Surfing Tips


Tips for Surfing in Japan

Some things you can only learn by experience.

I'll try and update this page as much as I can – whenever I think of something useful knowing for travelling and surfing in Japan. Let me know if you’ve got any tips of your own and I’ll stick them up here.

General Tips and Advice

Whilst many digital payment methods / credit cards are accepted widely in Japan, cash is still used widely, especially in rural areas. There's nothing worse than finding out the ramen shop at your favorite remote surf break doesn't accept your iPhone digital credit card.

Sometimes it is damn hard to find the surf breaks in Japan…down back streets and side alleys. I’ve gotten lost more than once trying to get to a well know surf spot – and it’s not good spending precious surfing time on the road lost. If it is your first time to explore a new break, plan ahead and check the routes on Google Maps, or ask a local to show you the way. One book I often refer to is Surfing A Go Go! (サーフィン・ア・ゴー・ゴー)

There are not many surfspots that have easily accessible showers for rinsing off. Some spots do, but many have very little in the way of any decent facilities. Bring a big keg of water to wash yourself down with after a long days surfing. There’s nothing worse than feeling itchy from the salt water on a 3 hour trip home in the car!

This really depends on where you are going and if there are any surfshops nearby. If you are a beginner looking to rent all the equipment, or get some surfing lessons, your best bet would be to stay close to the Shonan area. Lots of surf shops near to the beach and easy access. If you are venturing out further, it would be best to check ahead as to whether the area you’re going to has any surf shops that rent boards. Not everywhere does, so it is best to get the info ahead of time. Bringing you’re own – if it is an option – is always your best best. Better still, hook up with a mate in Japan that already has one! Got no mates in Japan?? Then join the Japan surfing community on our message boards! GPS Navigation is always a good option too.

Many places now rent cars to foreigners without any issues. The minimum age for driving in Japan is 18 years, and you will need a Japanese driver's license or an International Driving Permit (IDP) in order to rent and drive a car. Also Japanese drive on the LEFT side of the road, so if you're from the USA it may take a bit of getting used to. You'll find many rental car companies at or close to the airports. Many have shuttle buses that take you directly to the rental shop. Some of the major rental car companies include Toyota Rent a car, Nippon Rent a car, Orix Rent a car. TIMES also have a car rental/share service which is convenient for small trips.

Although Japan has some of the most crowded spots in the world – you can always get a wave somewhere. Nothing like the tension and crowds you’d see in a place like Hawaii or anything… Just a mellow crowd.. With a bunch of “soup riders” thrown in. There are a few ‘hot spots’ around the place where only experienced surfers should paddle out, but like anywhere in the world you surf, treat the locals with respect and you’ll fit in no problems.

The typhoons that hit Japan's coast bring some world class waves to the island. However timing is crucial. Being in the right place at the right time can mean the difference between 8 foot perfection and 2 foot slop. Take some time off or travel to Japan in the typhoon season (Aug/Sep) and you'll most likely end up catching a typhoon swell.

The late Summer months of August – October are your best chance to pick up some typhoon swells and some mighty powerful waves. On the other side of the coin, the Japan Sea side picks up most of the swell during the Winter months between December – March. Japan is a very fickle place, so you have to be on your game. Check the weather charts, swell maps, surf reports… The swell can drop from 4 foot to 4cm in the matter of a couple of hours. But that’s all part of the fun though, isn’t it??

Japanese surfers are generally less talkative in the water than their western counterparts, but if you start the conversation you'll quickly make new friends and who know, maybe score some local inside knowledge at the same time.

General Surf Talk

How’s the waves?Nami dou?
Where's the beach?Beach wa doko?
How far to the beach?Beach made, dono gurai desu ka?
How big is it?Size wa dono gurai?
Where’s my surfboard?Ore no board wa doko?
Is the water cold?Mizu tsumetai desu ka?
Is the water warm?Mizu attakai desu ka?
These waves are crap!Nami wa Gucha Gucha!
How much is that _____?Sono _____ wa ikura desu ka?
Can I borrow some wax?Wax kashite kureru?
Good Wavesii nami

Surf Vocabulary

WaveWave / Nami
White WaterSoup
Knee HighHiza
Waist HighKoshi
Chest HighMune
Shoulder HighKata
Head HighAtama
Double OverheadDouble Overhead
Hiza-Koshi (mix together)Knee-Waist High Waves
Warm Water mizu ga attakai
Cold Watermizu ga tsumetai
A little bit coldchotto samui
Late AfternoonYuugata
Close OutDumper

* If you put the word “gurai” after one of the above – it becomes about “..” high: Atama gurai = about head high.


Most of the equipment English words are the same except for a few:

SurfboardSurfboard or "Ita"
LegropePowercord / Leash
GripDeck Pad
Short Sleeved SteamerSeagull (don't ask me why!??)
WetshirtRash guard