Monday, March 1, 2010

Surfing in Taiwan by Chav.

My mate Chav lives and surfs in Taiwan, this is what he has to say on the place:

I chose to move to Taiwan, primarily because of its location, and the fact that there was a job available. One would guess that being in typhoon alley and being right on the edge of the Pacific, with one of the largest open water fetches in the world that it would most likely get waves…. Unfortunately, common logic can be deceptive. Most of the year, waves are produced by low pressures sweeping down the Sea of Japan from Siberia. This produces a short period swell that can be pretty big at times, that smashes into the top of the island around Taipei. This will give you a wave…of sorts, and that wave will get progressively better the further south you go. Living in Taipei means you have access to a limited number of beaches and conditions, but waves generally are somewhat weak and gutless as they break on the shallow beaches…….the locals all tend to ride long boards, so they don’t face some of the same problems that shortboarders have on waves with no power. Surfing is a relatively new sport in Taiwan, though it is growing fast. A significant portion of people in Taiwan still cannot swim and the ocean is something to be feared. That doesn’t mean that these guys can’t rip, and it can still get busy. Especially if small. As with all places, there are a few gems that can be found with a bit of searching but it can generally be unpredictable.

Taiwan has its fair share of natural disaster type events. Earthquakes, typhoons and exploding whales are not uncommon. But for 6 months of the year, its typhoon time.
Typhoon season starts from around April and lasts till the start of November. As the weather starts to heat up and get more humid (And believe me, Taiwanese heat is a force to be reckoned with), more and more typhoons will start to form. Typhoons can start anywhere, but more often than not, they form on the Pacific coast. They will usually move from East to West and will start to veer as they approach land masses. Many will cross Taiwan, often leaving a mass of carnage in their wake. (The effects of Typhoon Morakot last year are still being felt. In the more rural areas of Taiwan even a year later, communities are still being isolated because of devastated bridges and roads). But a typhoon out at sea is the best time to catch a solid ground swell in Taiwan and often offers the best waves. That’s when things really start to come alive. Don’t get me wrong……typhoon swells are open to the same local wind factors as any other swell, but when its on……the whole of the east coast becomes a playground of un-ridden and un-explored waves. The locals tend to avoid the really big swells, so the bigger the wave, the less people will be out, leaving all sorts of reefs, and points ready to be discovered. Just make sure, if you are surfing 24 hours before a typhoon hits, surf somewhere unknown, or hide when the rozzers (police) turn up. Refusal to exit the water can sometimes lead to a night in jail.

There are lots of flaws with surfing in Taiwan. There is a very small window of opportunity for scoring waves. It can be very hit and miss and the beaches on the north of the island are dirty and protected by tetrapods to reduce the damage of typhoon swells. Driving in Taipei is to take your life into your own hands. Up until recently, if you got hit by a blue delivery truck, it was cheaper for the drivers insurance to have killed the unlucky victim and it was not uncommon to see CCTV footage of drivers reversing over their victims to finish them off. When there’s no swell, the summer heat can be impossibly oppressive. On the other hand, when it’s on….it can be as good as the best places in the world. Taiwan is a country uncorrupted by tourism, and it shows. The locals are warm and accommodating, amongst the friendliest in Asia. If someone comes up to you in the street to chat, it’s always because they are genuinely interested, and people will go out of their way to be helpful to westerners. The food is good, if a little quirky at times. Taiwanese tend to prefer the parts of animals that you wouldn’t usually think to eat….chicken heads, intestines and pig brains are very popular, and the mountains in the center of the island can rival any of the Alps in both height and beauty. You’d never come to Taiwan primarily for a surf trip, but for a travelling and worldly experience with the possibility of some surf thrown in, I cannot recommend it enough. 

 Many Thanks to Chav for taking the time ....I was surprised you didn't mention any of the cheap tickets to Sumatra you keep bagging!

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