Normally, there’s an inter-monsoon, or in-between period, in which Phuket may experience both dry and rainy season-type weather in alternating fashion for several weeks.
Every southwest monsoon season is different, but it’s likely that Phuket is now in inter-monsoon season. Sailors, anglers, surfers and beachgoers should all be wary of rapidly changing beach and ocean conditions. The heavy chop and short time period in between waves – the hallmarks of Phuket’s surf danger season – are not upon us just yet. However, the dangerous conditions of the persistent southwest monsoon can start at any time.
At present, the west coast of the Andaman is experiencing a mild, long-period swell along with relatively calm winds, from Kata Noi all the way north to Pakarang Cape. These conditions are some of the safest for beginning surfers.
While Phuket might have a lot to offer, when long-period swells are heading for the Andaman coast, an increasing but quiet migration begins as surfers converge on Khao Lak.
A quiet piece of paradise, Khao Lak is located about an hour’s drive north of Phuket International Airport on the west facing the Andaman coastline of the Indian Ocean, jungle, waterfalls, a mountain backdrop, buffalo grazing near pristine white sand beaches and fishing boats tied up with clean tropical waves breaking in the background.
Bert Burger, Head Surfboard Designer for Sunova Surfboards, is a resident of this surfer’s paradise and runs a significant surfboard manufacturing facility there. Sunova exports its innovative, sleek, vacuum-bagged surfboards globally.
But what is a major brand doing building surfboards in such a remote location, and what’s happening up there with the surf scene?
“To be honest, moving our factory here wasn’t exactly about making money – for sure it’s more expensive being so far away from our suppliers and customers – it was more about having a life,” Bert explains.
“The surfboard industry is a lifestyle business, so that includes all of our staff also having a good life. Isn’t it every surfer’s dream to live in paradise and surf perfect tropical waves? Plus I firmly believe that you must surf to build good surfboards. I want all of my staff to understand the difference between a good and bad board, to appreciate why it’s important.
“I think most people are surprised to hear there is surf in Thailand, but look at the map. We are only 500 kilometres away from the Indonesian island of Sumatra which undeniably has the best waves in the world. Those same swells continue on and hit the coast between Phuket and Myanmar.
“Phuket being further south often finds itself in the swell shadow of Sumatra, so it’s generally regarded that Phuket has waves during the monsoon season from storms generating wind swells locally in the Andaman Sea, but Khao Lak is actually way better during what they call the high season.
“Phuket can be flat while we are still getting shoulder-high waves and clean long-fetch swells that come all the way from Antarctica and South Africa. It’s not uncommon to get 23-second period swells at head high. I’ve seen swells traverse 10,000km of ocean and they are so clean and lined up when they get here.
“We have a nice range of options to enjoy these swells, outer banks, beach breaks, coral point breaks, outer reefs and river mouths. I think Khao Lak is one of the best places in the world to learn to surf. Memories Beach Bar has a huge range of surfboards for rent and a solid team of surf instructors to help people out. It’s shallow, the waves break further out and the white water rolls in for a long way with power all the way to the beach.
“Then 20 minutes up the road at Ban Nam Khem, Greg Hodge, an expat Australian, and Dang, his Thai wife, run ThaiSurfSchool.com. They focus more on one-on-one coaching and the waves there are generally better for someone who has progressed past the white water. Greg can virtually guarantee to have crew surfing green waves. Most of my best surfs this year have been in front of his place.
“I don’t want to oversell Khao Lak as a premier surf spot – I think if you’re a lone core surfer wanting to do a surf trip, go to Indonesia – but if you’re a core surfer with a family and you want to get your kids in the water somewhere safe and enjoy a break with your missus, then come and check it out. You’ll be pleasantly surprised.”
- Bert Burger
Daren Jenner is a bodysurfer and Ocean Lifeguard in SE Asia. He is also a Marine Safety Officer for the International Surf Lifesaving Association. Visit www.islasurf.org
Bert Burger is the inventor of the parabolic rail, founder of Sunova Surfboards and co-founder of Firewire Surfboards. Visit sunovasurfboards.com