Surfing Taiwan

by Pascal

Surfing Taiwan. No, not Thailand, and yes, this is where all your childhood toys
came from. And yes again, it’s where now most of your adulthood toys come from as well. Taiwan has changed. It’s still around 160 km off the Chinese coast, but they have changed from producing cheap plastic toys to more expensive electric toys, like computers, cameras, and mobile phones. They had such a fast and strongly growing economy over the last decades that they actually produce most of these items now in Taiwanese factories located in China.

What else? It has a really young and interesting history. People, in general, are well educated and have a high standard of living. This makes traveling around there more expensive but easier.
There is a small mountain range splitting the island into East and West. So the weather can be really different on either side. Even if they are not that far apart. You’ll find good hiking and climbing, a lot of hot springs, and in general, great outdoor sports that become more and more trendy. So does surfing, which is looked at as something cool. People celebrate that lifestyle with colorful clothes of all the big brands, worn far away from the surf.


You’ll find waves on the North, East, and South, but not much on the West. It’s a country with vast differences, with cities like Taipei, and not so far away towns as sleepy and rural as they possibly can be.

Many of the young people speak fairly good English, especially in the cities. They are extremely helpful, friendly and more than anything else, they’re polite. But if you’re heading to some of the small towns, don’t expect to find anyone who understands a single word of English. That is where the fun starts, and not having a clue what kind of food you’ve just ordered can be as exciting as disgusting.

Taiwan © Finding your way around with the subway can be as interesting as choosing food in a restaurant.

Taipei, big city live

taiwan © Taipei with fine weather on the ground, and different weather on top of Taipei 101

This is the country’s capital, sitting in the North, and is exactly how you would imagine it to be. It’s crowded, super modern in some parts and old and dirty in others. A lot of freaky stuff everywhere and those weird Chinese letters explaining to you where to go, what to do, and what to eat.
It’s also home to “Taipei 101”, which was the tallest building in the world until some rich guy in Dubai thought they want the title.

Taipei has good shopping, plenty of entertainment and nightlife, and even nature not far away. You can take the Subway to go to some hot springs and mountains. Even surf is not far away. Of course, the beaches closest to the city are the most crowded ones and not the best this country has to offer. But it’s still surf.

I decided to go all the way South along the West coast and surf my way up on the east.

How to travel around?

As I love train-rides and they had the fastest train in the world (at that time), I decide to spend a few more dollars for the experience and to save time. This bullet train crosses the whole island in a few hours. But at the train station, they didn’t like my plan. They looked at my board bag, asked how long it is, and measured it to make sure I didn’t lie. It was two inches too long, and I was not allowed to take it! Not because it wouldn’t fit, but because this is the way it is! You’re not in South East Asia, where you do things one way or another. This is Taiwan, and here you do things the way they have to be done! I tried hard, I tried everything and talked to everyone. But no chance! So I had to find my way South with a couple of buses and traveling much slower.

Traveling around with busses is easy enough too. It is probably the cheapest way to travel here, but not the fastest. But as a second option, if you can’t get on the train, it is definitely good.

The other option would be a rental car, but I’m not sure how easy that would be with road signs and all?!


Tainan, West Coast food paradise!

tainan © Fresh dumplings and all kinds of other food you can or maybe not imagine at the night market.

I had a short stop here to check out the famous night market. This is probably one of the best places to see the culture of this country, to try its food and to experience first hand what crowded means. If you can’t fit a nighttime stroll around here into your schedule, go to one of these markets in another city. It won’t be too different.

Where to surf?


typhoon swell taiwan
Perfect barrels on a beach closed because of a typhoon. Don’t try to sneak down there, the cops are watching closely

Kenting is at the southern tip of the island. It has a big natural park, beautiful nature and some tropical-looking sandy beaches. The water is warm all year round, kind of, and the waves are gentle. If you come to surf Taiwan, this is a Longboard and Fish surfboard paradise. Countless different beaches and points, but you need transport. Rent a car or scooter, and explore. (As Kenting is not a big city, driving around her is very easy.)

The other option would be, to find someone who shows you around. The people here are so friendly, you are most likely to find locals who takes you surfing and shows you all the spots. But if you want to make sure you’ll find surf, just find AFEI. He has a surf camp/ shop just outside of Kenting, and he’s the man here to talk to. He also shapes boards and makes his own surf clothes.

