Surfers flock to Taiwan's east coast

PUBLISHED : Friday, 11 January, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 14 January, 2013, 12:35pm

The world's biggest ocean brings some of its biggest waves to Taiwan's unsheltered east coast along with winds strong enough to knock you off your feet.

Add to this mix a dangerously fast current just offshore, and these beaches are usually empty save for the odd tent camper or bonfire builder. But Taiwan's expatriate community has led a movement to bring surfers to the beaches, raising interest among locals.

Taiwan enjoys year-round surf with sea temperatures in the south of the island always warm. And despite the government ban on bathing when a typhoon warning is up, some 200 rebels take the plunge ahead of the late summer and early autumn typhoons, which generate ideal swells for seasoned surfers.

Experienced surfers suggest trying the beaches of Taitung county. This stretch of coast is undeveloped, with Taiwan's highest mountains and elements of indigenous culture just inland. The county hosted international surf contests in 2011 and 2012.

The white sandy beach at Shanyuan, north of the county seat Taitung, is another haven for surfers, snorkellers and outdoor enthusiasts.

Further south, Jiupeng beach near sand dunes of the same name in Pingtung county draws surfers looking to test the wind-driven waves. In Hualien county, Jici beach has been rated as prime spot for beginning surfers. It is a 45-minute drive south of Hualien city.

But the top beaches are often kept a secret to thwart crowds and overdevelopment.

"From the core surfers' point of view, giving away info about the more obscure but happening spots would make me very unpopular," says Clayton Wholley, general manager of Quiksilver Taiwan.