home | back

Stormrider Guide to surfing North Shikoku


, Chris Van Lennep


+ World-class rivermouth waves - Inconsistent rivermouth swells
+ Warm water in the surf season - Flat winters
+ Laid-back ambience - Relatively wet climate
+ Amazing cultural experience - Very high living costs

Amongst the best places in the country to head for is Shikoku, Japan’s fourth largest island. Shikoku is made up of four provinces and exudes quintessential Japan; water gardens full of temples, traditional fishing harbours, and crystal clear rivers meandering through open countryside. The exposed SE facing coastline crosses the Kochi and Tokushima provinces, where the abundant rainfall feeds numerous rivers. When these rivers spill into the sea, they help to form decent sandbanks for the typhoon generated swells to break on, resulting in some grinding righthand rivermouth breaks.

When to Go

The bulk of the swell comes from typhoons, bringing SE-SW swells between July-Nov. Expect many flat days and lots of 1-2ft wind chop. Cold, dry, offshore winds blow from the N in the winter, before shifting SE in the summer, bringing heavy rain. It rarely gets very windy, except when a passing low pressure system or a typhoon hits land. Tidal range doesnÕt exceed 2m but affects the rivermouth breaks a lot. Further south there are excellent beachbreaks around Shimanto where the mountainous coastal vistas and lower crowds make for a rewarding surf experience.

Surf Spots

In Tokushima Prefecture, Uchizuma is a protected little beach that readily closes-out, but offers some fun for beginners at lower tides. A righthander skirts the rocks outside the harbour of Teba Shima island. Needs SE swell to wrap in properly and is rarely ridden, despite some quality. Kaifu River is one of the best quality rivermouth waves in Japan. It needs a moderate SE-S swell and any W wind to begin throwing up some seriously hollow rights for the big crowds that appear on the few days a season that it works. ThereÕs a short left off the peak and the neighbouring beach gets good too. Definitely for experienced surfers only as the rips are heavy, boulders are shallow and the tetrapods are close. Shishikui is a typical city beachbreak, with various peaks to choose from breaking outside the longshore seawalls. Sucks in any E-S swell and low tide is always better. Takegashima only breaks on higher tide when the nasty rocks are covered between the cliffs and the harbour wall. Sucks hard at take-off with boils and exposed rocks to avoid before the long walls to the harbour channel. Ikumihama Beach is very popular with surfers from Osaka, who use the overnight ferry from Nanko to surf the mellow waves. If a S swell hits, Osaki will have consistent peaky lines breaking over sand and boulders. Rounding Cape Muroto leads to a massive south-facing bay that is fed by many rivers from the mountainous interior. SW-facing towns like Nahari, Yasuda, Ioki and Aki all have rare rivermouth peaks that slumber until typhoons hit. The major one at Monabe gets epic a few times a year, provided the ever-shifting sandbar and boulders are in shape. Faces more due S and needs higher tides to be good. Niyodo is even better and on the rare good days, multiple barrel sections will implode over the cobble anchored sandbars. Rainfall often dictates the state of the sand and how many typhoons blow through the ESE-SSW window. It is a Japanese classic that gets heavily zooed on small days and weekends, when some localism is to be expected. On big days only the best surfers will handle the power and the rips.


dominant swell E -SE E -SE E -S SE -S E -SE E -SE
swell size (ft) 1-2 1-2 2 3-4 4 4
consistency (%) 10 10 20 60 70 50
dominant wind W -NE W -NE E -SW E -SW N -E W -NE
average force F4 F4 F3-F4 F3 F4 F4
consistency (%) 80 61 57 62 56 76
water temp (C) 17 16 22 27 25 20
wetsuit 3/2 3/2 springsuit boardshorts boardshorts springsuit

Travel Information

Shikoku winters are cold followed by hot, sticky summers, but itÕs not as extreme as the Chiba area further north. Spring and summer on the south coast are extremely wet; autumn sees a much drier weather pattern. Good news, as this is also the prime swell season. The water never gets very cold and during the autumn surf season it is at its warmest, never requiring more than a springsuit. Bear in mind that some typhoons hit the islands in the south of Japan.

Lodging and Food
Japan is ultra-expensive so avoid Osaka and the big cities. Hostels are about the cheapest accommodation (fr $25/n for a dorm bed!). Minshukus are family guesthouses, and are a much better option, although more expensive at ±$65/dble. The local food is delicious, sushi and rice will cost about $15 a meal.

Nature and Culture
There are spectacular views from the Seto-Ohashi Bridge outside of Osaka. There is a road in this area used by Buddhist pilgrims, along which are 88 temples. The Yosakoi Festival in Kochi in mid-Aug is unmissable.