Samoa & Tonga
Intermediate - Pro
January, February, March, April, May, June, July, August, September, October, November, December
Intermediate - Pro
Luxury Surf Trip
January, February, March, April, June, July, August, September, October, November, December, May
Learning - Pro
January, February, March, April, June, July, August, September, October, November, December, May
Samoa is located east of the international date line and south of the equator, about halfway between Hawaii and New Zealand in the Polynesian region of the Pacific Ocean. Officially called The Independent State of Samoa, this country is a picture perfect display of natural beauty consisting of ten islands, with the 2 main islands, Upolu & Savai’i accounting for 99% of the total land area.
Samoa’s landscape shows its diversity with its rainforest covered volcanic mountain peaks, vast valleys and its coastline fringed with white sandy beaches. The coastline is a wonder in itself, with beautiful beaches that stretch for miles in some places, and in others you’ll find walls of sheer cliffs that drop straight into the Pacific. Beyond the beaches are scattered the other 1% of the islands that make up the Samoa archipelago, protected by the fringing coral reef that keeps the powerful force of the Pacific Ocean at bay.
You will find both of the 2 main islands, Savai’i and Upolu, are dotted with awesome surf breaks and get consistent good swells year round, northern swells are prominent in the wet season from November through April, and southern swells in the dry season in between.
The last monarchy in the South Pacific is the Kingdom of Tonga which is an independent archipelago of 3 main islands in the South Pacific between Fiji, Hawaii and New Zealand. Located to the west of the international dateline, the Kingdom of Tonga is the first Pacific nation to greet the new day. In all there are more than 170 islands, approximately 36 of which are inhabited, scattered over 700,000 square kms.
Tonga is relatively unaffected by mass tourism and unlike some of its neighbours, you won’t find the 5 star luxury resorts lining its coastline. Instead you will find basic traditional bures or fales with thatched roofs and mosquito nets located on unspoilt beaches with uncrowded, consistent waves breaking out the front. The villages operate the same way they did years ago with tradition and culture a major priority within the community.
Samoa has a tropical maritime climate moderated by the SE trade winds. The rainy season is from November to April and the dry season is from May to October with little seasonal temperature variation.
Samoa has surf year-round and is blessed with many world class spots but on mostly difficult to access reefs. At the beginning of the 21st century, Samoa still remains largely unsurfed and obscure, undeveloped and still in its pristine, natural state, its indigenous peoples still clinging to traditional Samoan village life, which provides the backdrop to an incredible and surreal surfing experience.
Samoa has several surf seasons outlined as follows:
May to September
The most consistent swells come from way down in the southern ocean and intensify before exploding on Upolu Island's south shore during the May to September season.
During this season the SE trade-winds that are the prevalent winds in the South Pacific can have an impact on some of breaks that are more exposed to the wind, whilst other breaks are unaffected eg. Boulders is protected by the headland and Devils Island is offshore in SE winds. At times the SE trades can be very strong and there may be times when conditions are not ideal/unsafe for boat travel to the surf breaks. On these occasions the surf guides will do all possible to track you down some surf by vehicle access (even travelling to the north coast where the breaks will be smaller in size but not wind-affected). During the peak south swell months (May-Sep) there will be days when there is very little wind and conditions will be perfect.
February to April & October:
During the months of Feb/Mar/April & October, the south shore breaks can get very good with glassy, clean conditions due to lack of wind factor at this time. South west swells (generally not as large as May- Sept months) are common over this period, being the favoured swell direction of some of the right-handers on the south coast eg. the world class set-up of Coconuts, during this same period the north shore of Upolu can often have good waves also due to north swells pushing down from Hawaii.
November to January:
The summer is when the north shore of Upolu is at its best. North swells originating in Alaska travel via Hawaii and hit Samoa's north shore approximately 3 to 5 days after hitting Oahu (Hawaii).
Tonga has a subtropical climate characterised by a warm period from December to April and a cool period from May to November, with most rainfall occurring during the warm period. Average annual precipitation is 1,680 mm (66 inches) and the prevailing winds are the SW trade winds. Average temperature ranges in Nuku'alofa are from 18 to 25’C in July to 23 to 29’C in February.
There are two distinct surfing seasons. The Tongan summer months (Nov to Mar) produce north swells generated by south pacific cyclones as well as winter storms in the north pacific. South-east trade winds prevail. However, the best surf is in the winter (May to Oct) with large yet clean swells generated from winter storms in the Tasman Sea and around New Zealand.
Samoa receives south swell all year round from both Antarctic ground swells from New Zealand and locally generated tropical activity. These swells come from deep in the ocean and pound Samoa’s coral reefs, often creating steep takeoffs and hollow tubes. Generally, Samoa is recommended for intermediate to advanced surfers due to its powerful, heavy surf and sharp, shallow reefs.