Empty and perfect beachbreak in Kenting.

You’ll find surf here all year round but usually never really big. If you don’t have enough time to take a bus all the way, Kenting has an airport too. Bring your best small wave board or something with a bit extra volume and you’ll have fun here. If it doesn’t has to be big all the time, Kenting is your best bet for Surfing Taiwan.

kenating dinner ©
Dinner in Taiwan. You don’t choose out of the menu, but from out of the fish tank.

But there was another thing I really liked about Kenting!

This is a typical tourist beach town with bars, restaurants, and people who try to sell stuff on the street at night time. BUT as soon as those vendors want to approach you, they realize that they don’t speak a word of English and let you have a close look at everything, without hustling you! On the other hand, better don’t come here if you like to complain about Chinese tourists with their fisher hat, who take pictures of everything. Here you’ll see many of them. And what might be a photo opportunity to them doesn’t have to be one to you.


surfing taiwan
Perfect day after a typhoon had passed through

Taitung is a city a bit up the East coast and has a couple of great point breaks and river mouth waves close by. Again, you need transport, and there is no surf in the city. It would be a good idea to stay somewhere a bit outside, best with people who take you to the waves.

There is a left hand point break here, by some called Four Palms. This spot goes off with a good typhoon swell. You paddle out from a little harbor and around the waves. Easy to reach the line up with dry hair. It has its name from the four palm trees that stand right next to where you take the wave, and where it starts barreling down the line. I surfed it after a typhoon had passed and the locals told me it was not big. This only made me think how big it could really get? And talking to the locals about the size of waves is a funny thing. 

So good luck with finding 4 palms next to a little harbour and you found the wave!

A head high wave is called ‘one man’, double overhead is: ‘two men’, and so on…

At first, when they told me with their broken English about ‘three men’ waves, I thought they were talking about the crowd. But after seeing pictures, it made me understand, that it gets huge here when a typhoon hits!

I also surfed a river mouth with a left and a right that works even with small swells and is surprisingly powerful. As I said, a lot of waves around… go and explore.


Taiwan pointbreak surf
Another perfect point behinde the next corner

Hualien is a fairly big city further up the East coast and has a lot of different surf spots close by. As everywhere else, when it comes to surfing Taiwan, you need transport. But if you have some wheels, it’s easy to find waves. People here are friendly and helpful and tell you where to go to find waves. These spots are already more crowded, as they are close to the city.
There is also the Taroko National Park, which is great and has a lot of other outdoor activities. River rafting, hiking, and of course hot springs.

My personal experience

I had only limited time when I was there and did a loop around the whole island. But if you have more time, there is much more to see and many more waves to find!

The people are unbelievably helpful and love to take a foreigner surfing in Taiwan. The surf potential here is of a surprising quantity and quality, BUT it’s difficult without a car or someone who takes you around. There is another point break around almost every corner, plus many beach breaks and rivermouth waves. Get yourself a car, a map and find those places. It’s actually pretty easy here, and you don’t have to be afraid of sharks! The locals told me more than once (always with a smile) there are non, as they eat them all!
It’s a great and diverse country with amazing people and a lot of uncrowded waves of any kind. From white water beginner beach, to triple overhead point. I could tell you a bit more about some of the waves and how to find them, but do it yourself. It’s so easy here to find waves and to find people who tell you about them. Telling you too much would take away the fun. Believe me, it’s easy exploring.

surfing taiwan ©

Something you’re likely to see when you come here for the typhoon season.

When to go?

For Typhoon hunting, go from July to October. With September as your best chance of scoring big waves. They get hit by the same storms as the Philippines and Japan.

Once the Typhoon season is over, the Monsoon season starts. This brings really consistent waves in the chest-to head high area for the next few months. During spring time, the swells become much smaller, but some small storms can bring waves in a day or two.

Surfing in Taiwan, all in all…

It’s is one of those places where the Aloha spirit is still alive and other surfers are treated as friends and brothers and not as rivals.

The waves are not world class, but there are good waves most of the time. And really important to me. There is much more to do and see than just waves. Take your time and explore the island.

The surf culture here is still young. Let’s hope it stays in such a friendly way. And if you visit Taiwan to surf, do your part to keep it the way it is.