6 things to consider when choosing your next surf charter:
Heading out on a Surf Charter or just thinking about it? Wherever you’re at, there are six very important factors that you should consider. From picking your mates through to laying down that extra cash to get an experienced skipper. Here’s our definitive guide to nailing down a great Surf Charter.
1. Who You Travel With
This is probably the most important rule in creating a great surf charter. Think about it…the most time you spend with your mates back home is a weekend camping trip or at the pub for a catch up beer. If you think you could spend up to 2 weeks with those people and not want to kill them, then that’s a good start.
You also need to consider surfing ability levels. You don’t want to have to cruise past a pumping reef break with no one on it in favor for a close out beachie because a handful of the guys can’t handle themselves.
Drinking habits, personal hygiene and social skills are also worth considering! Big drinkers will keep the health conscious guys awake all night and create friction, the big drinkers will get the shits with the health conscious because they want to have a bit of fun. Blokes with no personal hygiene just annoy everyone and make sure you invite mates who can hold a conversation or you feel comfortable with.
Choosing the right destination is a very important factor to consider! When it comes to surf charters there is usually 2 major destinations – The Maldives and Indonesia. Within these headline destinations, there are a number of different regions that you can specifically plan for. For example, Indonesian boat trips are available in the Mentawais, Telo Islands, Banyak Islands and around Nusa Tengarra. Maldives boat trips can be in the North Male Atoll, the Central Atolls or the Southern (or Outer) Atolls.
Thankfully the Maldives and Indonesia both have consistent wave-rich archipelagos perfect for surfers of all ability levels. They have similar traits in that they are both tropical climates with bath-like warm water and postcard beauty you can only dream of.
The Maldives tends to offer slightly more luxurious options with boats resembling floating hotels, as opposed to the Mentawai charters which are generally built for strength and durability in what is a far harsher environment.
Another consideration is that friends who get sea sick easily, probably don’t want to spend an overnight sailing just getting to the breaks. Indonesia is perhaps more renowned for this.
So whether you choose the Maldives or Indonesia, the options for waves are endless and the adventure aspect of both is high.
3. Crowd Factor
The general rule in surf travel is this; The cheaper you pay, the more crowded it is.
Unfortunately, crowds are part of surfing but there are certainly ways to avoid them and there are still areas you can go or times of year that are less busy than others.
Getting off the beaten path:
Generally, the closer one stays to an international airport, the busier it will be. For example, The Male Atolls in the Maldives has seen a spike in popularity for surfers around the world over the last 5 years. More flights, cheaper boats and land camps popping up mean the crowd factor is higher than it used to be and a lot higher than other parts of the Maldives. If however, you pay a little bit more for a boat that is willing to travel a little further afield OR you jump on a short domestic flight, you could be surfing perfect empty waves for your entire trip. These areas generally have less accommodation options for surfers, therefore, limiting the crowd factor.
Parts of Indonesia also requiring a flight, stopover hotel, ferry and a bus quite often mean fewer people will be in the water. These places still exist, you’ve just got to earn the right by taking on those harder yards.
Avoiding busy periods in the year:
Avoiding busy times in the year is a no-brainer for a surfer who wants to escape crowds. Booking your surf charter right in the middle of school holidays is perhaps the dumbest thing you can do unless it’s to an area where the accommodation supply is thin, like the Outer Atolls of the Maldives.
School holidays also means the airlines jack their prices up. Flights can be 20-50% dearer in school holidays!
If you want to take advantage of public holidays, be aware that others will also have the same idea and therefore these dates can book out very quickly. And flights are often 20-50% dearer than normal.
If you have the flexibility to avoid holidays altogether, then do so.
4. Standard of Boat
The standard of surf charters differs a lot!
You can sell all your prized possessions and still not be able to afford some of them OR you can cut costs and jump on a chicken boat with funky diesel fumes, smaller cabin space and leaking toilets. Our point is – some people have different views on what is budget and what is luxury but most of the time, you can find something everyone is happy with.
The good news is surf charters ultimately serve the same purpose, which is to find you the best waves, give you a comfortable bed to sleep in and feed you adequately.
The biggest factors in choosing the standard of your surf charter include comfort and safety, the experience of captain and crew, quality of food and extra services like photography, fishing tours and massages.
5. Safety and Comfort
Above all else, safety should be high on your list when choosing your surf charter.
Many boat operators skimp on the important stuff like maintenance to make a quick buck, but the operators who put safety first, win in the long run. Up to date navigational equipment, GPS and distress flares are especially important in the Mentawais.
Comfort is also very important. A comfortable bed, pillows and linen are all paramount in helping you get a good nights sleep and rejuvenating your limbs after a long day of surfing. Lounge room, dining areas and chill out spots to shoot the breeze with your mates are also super important.
6. Experience of Captain, crew and surf guide
Another very important factor in choosing a surf charter. In fact, some would argue this is the most important factor. Your skipper is ultimately the guy leading you to death or glory…ok maybe not that dramatic but you get the point!
Skippers with decades of experience in navigating reefs, getting you through rough storms or offering advice on where to surf can make a lot of difference.
Just as important as the skipper is the surf guide. The surf guide is often the middleman between you and the captain and quite often will translate what the skipper is saying, if language or jargon is proving to be a barrier. The surf guide is the captain of the waves. He or she knows what’s happening and based on years of experience, will have you on the best break 9 times out of 10. You surf guide will also talk to other boats in the area, if that happens, to ensure the crowd factor is minimised. An experienced surf guide is a very valuable and necessary asset ofr a great surf charter.
The crew create the atmosphere on board. The crew don’t get paid much but they should because they clean up your mess, cook and serve your food, literally drive you to the take-off zone and usually go out of their way to make your stay as enjoyable as possible. Give them a tip, you don’t need it as much as they do!
Mulling over a surf charter but not 100% where? Check out the below regions and start a bucket list…