Surf's Up: The Ultimate Guide to Riding Waves through Workaway

Close your eyes and envision yourself on a beautiful beach, riding your first wave, feeling the rush of excitement as you glide across the water. If you love the ocean and love travelling, you’ll definitely adore SURFING and the magic of catching waves in the glittering blue waters. If the waves are calling for you, you’ve come to the right place, because we’re here to guide you through everything you need to know about surfing around the world, one wave at a time!


Surfer rules 101: safety and how to prepare

Though surfers make the sport seem effortless, surfing requires skill, stamina, and dedication -- along with strong swimming skills and a decent overall level of fitness! 

Before you start paddling into waves:

  • Make sure to familiarise yourself with surfing etiquette to avoid run-ins
  • Practise being safe riding the waves as the ocean can be a dangerous and deadly place if you are not careful enough
  • Wear appropriate safety gear, ensure you wear the right wetsuit and always wear a leash - you don’t want to lose your board while riding! Wetsuits also not only keep you warm, but also prevents possible scrapes from rocks or your surfboard. 
  • Always make sure you tell someone you are surfing, or better yet, ride the waves with a friend!
  • Check the weather forecast for the tide and swells before you set out. Know when it's time to call it a day – you can always come back again!

No matter how (in)experienced a surfer may be, it's important to always be a responsible and respectful surfer. By respecting the rules and giving priority to fellow surfers, you can create a positive and supportive community out on the water. 


Perks of Surfing with Workaway

Wanna give surfing a try but the cost of lessons and investing in gear is holding you back? Here’s some good news for you!

Regardless of your level of experience, with Workaway you can find a variety of surf projects from around the world, that would allow you to explore new surf spots and progress your skills. All you need to do is exchange your time and skill sets for the opportunity to learn and ride the waves for free! Here are just some perks of staying with a Workaway host as a surfer: 

Save up on buying or renting equipment

Many hosts at ideal surf locations may have surfboards, wetsuits, and other equipment that you can use while you're volunteering with them. Volunteering activities can vary from coaching others how to surf at a surf camp/hostel, to helping with varying eco projects, to customer service and creative projects such as marketing, photography or videography. Either way, this means that you don't have to invest in your own equipment before you're sure that surfing is a sport you want to pursue… while also gaining and learning valuable skills! 

Stay (and live) close to the best surf spots

The best way to improve your surf skills is always to get out there and practise as much as you can – so staying close to a suitable surf spot means you will get a lot more opportunities to be in the water and make faster progress. If you’re workawaying at a surf shop or school, a marine conservation eco-project by the sea or even staying with a beach-loving host family, chances are you’ll have easy access to the waves just within walking distance.

Get insider's knowledge on when and where to surf

There is nothing better than an empty line up and having the waves all to yourself… and by volunteering with a Workaway host who has local knowledge, you can discover hidden gems that aren't overcrowded with other surfers. Your host can help you find the perfect surf spot that matches your skill level, ensuring that you have a safe and enjoyable experience. 

Hosts would also likely be more familiar with local surf breaks, which can be incredibly helpful for beginner and advanced surfers who are familiarising themselves with how to read the waves. Your host can show you the best surf spots for your level of experience, give you tips on how to read the waves and tides, and help you navigate the surfboard.

Connect with fellow surf-lovers around the world

Volunteering with a Workaway host who has a passion for surfing means that you'll have a like-minded companion to surf with, making the experience even more enjoyable. If you are a more advanced travelling surfer, you can also volunteer with assisting or coaching others, or help maintain and repair equipment while also connecting with the local (and international) surfing community, and even maybe make lifelong friends through your shared passion!


Our Top Destinations on Where to Surf, Work and Travel

Staying with Workaway hosts not only allows you to travel cheaply as you don’t have to worry about accommodation costs, but offers unique cultural experiences around the world as well. You'll have the opportunity to connect with local communities, learn about their traditions and customs, and experience the local way of life, making your entire trip even more enriching by giving back locally!

From party hostels, to yoga retreats and surf camps – all projects we’ve picked below are dedicated to offer a unique blend of surf instruction, cultural immersion, and community involvement… Through volunteering with Workaway, you will gain a comprehensive experience that goes beyond just riding the waves! Here’s just a few examples of hosts around the world you’ll enjoy staying with while surfing: 



Surfing in Ghanais a relatively new and emerging scene, but it offers some great waves for surfers of all levels!
When to visit: August to April – biggest swells arrive between December and March
Where to surf: Busua Beach, Cape Three Points, and Kokrobite Beach

This NGO in Ghana is situated in an absolutely beautiful unspoiled part of Ghana. The program aims to bridge this gap by providing a fee-free secondary education option with a focus on English and Reading Comprehension, Math, traditional Kente Weaving, and a variety of vocational workshops. When you are not teaching, you can head to Busua, which is the site of one of the scenes of the iconic surf film "Endless Summer." 

