And of course, what would a road trip be without stopping at some random restaurant to try out the local cuisine?
After all, doing something new and unknown is all part of the adventure. A surf road trip pushes surfers’ excitement to a whole new level though.
Whether venturing to surf a different spot for the first time or just driving a good distance away from your favourite surf spot, the journey and new experiences are what make every surf trip worthwhile.
Exploring Thailand’s shores
Crowded surfing line-ups can sometimes be found at more popular and well-known surf spots located in higher populated areas, particularly along the west coast of Phuket.
However, with 740 kilometres of coastline along Thailand’s west coast, there’s no doubt that undiscovered and unridden surf breaks are out there somewhere.
You can also score some surf at a few other nearby islands and coastal towns where surfers are more than content with less crowded lineups and less-than-perfect waves.
Heading across Sarasin Bridge and driving north from Phuket along the coast can lead you to a fruitful journey of exploration.
One well-known spot that’s a bit off the beaten track, and offers all the equipment and accommodation you need for a mini surf-trip, can be found at Pakarang Beach.
This tranquil coastal wonderland is located in the beautiful, laid back, family-friendly community of Khao Lak. It’s only about 60km north of Sarasin Bridge and a quick day trip is definitely within reach and well worth the drive.
Where to go
The place to be at Pakarang Beach is Memories Beach Bar. There’s a different vibe, a different scene and a different crowd.
Everything about this place is laid back and you can feel it as soon as you drive down the winding dirt road to the picturesque setting.
The locally-owned beach bar and restaurant is the perfect setup for curling your toes in the soft sand while sipping on your favourite beverage as you gaze out at the Andaman Sea.
It’s the epitome of a “chill out to the reggae beats and feel the good vibrations” kind of place. Local Thai food and Western food are sizzling in the kitchen everyday from 8am to midnight.
In the evenings, you will find local live music and remember to be on the lookout for events such as the Khao Lak Surf Contest, typically held in October.
What to do there
Naturally, if there are waves, you’ll have to rent a surfboard and paddle out. If you’re a beginner, have no fear, there are surf instructors who are happy to get you outfitted, out there and surfing.
Before you even hit the water, you’ll learn the basic techniques of paddling, the “pop up”, and the basics about ocean safety including how to spot rip currents and how to escape them.
You’ll find all the essentials at Pakarang Surf Shop, located behind Memories Beach Bar. They offer up a good selection of surfboards in a variety sizes – longboards, shortboards, and even boogie boards. Surf shop owner Ching and his team will surely have you covered.
When to go to catch some surf
Your best chance of catching waves in Khao Lak is from April to November. The waves there are generally softer and well-suited to longboarding.
Since waves are mostly dependent on the southwest monsoon, be sure to check the weather and surf forecast.
If you have never surfed before, Pakarang Beach and other nearby beaches can be the perfect place to get your feet wet.
Learning to ride the whitewater and practising your pop up and balance with mellow waves will surely give you a positive experience and have you wanting to go back for more.
What else can you do?
There are plenty of other activities to enjoy if the ocean is flat. You can choose to go mountain biking, hike to waterfalls, take a Thai cooking class, get a beachside Thai massage, or just flat out relax and read a good book.
If you’re not short on time, take a day trip to the world-famous Similan Islands (only from October 15 to May 15).
Considered one of Southeast Asia’s top-ranked island destinations, the chain of islands are renowned for world-class snorkeling and diving.
Also, be sure to stop by the International Tsunami Museum at the nearby town of Bang Niang and pay your respects to the 2004 Tsunami victims and their families.
It’s an educational experience and your visit helps the community as the entrance fees of B100 are donated to the victims of the tsunami.
Where to stay
There are plenty of options to choose from that will suit anyone’s budget or needs. From basic beachside bungalows to high end five-star luxury resorts, you’ll easily find what’s best for you and your family.
How to get there
After crossing Sarasin Bridge, follow the route and take Highway 4 all the way up to Khao Lak. After driving for about an hour, you’ll pass the JW Marriott on the left side of the road.
Keep an eye out on the left side of the road for a sign shaped like a surfboard (because it is a surfboard!). It can be easy to miss if you’re not looking carefully.
It’s just before the Elephant Camp. The surfboard sign for Memories Beach Bar is the entrance to a fairly narrow dirt road that’s almost three kilometres long. Keep going until you get to the dirt parking lot.
Time to hit the road and experience new adventures that Thailand’s beautiful coast has to offer.
By Mark Suarkeo and Jeremie Schatz
Mark Suarkeo and Tracey Suarkeo are the founders of Surf Thailand. Mark is a Certified Prosthetist and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Tracey can be reached at email@example.com. Jeremie Schatz is director of Andaman Board Sports and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit surfthailand.com and andamanboardsports.com for more information.