Things to remember when surfing overseas

With summer fading in the rear-view mirror, many of us start to dream of a holiday to warmer shores. For some, the search for the endless summer means only one thing: sun, sand and surf. But pulling off a successful surf trip isn’t always as easy as donning the board shorts and hitting the beach. 

From what to pack, to taking the family – we’re here to help your surfing holiday go off with a salty smile.


Surf trip packing list

If you’re serious about your wave-riding pursuits, the luggage can quickly pile up. But taking the right gear for the destination is the key to maximising your time in the water. Remember to give yourself a little extra time at the airport, as checking in any oversized luggage can take a little longer than the usual check-in desk. 

Warm-water surf spots like Bali, Sri Lanka and Central America will need different equipment than cold-water destinations like parts of Europe, California and South America.

The gear you take will also depend on the type of waves you plan to be surfing. If you’re an experienced surfer with a lot of waves under your belt, you might be looking to test yourself at the reef breaks of Indonesia. In this case, packing things like reef-boots and first-aid kits is essential.


Warm water surf trips

For warm-water surf trips you will need:

  • Zinc and sunscreen
  • Long-sleeve rash shirt
  • Reef-boots
  • Spare board shorts
  • Vaseline for board-rash
  • First-aid kit
  • Spare leg-ropes, fins and suitable warm-water wax

Well-travelled surfers know that while the sun on your bare shoulders may feel great, avoiding sunburn is absolutely essential to enjoying any surfing holiday.

Covering up with long-sleeve tops, regularly re-applying your zinc and even buying a good-quality waterproof surf hat will keep you catching waves from sunrise to sunset.


Cold water surf trips

For cold-water surf trips, packing a wetsuit is essential for maintaining body warmth, meaning you can stay in the water for longer. Check before you leave what kind of sea temperatures you can expect, and pack accordingly.

For water temperatures between 16-20 degrees Celsius, a standard 3/2 steamer will suffice. For you hardy adventurers bound for even cooler temperatures, pack a thicker suit with a hood and boots.


Should you bring your own gear or rent it when you’re there?

While you can’t beat the feeling of your own board under your feet, renting gear when you arrive has its benefits:

Why rent surf equipment?

  • Airlines can charge expensive surfboard fees, and there’s no guarantee it won’t be damaged in transit.
  • You won’t have the hassle of carrying your excess luggage when travelling to and from the airport.
  • If you’re a beginner, a rental store can match the right equipment to your ability.

Why bring your own surf equipment?

  • If you plan to tackle more challenging waves overseas, using equipment you’re familiar with will keep you off the reef.
  • You can be sure that it’s of good quality.
  • You may not have access to a lot of equipment in more remote locations.

If you are planning to rent gear overseas, it’s always important to be on your guard. We’ve come across some common rental scams that have caught travellers unaware. Where possible, photograph equipment before using it and never leave your passport as a security deposit!


Looking after your surf gear

Surf equipment can be expensive so it’s important to get adequate travel insurance in case the unexpected happens.

Never leave your board out of sight on the beach as we can’t cover you for any items left unattended. Additionally, make sure you have somewhere secure to lock your board up when you’re not using it, ideally in your accommodation. If it’s left in a vehicle overnight, we cannot cover it if its stolen.

If the worst does happen and your board is stolen, make sure you report the theft to the police within 24 hours so you can get an official police report. You’ll need this when you come to make a claim.

We hear lots of stories of boards being damaged or going missing when they are checked in at the airport. If your board is damaged or lost during transit, contact the airline in the first instance as they should be able to provide compensation.


Best surf trips for beginners

There’s nothing more exciting as a beginner surfer than scoring the wave of your life on holiday. As a beginner, finding a beach with user-friendly beach break waves is your best bet.

Many surf camp accommodations include surf lessons and equipment rental in their packages, and have professional instructors who can ensure you don’t get into any dangerous situations.

Popular surfing hubs for beginners like Tamarindo in Costa Rica, Kuta beach in Bali and Waikiki in Hawaii are excellent options for improving your skills without spending too much time underwater. If you’re taking your partner or the family along on the surf trip and they’re not keen surfers, these towns have plenty to offer outside the water, too.


Best surf trips for intermediates

Do you have a few years of experience behind you? If so, faster, steeper and bigger waves could be in your sights. It’s important to be honest with yourself when judging your skill level, especially when surfing over reef. Waves at reef-break destinations can change rapidly with tide, wind and swell shifts, meaning a sound ability in reading conditions is crucial to staying safe.

California, Bali and Sri Lanka are popular surfing destinations for intermediate surfers. Surf conditions vary throughout the year, so do your research and plan your trip accordingly.


Best surf trips for advanced surfers

If you’re an advanced surfer, you probably won’t need our advice when planning your next trip. But famous waves like Cloudbreak in Fiji, Puerto Escondido in Mexico and Desert Point in Indonesia should be high on the bucket list of every travelling wave-rider.

Luxury resorts like Namotu and Tavarua in Fiji are the go-to accommodation options for the surf-crazy travellers hoping to find a few barrels at spots like Cloudbreak, Restaurants and Wilkes.


The best surf trips with the family

Packing the board and heading abroad doesn’t need to be a solo mission. Make it a family adventure and keep everybody happy!

Fiji is a fantastic destination for the family, and Plantation Island resort will keep everybody happy with putt-putt golf, stunning pools and local meals. It’s a short boat-ride from the resort to Fiji’s most famous waves, but be prepared to wake up before the sun to beat the crowd.

The Anantara Bali Resort & Spa at Bali’s most famous wave, Uluwatu, is another ideal option for travelling families, with five restaurants, swimming pools, a fitness centre, cooking classes and daily yoga to keep everyone entertained.

If you have any questions about insurance cover for your next surf trip, drop us an email at


The content of this article is general and provided for information purposes only. It is not intended to be medical advice. Southern Cross Travel Insurance (SCTI) doesn’t guarantee or warrant the accuracy, completeness or currency of the articles.

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