South Africa

South Africa is undoubtedly the most popular surfing destination in Africa, with loads of quality waves all around the country catering to surfers who want to tick popular surf spots off their travel bucket list, or those who prefer diving into hidden gems. 
When to visit:  April to September on the west coast and between June and August on the east coast.
Where to surf: popular spots include Jeffrey's Bay, Muizenberg, Durban, and Victoria Bay, as well as lesser-known spots Cape St. Francis, Elands Bay, and Dungeons.

Fancy sharing your passion for surfing and teaching others how to surf in South Africa? This family run Surf Camp and Surf School that promotes eco conscious, healthy living, on their rustic surf house in a small, exclusive, relaxed spot is looking for experienced surfers to help at their surf hostel in exchange for free accommodation!



Indonesia is a surfer's paradise with some of the best waves in the world. The country is home to over 17,000 islands, and its coastline is dotted with world-class surf spots that attract surfers from around the globe. 
When to visit:  April to October, but there are waves to be found year-round. 
Where to surf: Bali, Mentawai Islands, G-Land, Lombok, and Nias.

If you are a creative person wanting to develop your graphic design skills, photography, videography and also love yoga! This host is perfect for you, located 150m from Canggu Beach, Bali which is well known for its surf and yogis… it’s perfect for yoga lovers and surf enthusiastics! 


Japan might not be the first place to come to mind when you think of surf destinations, but the country’s coastline offers a unique and exciting experience for surfers. 
When to visit: September to November.
Where to surf: Shonan beach, Chiba, Miyazaki, Hokkaido and Okinawa.

This GEOpark experience near the sea in Izu, Japan offers you a unique experience in exchange for some hours of volunteering! Help out with housekeeping, gardening, and general maintenance… or if you are a creative and tech savvy, you can help with graphic designing, writing, photographing and painting.



Portugal has long been a favourite destination for surfers and is a fantastic destination for surfing enthusiasts, thanks to its consistent waves, warm weather, and stunning coastline, it's no wonder that Portugal has become a top surfing destination in Europe! 
When to visit:  April to September, with the biggest swells from September to April.
Where to surf:  Nazaré, Ericeira, Peniche, and Sagres

Share your passion for surfing and teach others at a surf camp! When you are not riding the waves, you can also practise your yoga, dance, skate skills or explore the culture and eat delicious food and drink good wine… Portugal is the perfect place to experience the thrill of surfing.


Ireland is another place that may not come to mind when looking for surf destination spots, though the country's rugged coastline and wild weather conditions make it a popular surf location for adventurous surfers! Ireland's surf culture is centred around the concept of "cold water surfing." The water temperature rarely exceeds 15°C (59°F), so surfers need to wear thick wetsuits, hoods, and gloves to keep warm. 
When to visit:  September to May
Where to surf: Bundoran in County Donegal, Lahinch in County Clare, and Inch Beach in County Kerry

Ireland's surf capital, Bundoran, not only offers great surf spots, but great nightlife as well! Integrate into the local surf community and get paid to work at this surf school and hostel and improve your English and surfing skills while enhancing your cultural experiences.

Costa Rica

Costa Rica is a popular surfing destination due to its warm waters, consistent waves, and stunning beaches. 
When to visit:  May to November, with the biggest swells occurring during the wet season.
Where to surf: Tamarindo, Jaco, and Santa Teresa

If you are wanting to develop your Spanish skills alongside your surf skills, why not volunteer with this host who needs help around their surf hostel located in a small surf town, Pavones! The hostel itself is located centrally in town and about a 3 to 5 minute walk to the beach and has a small family like atmosphere. They are looking for a volunteer to help with the daily operations of the hostel. Hours and schedule are flexible, you will have ample opportunity to practise speaking Spanish or English, and you will have plenty of time to surf.


Jamaica, located in the Caribbean Sea, is a relatively new phenomenon, with the sport only gaining popularity in recent years as more surf schools and camps have opened up along the coastline. 
When to visit: December to March and July to September.
Where to surf: Boston Bay, Long Bay, and Bull Bay.

