18 Jun When The Waves Return
Unfortunately it happens every year in Phuket. The rains subside, the winds swing around and blow from the east-northeast and, sadly for some, the swells fizzle out. The Andaman Sea reverts back to its non-monsoon-season personality – docile, clear and safe. During this period from November-April, the only waves to be seen are the waves of tourists crashing onto Phuket’s beaches.
For the island’s surfers, body-surfers, and boogie boarders, this time of year is viewed with a dose of disdain and loathing. This is the dreadful end of surf season when we sleep in a little later, our muscles get a bit softer, and we just generally lose some of the bounce in our step. Some wait patiently for the waves to return, while others use this opportunity as an excuse to venture to nearby surf destinations such as Indonesia, Sri Lanka and the Philippines. In fact, half of the Surf Thailand crew just returned from Indonesia while the other half is gallivanting around the Philippines now.
Meanwhile, Phuket’s west coast started getting battered by our first real swell with overhead sets getting everyone’s hearts racing. Now is the time to rejoice as Songkran has come and gone and our precious swells (although not too consistent yet) have begun finding their way to our beaches. Finally, the skies have filled with clouds, the red “No Swimming” flags have started to appear and it’s time to put a fresh coat of wax on your board!
However, it takes more than a flip of a switch for Phuket’s waves to get reasonably surfable. The sandy beach breaks require some abuse from heavier waves and high-tide storm surges to strip away some of the sand that has been gradually accumulating on the beach. That sand gets redistributed into sand bars for the waves to break on until the ocean calms and slowly moves the sand back to the beach. Thailand’s few reef breaks don’t require this kind of maintenance, but are a bit gutless without bigger, more powerful swells.
As the surf season comes to life it’s important for us waves wranglers to be aware of the obstacles around us – namely swimmers. Although there are far fewer tourists swimming around than pre-April, we are undoubtedly going to encounter a few brave souls taking a dip in the turbulent waters. Remember that it is our responsibility to keep our boards/watercraft under control and avoid causing any injuries. Swimmers are often unable to quickly move out of the way of a surfer; keep an eye where the swimmers are around you and look down the line while on a wave to avoid surprises. Keep in mind that the reach of your board is the length of the board plus the length of the leash adding another 30cm/1 foot for leash stretch.
Those going in the water at beaches like Kata, which have a lot of motorized traffic, need to be keenly aware of these fast moving hazards. The jet skiers often have no idea what they are doing, the parasailing boats continually come very close to shore and force you to move (watch out for their ropes!), and any other fast moving craft out there is likely to inflict harm upon you if they make contact so beware! Do your best to be diplomatic and avoid angry confrontations as these will never work out in anyone’s favor.