The main island of Upolu is a swell magnet with surf on the south, east and north coasts. From late March to November, huge swells created by lows from Antarctica pound the south coast. From December to February, northern swells also travel from Hawaii to hit the north coast. The south coast of Upolu boasts some superb surf spots such as Coconuts, Devil's Island, Siumu, Village Lefts and Resorts. Near Salani Village, you’ll find Salani Right, and the long, fast-breaking barrels of Salani Left. Boulders is only surfed at low tide, but this left hand point break can handle swells up to 8ft. Good offshore surfing alternatives are The Island, with its powerful left break that reels off over a beautiful reef, and Rusty's, a hollow right hand reef break which ends in a deep channel.
On the north shore of Upolu, experienced surfers can check out Dragons Breath for one of the best set ups on the island. Just 10 minutes out from Apia, this powerful right hander has huge open barrels that can compete with the world’s best. The right hand breaks of Pudding Rock and the nearby Waterfalls offer a short but fun ride, or try the series of breaks at Tiavea and Fagaloa Bays for some great tubes and drops.
- Salani Right - This wave will barrel at any size and has multiple takeoff spots; the right is a shorter wave that can either barrel from start to finish or be a combination of open face sections and barrels. The wave gets longer with a SW swell, and shorter with a SE swell. There is a large, clearly defined channel and current to carry you back out to the lineup. Salani Right can be surfed on lower tides depending on the size and swell direction.
Salani Left - Salani Left is a long, fast breaking full barrel ride over coral reef/flat rock that gets faster, and hollower as you go down the line. This wave is typically surfed from 2-10ft faces. The wave does not end very close to the channel, so on bigger days getting back out can be a little tricky. Best at medium tide with SE swell.
- The Island - About 2 Kms offshore, this island has a powerful left that reels off over a beautiful coral reef. Accessed only around high tide and best on the medium to bigger swells, this spot is a great alternative when the trade winds are onshore at Salani’s, as it’ll be offshore at The Island.
- Rusty's -A newer spot, this right hand break is situated 2kms offshore on the outer reef. It iis longer than Salani Right but just as hollow - also ending in a deep channel, with a current to take you back out to the lineup.
- Boulders – Boulders is a 10 min paddle out from a black sand beach. One of Samoa’s best known big wave spots, Boulders is able to handle the largest of swells and still not close out. As the name suggests this wave breaks over large boulders on the outside point and a combo of rock and mushroom-head coral reef on the inside. This left hand point breaks off a lava cliff starting with a relatively easy drop followed by a steep wall section, then barrels off down the line, often spitting as it ends - sometimes 150m away. Boulders is also a great option if the SE winds are blowing as it is well protected and remains glassy or light offshore. Best at low tide, the bigger the swell, the more tide the wave can handle.
- Tiavea -A large bay located on the NE coast containing 4 separate waves; a big wave right hander off one end, a fast shallow left off the other side, and a nice river mouth in the middle. The river mouth is a left and right breaking over cobblestone and flat reef bottom. Tiavea Bay is an excellent option during the north swell season if the south coast is not showing enough activity, or sometimes during the south swell months if the south coast breaks are heavier then you may desire.
- Polsalles - Located 25mins by boat from Coconuts resort on the South Shore. Picks up the most swell out of any of the breaks on this side of the island due to its shape and depth of the reef. Breaks similar to Teahupoo anything over 6ft and is one of the funnest left handers in Samoa.
- Waterfalls - Is located on the North Side of the island which is about a 40min - 1hr drive from Apia, the capital. A steep takeoff but if made one of the best barrels you will ever experience extremely hollow at 3ft and you can drive a bus through it at 6ft. Make sure you have a back up board in the car and a camera! This wave is very popular with Body Boarders!
- Dragonsbreath - Also located on the North Side of the Island. If you can surf big backdoor Pipe in Hawaii you will love this wave! for chargers only but it can be extremely fun at 4-5ft!
There are also several other breaks available than can be accessed on rare occasions due to their distant location and reputation of being fickle. Some of these breaks are accessed by boat only, others by overland transfers. The key is to listen to your surf guides when they are explaining the conditions and what to expect at each location. If there is something special happening they will let you know all about it.
Note- most breaks in Samoa are well offshore, plagued with strong currents and tides and are therefore difficult to access. It is also important to note that surfing is not allowed on Sunday at most of the breaks. There are some breaks you can surf on Sunday, such as Boulders or some islands off the east coast.
There are two main surfing spots in Tonga that draw everyones attention. One is off Ha’atafu Beach on western Tongatapu where the break is over a shallow reef just 100m off the beach. The other is a little further away which needs to be accessed via boat and is only really good on a high tide due to the reef, not suitable for beginners.
With this in mind, there are awesome breaks off Eue’iki Island, located on the north-east coast of Tongatapu, getting out there is an adventure in itself. It helps if you are staying on one of the Lagoon Islands as you can hire a boat to get out to the breaks.