Papua New Guinea is the new surfing destiny

When we think about fantastic surf spots in the world, usually the first things that come to mind are Hawaii, Australia, Mexico, California, and Portugal. But there is another location on the surf map, undiscovered, unpredictable, un-spoilt, beautiful, and exotic.

This destination is perfect for the European surfer staring out the window of his apartment, office, or car at the cloudy, grey sky and cold, wintery conditions.

This location, a hidden getaway, distant and remote, will surprise even the most skeptical, with challenging waves breaking off scenic beaches, reefs, and points without the crowds.

Few know of this place. Travel agencies rarely offer this direction, which is why it is a surfer's dream! The place in mind - Papua New Guinea.

Papua New Guinea, or PNG in short, is located 160 kilometers to the northeast of Australia and lies just south of the equator.

A country diversified and picturesque, discovered in the early 1500s by a passing Portuguese fleet, is made up of a wealth of dense tropical rainforest, highlands, long rivers, tropical islands, and a white sandy coastline.

Papua New Guinea's 19 provinces are home to 5 million inhabitants, many local cultures, and 800 local languages, the main one being Pidgin, which is spoken throughout PNG.

Declared independent in 1975, Papuans still keep their old and various traditions alive by doing rituals celebrating births, deaths, marriages, and other initiations.

Travelers to PNG can experience the local variations of costumes, rituals, and dance at a number of Sing-Sing shows - cultural and tribal shows held around the country annually, with the most famous being the Goroka and Mount Hagen show in the rugged Highlands.

With this in mind, PNG offers a variety of activities that will satisfy travelers with completely opposite scopes of interest.

Activities such as trekking through the highlands and jungle tracks, relaxing on numerous island resorts, diving amongst the coral reef and WWII wrecks, cruising the Sepik river, and of course… Surfing.

The Early Days

Surfing in Papua New Guinea found its start in the mid-1980s when a group of young, local surf enthusiasts, headed by Andy Abel, set up a club in the northern coastal village of Vanimo in the West Sepik province.

Since then, the sport has developed greatly, becoming affiliated with the PNG Sports Federation as a sporting body and a member of the International Surfing Association.

Interestingly, the Surfing Association of Papua New Guinea, with Andy Abel now its president, incorporated a unique system called the bottom-up approach, where the local communities own and manage their respective clubs cooperating directly with the association.

Through this system, local communities have direct access to surf tourism operators from markets like Australia, Japan, and now Europe and reap the associated benefits, giving the profits back to the local people.

Are We There Yet?

Surfing potential in PNG is unlimited.

The conditions and climate all year-round welcome surfers to visit the numerous surf spots scattered around the mainland and islands. Our journey begins in one of Europe's many large airports, where we travel on our selected flight to Singapore.

After the nearly 12-hour flight, we have a choice of continuing directly to the Papua New Guinea capital, Port Moresby, with the national carrier Air Niugini or traveling through Australia for a much-needed stop-over in Cairns or Brisbane, with daily flights to Port Moresby simplifying our onward journey.

Having arrived in Port Moresby, we are transferred from the airport to our hotel.

Along the way, we notice the many street markets selling sweet potato, coconuts, sugarcane, and a local favorite – betel nut, the seed of the Areca palm, chewed and used as a stimulant by locals.

The diversity of the people is clearly visible, with islanders and coastal people having soft, tender features, unlike the highlanders, whose warrior tradition stands out immediately.

After visiting some of Port Moresby's sights and local art galleries, it is time to get ready for the upcoming days of wet fun.

Surf's Up

Early morning we load the boards, wax, medical kits, and sunscreen and take a short trip south 10 minutes out of the city to Sero Cove - our first surf spot.

This reef break has the best swells in the early morning, with 1 – 2 meter waves regularly coming in from June to September.

Sero Cove is one of many spots, some still undiscovered, on the southern coastline along the way to Milne Bay, 100 kilometers further on the southeast point of Papua New Guinea.

