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Stormrider Guide to surfing Da Nang

Vietnam, EAST ASIA


surf Vietnam at Non Nuoc Beach, John Callahan

Summary

+ Reliable seasonal windswell - Small disorganised waves
+ Soft, empty beachbreaks - No known reefbreaks
+ Discovery potential - Short surf season
+ Exotic, warm and friendly - Heavy rain and humidity

Anyone who’s seen the movie Apocalypse Now, will already know that there is the possibility to surf in Vietnam. Although the surfing scenes were shot in the Philippines, the reality is that US soldiers have surfed China Beach probably since the ‘60s. Da Nang was the home to 20% of all US servicemen based in Vietnam; it was an R&R destination for American soldiers during the war and it eventually fell to the North Vietnamese in 1975 with hardly a bullet fired. US soldiers were definitely surfing Da Nang beaches on Sept 13th, 1970 when Private Wyatt Miller drowned while boardriding, which was probably the consequence of typhoon waves. Then, China Beach hosted Vietnam’s first (and last) International Surfing Competition in 1992. While competitors from all over the world were competing, kids were taught to surf and 15 boards were left behind to create the Da Nang surf club. When The Endless Summer film crew visited Da Nang in July 2002, the club was still there but there were only 6 boards among 20 members. Now, nothing is left and it would be easy to blame poverty and board availability, but the main problem is that South China Sea surf only breaks four months of the year and when it does, it’s not very good.

When to Go

The N-NE monsoon is a strong seasonal trend in the South China Sea starting in November until February-March. 8-14ft (2.5-4.5m) seas happen quite often, so expect messy 3-6ft (1-2m) on the most exposed beachbreaks and 1-2ft (0.3-0.6m) on the sheltered pointbreaks. There is 1500km (938mi) between the Luzon Straight and Vietnam Central coast; the fetch is probably better between Nha Trang and Phan Thiet but wind exposure is higher. Local winds in Da Nang are fairly calm with windless spells and moderate E-NE onshore winds. The reform waves should be less choppy than outside banks and are ideally suited to beginners and longboarders. During the June-October typhoon season, some major swell might hit with clean conditions but this is rare and short. During the SW monsoon, it’s offshore everyday but mostly flat. Diurnal tides predominate in the South China Sea and won’t exceed 3ft (1m) in range.

Surf Spots

Furthest north, Binh An is usually small and lacks shape, but may have some crumblers for beginners staying in the beachfront resorts. Sandbars should be better closer to the Tu Hien rivermouth. Scenic Lang Co has better sandbars breaking both inside and outside and when the onshores shralp it, kitesurfers will appear. Nam O Point is probably the highest quality wave, but it wonÕt break until the beaches are maxing out. Faster, steeper and shallower, the left is more wall than barrel. The beachbreak can be ok with some protection from NE winds behind the point and further peaks heading north past the rivermouth sandbars and up to the jetty. The rivermouth brings plenty of murky, polluted water to the line-up. My Khe, Non Nuoc, China Beach and Cua Dai are all part of the same stretch of below average beachbreak, that will break at low tide outside, before filling up in the central trough and reforming on the shorebreak sandbars. When a strong NE swell arrives on a glassy morning, Non Nuoc can have some nice tapered walls, but mostly its disorganised, choppy and lacking in power. China Beach is surf central for Da Nang and there are board rentals available for beginners and touring surfers. ItÕs the most popular spot as itÕs usually the biggest and some kind of wave will be on offer for longboarding, SUP and occasionally shortboarders if the monsoon NE or typhoon NE/E swell arrives without the following winds. Cue Dai Beach has a steeper slope than China Beach and picks up more NE swell, but E is blocked by offshore islands. The large rivermouth grooms constantly changing sandbars but also brings some pretty polluted water to the less-developed beachfront. This 30km beach is backed by the verdant Marble Mountains, made up of five isolated limestone outcrops, each riddled with caves, grottoes, pagodas and shrines.

Statistics

J
F
M
A
M
J
J
A
S
O
N
D
dominant swell N -NE N -NE N -E N -E N -E N -NE
swell size (ft) 3-4 1 0 0-1 1-2 3-4
consistency (%) 70 30 0 10 30 80
dominant wind N -SE E -SE SE -S SE -SW N -SE N -E
average force F4 F4 F4 F4 F3-F4 F4
consistency (%) 77 46 57 64 69 74
water temp (C) 23 24 28 29 28 25
wetsuit boardshorts boardshorts boardshorts boardshorts boardshorts boardshorts

Travel Information

Weather
Da Nang has a tropical climate that is characterised by strong monsoon influences with two distinct rainy and dry seasons. ItÕs cooler during the swell season. Storms hit the area every year in September and October. Annual rainfall is even higher in the hills, especially those facing the sea. The N winds sometimes cool the water down to 23¡C (74¡F), but springsuits arenÕt really necessary.

Lodging and Food
The coast from My Khe to China beach has lots of options for all budgets - prices start at $8 for a basic room to $150 for a 5 star hotel option. Food is varied and very cheap ($3/meal). Best soups (pho) in the world.

Nature and Culture
Since Vietnam canÕt be a full-on surf trip, enjoy the scenery and the culture. Pay a visit to the Cham Museum, climb the Marble Mountains for awesome views of China Beach from Linh Ung Pagoda. DonÕt miss Hoi An and My Son. VietnamÕs former capital city of Hue lies 4h north via scenic Hai Van pass.