It's a sign of the times that seemingly all surf shops must now come equipped with a Slayer espresso machine operated by a pretentious barista. No longer contented to simply fondle a few handshapes and leave with bar of wax, surfers—particularly urban-based surfers—also need an exotically sourced pour-over from a third-wave coffee purveyor and a selection of artisanal baked goods, while they scope out new surf crafts. It's clear that the needs of surfers have evolved quite a bit since the post-war years of Kivlin, Quigg and company, content to eat canned meats and retire to improvisational thatched-roof shelters after hours of riding waves on the North Shore. Today, it seems that coast-adjacent, dense, urban areas best meet the needs of the contemporary surfer.
In the gig economy, cities—regional and global centers of industry, commerce, and culture—are where the jobs are. Modern cities have become walk-able, gastronomic and booze-centric, tolerant and progressive playgrounds for a Millennial generation primed to live and work in a more communal, stimulating environment. And when you stir in an accessible coastline and roughly a hundred days of ridable waves per year, a city can also provide a surfer a dynamic and balanced existence.
So in case you're considering a relocation opportunity, we pored over job statistics, surf reports, and city guides—taking into consideration surf proximity and quality, employment opportunities, and quality of life—to narrow down the world's best surf cities. The list we've assembled includes ten world centers, economic hubs revered for their cultural institutions where one can find a steady job and consistent-enough surf to satiate the most wave-obsessed among us. These are cities where, even if you're resigned to only surf with the weekend warrior crowd, you'll never be bored—provided you haven't handed over all your disposable income to some pretentious barista.
Next on the list…
Rio de Janeiro, Rio de Janeiro
If you follow professional surfing, your impression of Rio's surf quality has perennially been filtered through a lens of derision. Inconsistent. Imperfect. Dirty. Crowded. The truth is, however, that the Rio coastline—which boasts miles of puntable, wedgie beachbreaks—is a relative surfers paradise, with warm, turquoise water, consistent swell, a thriving beach culture, and ease of access to it all that could only fail to satisfy the most spoiled Top-34 surfers among us. Yes, surfing is quite popular in Rio and the lineups can get clogged. But with miles and miles of peaks breaking along various sandbars at a variety local beaches like Ipanema, Leblon, Arpador, and Barra, there's abundance of places to get your fins loose.
Starting in the mid-2000s, Brazil's economy began growing at a rapid clip, earning Rio international intrigue, huge foreign investments, and the opportunity to host both the Summer Olympic games and the World Cup. But after a precipitous drop in oil prices, political and economic turmoil has rattled the country, and Rio is now in the midst of a financial crisis. With the city government on the verge of bankruptcy, Rio's meteoric rise has stalled for the time being. That being said, the city is still home to a variety of growing industries looking for highly skilled talent. If you want to live and work here, step one is to earn a four-year degree. And step two is to learn Portuguese. With emerging media, electronics, engineering, computer and banking sectors, Rio's long been cultivating a large ex-pat community of highly skilled labor. If you have the passion and drive and can speak the language, gainful employment awaits you in Rio.
QUALITY OF LIFE:
As Rio limps through its current state of economic woes, income inequality–which has been a perennial bugaboo in this part of the world—is on the rise, as is crime and rates of HIV/AIDS. Despite its recent setbacks, though, Rio remains a richly eclectic, artistic, and romantic city, where surfing pairs nicely with a nearly tropical climate. And beyond the urban trappings of the second most populous city in Brazil—acclaimed restaurants, thriving arts and culture scene, madcap nightlife—there are giant green mountains, rainforests, and miles and miles of sandy beaches, all making it easy to see how Rio earned the nickname, cidade maravilhosa (marvelous city).
Median Income: $7,540
Top Industries: Manufacturing, electronics and computing, engineering, financial services
Median Home Price: $300/Sq. foot
Median Rental Price: $560/month for a 1BR in city center
Water Temperature Range: 71-80F
Surf Spots: Barra de Tijaca, Ipanema, Leblon, Arpador
Check out other cities on the list