Surfing in Ecuador: Off the Beaten Wave

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Everyone will tell you about Montañita as a destination for surfing in Ecuador, a tidbit anyone can offer whether they know anything about the sport or not. We prefer to take you to lesser-known destinations, places that would be any surfers’ dream. Idyllic coastlines is not something we’re short of in Ecuador… there’s a beach for everyone! Riding waves with sea lions or with a lush jungle backdrop are only some of the unique experiences that make surfing in Ecuador so unique.

From the beach at San Mateo you can see it, elegant and wild, like a herd of horses galloping down a meadow… a perfect wave, compact and homogeneous. Eight hundred meters long and three meters high, it is considered one of the most special in the Southern Pacific. “It is a world class wave, the best in Ecuador and one of the best in South America. It is very long. It has three segments: the first is a tube, then comes the middle section for stunts and finally a soft tail-end,” explains Xavier Aguirre, president of the Ecuadorian Surfing Federation.

Hundreds of international surfers travel to this teeny fishing village, 20 kilometers south of Manta, between October and April every year. Kiosks facing the sea, the aroma of seafood casseroles… in the streets, sheltered from the sun, locals look upon the “blond and strong” surfers with curiosity, as they walk across their villages to the shore.

In fact, the myth of San Mateo was once much greater. Until 2012, the wave spanned 1,200 meters, but the construction of a new dock reduced it considerably. Fortunately – and perhaps responding to karma – on the other side of the pier, a new, high-quality wave was born.

All along Ecuador’s 560-kilometers of coast, surfing opportunities abound. A good example is Mompiche, one of the last beaches on the Ecuadorian coast still surrounded by tropical rainforest, where howler monkeys, toucans, armadillos and ocelots roam. Its point-break waves of up to 500 meters in length are well appreciated for their stability, ranking them among Ecuadorian surfers’ favorites.

The beaches of Salinas also get the surfing community excited. Just to get an idea, in 2004 the Surfing World Cup was held here. San Lorenzo, right next to the Yacht Club, offers waves of all levels 365 days a year. North of the city, at the Naval Base of Salinas, is La Chocolatera. It is the westernmost geographical point of all Latin America. Its name comes from the effect the waves create as they burst against the rocks, which causes the bottom sand to rise to the surface, giving the water a deep chocolate-brown hue. It is an area with lots of waves and strong currents, and only recommended for the most experienced athletes. With luck, you can surf with the friendly sea lions that populate the coastline.

Canoa makes an ideal surfing spot for beginners. Its beach break waves are very useful for learning, as they are stable, form very close to the shore and are not particularly large. You can also find surf schools and private instructors at reasonable prices: the perfect place to get up on your feet for the first time on a board and shout: “eureka!”

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