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.
Concluding the list…
Sydney, New South Wales
Sydney is the globally recognized epicenter of the wave-rich NSW coastline. Cut down the middle by the world's largest natural harbors, both sides of which boast a seemingly endless array of sandy beaches and headlands, warm-to-mild year-round water temperatures, sunny days, and options (so many options) await Sydney's economic participants of every stripe, from the bohemian hustler to the rat-racer. The city's two most popular beaches, Bondi and Manly, face opposite directions, protecting from nor'easter onshores in the summer and magnifying wintertime north swells, respectively. Sure, the quality of surf pales in comparison to other regions in NSW, but with ridable to well-above average waves within close proximity to the city center, and the rest of the NSW coastline within striking distance, Sydney's easily one of the best cities in the world to be a surfer.
It's one of the most expensive cities in the world, so to live Sydney, you'll need gainful employment and/or the capacity and skillset to hold down a side-hustle, or two. The fashion capital of a hyper-stylized country, opportunities in the creative sector, while highly competitive, abound. The city is also a global financial center–financial services account for nearly half of Sydney's economic impact—and with a great many multinational firms keeping offices here, it's possible you could be one of the ex-pats lucky enough to receive a transfer to Sydney. Meanwhile, with thousands of tourists, as well as commuters from the surrounding suburbs, pouring into the city each and everyday, and an endless amount of bars and restaurants popping up to serve them, service industry jobs are plentiful, though not often lucrative enough to match the high weekly housing costs. Again, be prepared to hustle.
QUALITY OF LIFE:
With beautiful weather and gourgeous beaches, superlative restaurants and bars, an infectious entrepreneurial and creative spirit, and lots of economic opportunity, there's a reason there are more than 5 million "Sydneysiders," currently–and more moving here everyday—despite Sydney being one of the most expensive cities in the world. If you've got moderately low standards for wave quality, with ridable surf nearly everyday, you'll be satiated during the work week, and—if you take the time to venture out—stoked on what the rest of NSW has to offer.
Median Income: $66,250
Top Industries: Financial services, Tourism, Retail, Entertainment, Transportation and Logistics
Median Home Price: $950/Sq. Ft.
Median Rental Price: $2,000/month for a 1BR in city center
Water Temperature Range: 61-77F
Surf Spots: Bondi, Manly, Maroubra, Cronulla