If you want to escape the hustle and bustle of the city, this hostel located by a rural beach in Kingston can be the perfect escape for you! You can learn so much from this host who loves to surf, fish, cook, meditate, practice yoga and dance! Explore the untouched side of Jamaica and escape the crowds in exchange to help around the house and help with eco projects. 



Nicaragua has over 30 miles of coastline and a fantastic reputation of having all-day offshore winds almost all year-round, which makes it an incredible surfing spot for travellers.
When to visit: March to November, with the biggest swells arriving between May and August.
Where to surf: Playa Maderas, Popoyo, Playa Colorado, Playa Hermosa, and Punta Miramar.

This host is an eco-friendly & solar-powered lodge located directly on the beach of the Pacific Ocean on a nearly deserted island not far from Leon. The hostel is located just 20 minutes from the beach and has many facilities and activities including: a bar/restaurant, volleyball court, beach yoga deck, fruit tree orchard and garden, nightly barbecues and bonfires, surfing, and the chance to see baby turtle hatchlings and releases into the sea. There is something for everyone! By helping with running the bar, customer care, equipment rental and art projects you can have access to all these on top of a private beach-view room and three homemade meals a day!


Australia is one of the world's premier surfing destinations. Surrounded by ocean, with more than 35,000 km of coastline along the Pacific, Indian, and Southern Oceans, Australia offers a diverse range of surf spots to choose from. 
When to visit: December to mid April.
Where to surf: most popular surf breaks include Bells Beach, Snapper Rocks, and Margaret River

Live in surfers paradise, Torquay, and help this single working mum with building projects, house maintenance and babysitting! Or gain practical insights into ecological design, adaptive carpentry, permaculture design, yoga practices and more while sustainably living at a coastal town urban home in Inverloch, Victoria, Australia.



Fiji is a world-renowned surf destination located in the South Pacific. The country is made up of over 300 islands, with many of them offering incredible surf spots with warm water, consistent waves, and beautiful scenery. 
When to visit: March to November, with the biggest swells arriving between May and September. 
Where to surf: Cloudbreak, Frigates, Namotu Lefts, and Wilkes Pass.

If you want to enhance your CV in either: graphic design. social media, or enhance your knowledge on landscape, permaculture and restorative agriculture, renewable energy and water systems. This host is perfect for you! Located on the beautiful Coral Coast of Viti Levu, Fiji, this host is a sweet spot surrounded by an evolving permaculture garden and a marine sanctuary with a vision for regenerative living and enjoying nature to the fullest!


Chile has over 2,500 miles of coastline that are exposed to consistent swells from the South Pacific. 
When to visit: March-November, biggest swells arriving between May and August. 
Where to surf: Pichelemu. Arica, Iquique, Concón, Maitencillo, Buchupureo, and Reñaca beach

In this work exchange, you can learn Spanish and improve your surfing skills as you get free gear and accommodation at this surf hostel located in the country's national surf town, Pichilemu!



Peru is a world-class surf destination, famous for its consistent, powerful waves and the iconic left-hand break at Chicama, which is the longest wave in the world. The country is situated on the west coast of South America, and its coastline is exposed to the South Pacific swells that create some of the best waves in the world. 
When to visit: April to October, biggest swells arriving between June and August. 
Where to surf: Chicama, Máncora, Punta Hermosa, Huanchaco and Lobitos.

This surf hostel on the North coast of Piura-Lobitos works with 2 non-profit cultural projects…namely an art gallery and a children's library. Get in touch with your creative side while surfing in Peru! 


Ecuador is a lesser-known surf destination in South America, but it has some great surf spots scattered along its Pacific coastline as it is situated on the equator. 
When to visit: December to May, with the biggest swells arriving between January and March. 
Where to surf: Montañita, Ayampe, Canoa, Mompiche and Playas.

If you love water sports like diving, snorkelling and surfing - this is the perfect host for you! If you speak both English and Spanish, or want to improve your Spanish, you can help with administration, marketing, and support the team in exchange for free surf lessons, snorkelling excursions, tours and accommodation!


Hopefully these hosts can help any surfers out there find some decent waves along with incredible travel experiences. There are plenty more on the site, and anyone that can share either general advice on surfing or knows of hosts that offer the chance to surf is free to post in the comments box below to let us know. HANG LOOSE! 

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About Stephanie

Stephanie was born on an island and raised in a British/Portuguese multicultural background. From a young age, she learned how to embrace different languages, traditions and cultures. This upbringing ... show more...

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