Tonga Surf Tips
When looking for “alternative” places to surf, Tonga is definitely a nation of islands that stand on top. The little-known surf destination is scattered with reefs that create idyllic curling waves begging to be surfed, especially for intermediate to advanced surfers. So get an idea of what surfing in Tonga is all about with this quick list of Tonga surf tips!
1. Options for Beginners are Limited
First of all, Tonga is not a place to learn how to surf. There are no surf schools. Plus, the waves suitable for beginners are limited, as almost all of Tonga’s surf breaks are on reefs (which falling into is not fun). However, when swell conditions are calm, you can find suitable beginner waves off Ha’atafu and Kanokupolu Beach in Tongatapu, as well as beginner-friendly waves in most swell conditions at Houmale’eia Beach in Ha’apai. Basically, Tonga is an awesome surf destination for intermediate to advanced surfers.
2. Have Reef Protection
As mentioned, almost all of the surf waves in Tonga are reef breaks so you’re going to want to wear some rubber. Reef shoes and a wetsuit/rashie are a good start. If you’re hitting some of the gnarlier waves in Vava’u or breaks like Kamikaze’s at Ha’atafu Beach, then you should probably even wear a helmet.
3. And Protect the Reef
Of course, you don’t want to damage the ocean that’s providing all of the fun, so made sure your sunscreen choice is “reef-safe”. Avoid wearing sunscreen that have oxybenzone which can damage and sometimes kill young coral. Check out our sunscreen recommendations in the 10 Best Natural Sunscreens for Tonga.
4. Bring Your Own Surfboard
Surfboard hire in Tonga is limited, to say the least. We can only think of two accommodations that have surfboards for hire (that’s Heilala Holiday Lodge and Matafonua Lodge). If you’re not staying close to these places, or especially if you’re surfing in Vava’u, then it’s best to bring your own surfboard.
5. Bring the Board You’re Most Comfortable Riding
Since you’re probably going to want to bring your own board, the question is: which board should you bring? With swell peaks being anywhere between 2.5-3m (6-10ft) to 0.6-1.2m (2-4ft) in smaller conditions, it’s hard to predict the best board to bring. Your best option is to just bring the board you’re more comfortable on.
6. You Can Surf Year Round
Tonga experiences two distinct seasons which bring their own surf conditions. Winter (May to October) is arguably the best time for surfing in Tonga, where southerly groundswells open up the majority of surf breaks across the islands. Summer (November to April) is when the northerly swells from the North Pacific affect surf waves in Tonga, with some big days produced due to cyclone activity. Learn more about the surf seasons in The Best Time to Surf in Tonga.
7. Tonga’s Surf Waves are Reef Breaks
The surf waves in Tonga are mostly reef breaks, so you need to be prepared to paddle or take a boat to get to the surf. In Tongatapu, it’s possible to paddle out some 100m (330ft) to get to the surf breaks from Ha’atafu and Kanokupolu Beach, while the rest can only be reached by boat. Especially in Vava’u, all the breaks require boat travel. Only in places like Houmale’eia Beach in Ha’apai can you ride waves (albeit gentle waves) from the beach. Learn more about the breaks in the 10 Surf Breaks in Tongatapu and 10 Surf Breaks in Vava’u.
8. The Best Time to Surf is Three Hours on Either Side of High Tide
Also connected to the fact that Tonga’s surf breaks are on reefs is that it’s best to surf within three hours of either side of high tide. This is generally the safest time to be out surfing. If you’re a beginner at one of the beginner breaks, limit that to two hours on either side of high tide.