With reef breaks being dominant between Port Moresby and Milne Bay, the latter does have the odd beach break where the not-so-experienced can attempt to master their board skills.

Apart from surfing, Milne Bay is known for the annual Canoe festival, which features a display of traditional canoe races, war canoes, dance, music, and food exchanges.

Having enjoyed the south coast for a few days, I decided it was time to jump on a plane and fly north to one of the premier surf spots in PNG – Vanimo.

Vanimo, just over an hour and a half flight time from Port Moresby, is the capital of Sundaun Province.

Lying just 30 kilometers from the Indonesian border, this small coastal town attracts mainly surfers all year round in search of the perfect wave.

With the northern part of our journey beginning in Vanimo, we have over 260 kilometers of coastline to explore in search of the ultimate ride.

Waves in Vanimo are consistent between October and April, even with the occasional 2-meter swells pounding the shore.

With reef and beach breaks, the surf can be enjoyed by both learners and seasoned riders.

The beautiful peninsula, tropical rainforest, crystal clear water, and nearby bits of WWII plane wrecks additionally diversify our stay.

Traveling down the coast, we reach Wewak, a small town located close to where the Japanese handed over surrender documents in 1945.

Having felt a large dose of WWII action, this exotic town is a diver's dream with "postcard" views and unimaginable watercolor, palm-fringed beaches, untouched reefs, and scattered Japanese war wrecks.

Surrounded by 15 tropical islands, it also has a number of wonderful surf spots attracting surfers during the wet season from September.

A huge advantage is that Wewak never gets crowded and has fairly consistent waves breaking on reefs.

Our trip is nearing its end, so our final destination is the remote town of Kavieng in New Ireland Province.

Long and mountainous, this tropical island is known for its never-ending beaches, peaceful and skilled locals, and famous Shark-calling festival.

Kavieng, situated on the most northern end of the province, offers a number of reef breaks that are easily accessible by boat or land transport.

Just out of the town is a small retreat providing accommodation, meals, and transport for surfers to the surrounding breaks.

With waves in Kavieng being well-established and consistent, surfers visiting will not be disappointed.

That's not all… The journey we just took covered PNG's surf spots only briefly.

The country is abundantly filled with attractions, with the true picture impossible to describe in print.

Other surf destinations like Madang, situated further down the coast from Wewak, give surf and sports enthusiasts additional opportunities to enjoy pure beauty and feel withdrawn.

In fact, for a surfer, PNG really offers undiscovered and unlimited surf possibilities, with members of the Surfing Association continuously exploring the land in search of new locations.

An example is Bougainville Island, an island reborn after years of armed conflict and unrest, which is referred to as a jewel of the South Seas.

And although surfing and surf-tourism are high among the priorities of the governing bodies, if kitesurfing, windsurfing, or wakeboarding is your thing, then believe me, your expectations and needs will be catered to.

So, the next time you start thinking about your holidays during the long, grey European winter days, imagine yourself relaxing on secluded islands and beaches, surrounded by rainforests, lagoons, and waves that will take your breath away.

When this happens, stop imagining and make it a reality to visit surfing's last frontier.

No Limit Adventures is a small international company made up of people with a passion for travel, sports, and adventure.

Being long-time residents of Australia, over the last ten years, we have been discovering the charms of PNG.

Having made good friends, acquaintances, and partners amongst locals, business operators, and governing bodies over the years allows us to see PNG from a different perspective and thus helps us invite travelers seeking journeys a little out of the ordinary. 

Source: No Limit Adventure

Top Stories

The world's first city center wave pool is ready to welcome surfers. Meet RiF010, the Dutch answer to urban surfing.

Three foreign surfers were murdered while on a surf trip through Baja California, Mexico.

Bianca Valenti, Alo Slebir, Wilem Banks, and Jojo Roper were the standout wave riders of the 2024 Mavericks Surf Awards.

Have you ever missed a very good-looking wave after losing precious time spinning your surfboard to start paddling?