While most would probably agree that the quality of the waves would be their number one concern, what one surfer considers essential for making a surf spot ideal is likely to be different to another. After all, even the idea of a perfect wave varies from person to person depending on their ability and ambition, with some preferring a beach break over a point break or otherwise.
But really there are many other considerations to take into account, especially if you’re planning on setting down roots and finding a place to live – and surf – out your golden years. Would you rather have somewhere sunny but potentially flocked with tourists, or a more remote locale with colder waters? Do you want somewhere off the beaten track or with the sort of infrastructure you might expect at home? These are tough questions to answer, and make it difficult to whittle down all the awesome beaches around the world vying for your board and attention.
Some ultimately may not want to look any further afield than Cornwall’s own renowned Fistral Beach or Watergate Bay, for the sake of convenience and familiarity. But for the more intrepid surfer who dreams of retiring to brighter blue skies or bigger swells, we’ve put together our picks for some of the best alternative surf spots on offer around the world.
For those who really don’t want to go all that far from home but still want to experience great surf in a different country, Bundoran could be a good choice. A relatively short hop over the border with Northern Ireland, this old fishing village has a lot going for it. Obviously tropical sunshine isn’t one of those things, but just because the water’s a little colder and the weather a little greyer that doesn’t detract from what really counts. Thanks to its vantage point, exposed to the rougher North Atlantic, Bundoran catches some truly great swell throughout the season.
Like any premier surf spot, the friendly local attitude is a real boost to the Bundoran experience. Be sure to visit the pubs and strike up a conversation with the locals for the best advice on where to pitch your surfboard the next day. With enough time you’ll likely learn all the resident secrets that the tourists never will. Additionally, there’s plenty of wonderful Gaelic scenery to be appreciated in the area, so you’ll never be bored.
Naturally there should be less of a cultural adjustment to deal with when moving to Bundoran, with the UK little more than a stone’s throw away and the region supporting closely comparable amenities and infrastructure.
No list of great surf spots would be complete without a mention of Australia, and the Gold Coast in particular. One of the city’s suburbs is aptly named Surfers’ Paradise, after all. Encompassing 70 odd kilometres of beach (and consequently a whole lot of great waves) one of the area’s major selling points is its sheer scale. Although it’s definitely a very popular spot, attracting both diehards and beginners, there is more than enough space to spread out and dodge the tourists. With so much choice, the surf-keen expat could keep themselves well occupied for years.
Another striking feature of the city is its somewhat unique residential canals which stretch for more than 890 kilometres, with many of the waterfront homes coming complete with their own private pontoons. So for those who want nothing more than proximity to the water, there aren’t many places that can beat the Gold Coast.
However, Australia isn’t one of the easiest countries to retire to, with a tough visa process that could keep hopeful expats from permanently setting up board down under. Even so, if this is the place where you want to spend the rest of your surfing days there is plenty of advice out there to help you get the process started.
One of the more up-and-coming surf destinations, Nosara is steeped in a more relaxed and back to basics lifestyle. There are five major beachfront settlements to choose from, with a strong expat community already in place and a heavy focus on health and sustainably. This compliments the local surf conditions, with the region offering some of the most versatile breaks in the country, catering to all levels of surfing ability.
But being slightly off the beaten track means that you might find that the local amenities and healthcare options are likely to be a little more limited than the typical expat might be accustomed to. Anyone heading to Costa Rica should be sure to check what vaccinations are necessary well in advance of going. Nosara is also not one of the easiest destinations to find your way to, with local roads being a little less than kind to the suspension, although this does naturally mean less tourists to share the beach with.
Nevertheless, with a pretty favourable exchange rate the expat that chooses to settle here should be able to find themselves a decent sized home for less than a comparable abode in many of the other premier surf spots. If you want affordability, chill and sunshine then Nosara could well be the place for you.
Warm seas and sunshine are not always synonymous with the best waves, as is the case with Tofino. The Great White North might be more associated with ski than surf, having hosted the Winter Olympics twice, but this surf spot on the country’s western coast should not be dismissed out of hand. While the more fashion conscious could be deterred by the definite need to bundle up a bit more in the colder climate the extra chill is definitely worth some of the breaks you’ll find here.
Although Tofino is located squarely on the tourist trail in the summer months, that busyness will die away when winter rolls in, leaving the resident surfer with more peace to enjoy the bigger waves that tend to come with the shorter days. The district’s position also means that the climate is generally a lot milder than other areas of Canada, with the region even boasting its own palm trees.
For the older expat Canada happens to have a particularly robust healthcare system, with universal public health insurance for all citizens and permanent residents. However, the country’s visa requirements can pose a bit of a difficulty, as much of its current immigration focus is on attracting skilled workers or self-supportive expats.
France may not seem like the obvious choice for a surf spot but rest assured that this destination is widely acknowledged to be one of the premier wave sights in Europe. Located in the south of the country, Hossegor can boast sun-drenched days to rival some of the more traditional surfer hotspots. With a solid fetch length from the Atlantic, this area offers good swell with the added peace of mind that comes from not having a coral break, so you don’t have to worry quite so much about the added injuries if you wipe out.
For those who want the more tropical climate but don’t want to move out of easy travelling distance of relatives or UK amenities this can be a particularly attractive compromise. For the time being at least, expats heading to France can benefit from the free movement granted by the EU, with the country lacking the visa requirements of many of the more high-profile surf spots.
One downside to bear in mind is that Hossegor is also rather popular with the famous crowd, so property prices close to the beach can run at a pretty high price and you may find yourself with more competition for a wave than you’d like.
Obviously we’ve only just scratched the surface here, with there being literally hundreds of fantastic surf spots to choose from around the world. At the end of the day, wherever you decide to set your board down will be entirely down to your own personal preferences, but we hope we’ve gotten you off to a good start on that decision. Just be sure to remember that when it comes to settling down overseas you want to balance out the ‘best’ waves with a host of other factors, such as local healthcare and visa requirements. There can be a lot to sort out before you’re able to start your new live as an expat, but with a bit of time and consideration you’ll be able to find the perfect retirement surf spot for you.
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