn’t hindered by peril. Where do we stop? Are there any waves out there that even the most hell-bent adventurer won’t touch? Yes, there actually is! Guns, governments, toxic soft-bodied sea creatures, the barriers of entry raise higher! Care to know where you can’t (easily) go?


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Here’s the Taiwanese army testing some artillery on the beach. Fun!

Taiwan, during a typhoon swell.
Taiwan’s robust eastern coastline has a plethora of world-class waves thanks to its unhindered exposure to the Pacific. Unfortunately, you can’t even toy with the thought of paddling out when there’s swell. “Of course, when a typhoon is in the area, that’s when the waves can be good – very good,” says John Callahan, who has traveled through the island nation extensively for various attempted surf trips. “But there is a law stating that if a typhoon comes within a specified distance from the coast of Taiwan, the police have the legal right to remove everyone from the water. Everyone. And if surfers refuse to leave, they are videotaped and sent notices to pay fines. The law dates back to the martial law period in Taiwan, when the entire coastline was a high security zone and an invasion from the PRC was imminent, so the authorities wanted complete control. It was alright at the time because no one surfed in Taiwan, it was just swimmers and fishermen who had to leave the water or beach, but now when surfers want to get in, they can’t.”


Western Sahara 1 960 640 s

Worth the risk of military? Uh, yes, probably. Photo: Mark Mercer/Magic Seaweed

The best wave in Western Sahara.
Thanks to years of regional conflict, surfing in the Western Sahara is a feat on its own. And having the best wave located on the Moroccan Royal Marine Base certainly doesn’t help, either. “It’s a long, sand-bottom right point, offshore on NW winds, but they do not permit any surfing at all,” says John, recalling his previous venture to the wave-rich region adjacent to Morocco. “We tried bribing the security guards – cigarettes, chocolate and a surf magazine… it didn’t work. We did surf it, a week later, with a forged letter of permission that got us 40 minutes of surfing time on the best day as they retreated to their compound to check the validity. But they came back pretty quickly and told us we had to stop surfing and leave.”


NorthKorea3 1 960 589 s edit

You better believe there’s some setups there. 

Do you have a thirst for adventure and an inescapable desire for amazing waves and furious dictatorships in a forbidden land? Well look no further: Just go to America, right now! I kid. In the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, if you’re willing to break a few pesky Geneva Conventions, the tantalising thought of hucking a Kim Jong-air over a frosty lip somewhere north of the demilitarised zone is a possibility. But, hot tip: Don’t bother. In fact, don’t even bother with the thought of bothering. That’s an inexcusable offence to the original, brilliant and revolutionary contribution to national and international thought so considerably gifted to us by the all-knowing, all-powerful Kim Il-sung. Even the thought of scorning such a great man’s flawless ideology is punishable by death. They don’t dig sarcasm there, either. See you in the labour camp!   


Screen Shot 2015 02 22 at 10.13.22 am


Northern QLD and the Northern Territories.
According to a top-secret Stab source, waves just a few clicks north of Cairns can actually get quite fun. Think small, grinding Noosa in a cyclone, sans crowds. Only problem, however, is that jumping in the water to enjoy such treasures entails taking a dip with more box jellyfish than you can shake a bottle of anti-venom at. Should that not hinder you however, and you choose to throw on a stinger-suit, booties, gloves, and some form of face mask despite 30C water temps to avoid the jellies, then the saltwater crocs will help pick up the slack when it comes to disposing of you.


maxresdefault Point Mugu

The only way you can join this lineup is if you work on the military base – which the guys in this picture all do. Almost worth a career change to get this to yourself every day.

Point Mugu.
Nestled between Malibu and Oxnard in Southern California, is Point Mugu, a very good beachbreak highlighted by a signature meaty lefthander. Its geographical positioning allows it to be exposed to both north and south facing swells as well, giving it the best of both worlds in terms of consistency when the rest of Southern California is often stuck choosing between one or the other. Only problem is, it’s on a naval base, which means, unless you have top-level US government clearance, you can say over and out to the thought of ever dropping in.


20101111 bases1

The black shorts vs the camo pants. Who y’got? 

Kaneohe Marine Corps Air Station.
Another beauty beachbreak blacklisted by The Man. Cerulean A-frames comb this wide open beachie on a daily basis. Thankfully, the only thing that will kill you out here is overwhelming jealousy. But don’t get too worried, you’ll never see the wave in your life, unless you’re looking through the tinted back window of an unlicensed government vehicle while cuffed and being whisked away to some bleak Honolulu detention center. Aloha also means goodbye.


captain phillips

If you don’t wanna end up in an “I am the captain now” kinda situation, perhaps to rush to explore Somalia.

Primary water activity along Somalia’s massive Indian Ocean shoreline usually doesn’t involve a six-foot chunk of finned fiberglass. Warlords and pirates (not the type with eyepatches and treasure maps, but the kind with machine guns and no sense of fairness) love to buzz around the coastline here, mostly looking for things to shoot and people to kidnap. Seeing as our sport largely relies on spending time in reasonable proximity to the ocean, that’ll subsequently make you a primary target for either or.


Knowing how much of a stubborn bunch you are, this may be the least-likely-to-be-followed list of advice ever written. But as those Somalian pirates probably will say to each other if they see you bobbing around the lineup, it’s worth a shot. Don’t say we didn’t warn you.


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