Surfing in Ecuador
If surfing is your sport, the best time to to take advantage of prime swells is December through April. During this time, the winter storms in the northern Pacific create NW swells as well as NW-SW combo swells — or west swells— transitioning into the Southern hemisphere swell season. Because the winds at this time of year along the majority of the coastline range from glassy to offshore, epic conditions prevail. Ecuador is consistently considered a world-class surfing destination during the Northern hemisphere winter. When the Pacific storm track dips further south than usual (El Nino), the surfing conditions in Ecuador are particularly legendary.
Beginner surfers especially appreciate the uncrowded waves during the May-November time frame. The surf conditions may still be glassy in the mornings, and then prevalent onshore winds (S-SW) pick up along the coastline.
Ecuador is noteworthy also for the sheer variety of surf conditions. Surfers find an equal proportion of rights to lefts, as well as an equal proportion of points, rock reefs, jetties, river mouths and beach breaks. Some of the breaks, depending on their orientation, work best on north swells, others on south swells and others on combo or “west” swells, making Ecuador a very dynamic surf destination. In general, the breaks are particularly tide sensitive. An approximately 2 meter (7 foot) tidal range will make or break many of the spots. Most spots are also heavily direction sensitive and swell dependent, some being magnets for swell and others needing larger swells to turn on. Wind is another variable to throw in, as some spots are more protected than others.
Traveling from Bahia de Caraquez through Canoa and then north to the Mompiche area in Esmeraldas province, surfers will find a multitude of possibilities. Though Bahia is not generally considered to be a major surf town, surfers occasionally encounter giant SW swells and are pleased to discover one of the best left point breaks in all of Ecuador. In the Canoa zone, a series of river mouths and sand points come alive on NW swells, producing fun rippable waves over a sand bottom that seems more forgiving, making it a fantastic spot for beginners and intermediates. Mompiche, Ecuador’s most famous world class left pointbreak, comes alive on big NW swells for which Ecuadorian surfers wait patiently. Luckily, this area is remote enough to find these swells, along with some of the surrounding waves, reasonably uncrowded.
This area begins along the due-north facing coastline of Manta, with straight-on exposure to winter NW swells along multiple point and jetty breaks. It extends to San Lorenzo Cape, a rugged zone with a series of remote point and reef breaks which work on a wide variety of swell directions and tides with varying wind protection. It ultimately reaches to the south facing end of the cape where some of Ecuador’s hollowest beachbreaks and river mouths are found. In general, the Central Zone is home to Ecuador’s least crowded surf. Most days, you can expect to be surfing with almost no one. The trade-off is that this zone’s surfing spots are more difficult to access, and have more challenging conditions to read, so it’s important to consult with some local and experienced surfers first.
Las Salinas and Montanita are two of the best-known beaches in southern Ecuador. Here, breaks are best on SW swells, but some do work very well on NW. Las Salinas is considered the playground for Guayaquil-based surfers, who come from 2 hours away. The coastline here is indented, with a variety of points, reefs, jetties, and beach breaks. Montanita has a level of notoriety among the international youth and backpackers who consider it to be somewhat of a Bohemian surf mecca and party town. Those who prefer less crowded conditions will often head out in the very early mornings.