There are many magical places to surf on this beautiful planet, boasting crystal-clear water, sugar-sand beaches, and welcoming locals. You know, the kinds of surf spots that fuel our schoolroom daydream doodles.


The following list features none of those spots.


Oh sure, a couple of them look idyllic on the surface, but dig a little deeper—it barely takes any digging at all, really—and you’ll soon be knee deep in the stuff of nightmares. Poisoned waters, bloodthirsty sharks, bloodthirsty locals, and unexploded landmines all await at these places, if you dare to surf them. But really, you shouldn’t.


Mauritania, West Africa


With wave-rich Morocco just around the corner to the north, and sunny, very surfable Senegal to the south, Mauritania should be an alluring surf destination in its own right. So what is there to fear? Landmines, to start. Thousands upon thousands of unexploded landmines, left over from border wars between Mauritania and Western Sahara. Driving around looking for surf is a white-knuckle affair, through tracks of vehicles that have (presumably) safely crossed the sands before you.


Dodge the landmines and you’ll still have to deal with terrorist kidnappings. Al Qaeda is active in Mauritania, and they’ve vowed to attack Westerners throughout the region. U.S. Embassy staff isn’t even allowed to leave the capital city of Nouakchott on Mauritania’s coast. Which is too bad, since with the right west swell, numerous quality waves abound.

Photo: Callahan
Farralon Islands

Farallon Islands, California


Rising from the depths of the frigid Pacific 30 miles west of San Francisco, the Farallons are a collection of fearsome sea stacks and barren windswept islands, presided over by barking sea lions, grunting elephant seals, and squawking bird colonies. Local Native Americans called the Farallons the “Islands of the Dead,” which would seem fitting to anyone who foolishly chose to enter the water there. In the last decade or so, scientists have recorded nearly 1,000 great white shark attacks on marine mammals.


Susan Casey’s incredible 2005 book, Devil’s Teeth, revealed all sorts of fascinating things about the Farallons, including the possibility of a world-class right-hander that grinds along a point/reef near an outcropping called Saddle Rock. The surfing scientists she hung with for the book all lustily eyed a wave she described as a “perfect eight-foot barrel,” but none of them braved a session. Supposedly a group of surfers once scouted the wave, but were scared off when the local shark population immediately set upon a test surfboard pitched into the water. Nobody’s tried since.

Photo: Lenhart
São Conrado

São Conrado, Brazil

Rio de Janeiro is a thriving metropolis of more than six million people who generate sewage every day, a good deal of which flows right into Rio’s Guanabara Bay. Then it spreads out along the nearby thong-filled beaches. Back in July 2015, water samples showed viral and bacterial pollution rates 1.7 million times what would be considered dangerous along California’s beaches. “We’re talking about an extreme environment,” Kristina Mena, professor of public health at the University of Texas, said to the AP. “The pollution is so high that exposure is imminent and the chance of infection very likely.”


You may have read about sailing and rowing athletes prepping for the 2016 Rio Olympics who voiced concern about their health, but did you also know that the WSL had to remove São Conrado from its list of contest venues in 2015? But it’s not just sewage. Carpets of dead fish and tons of trash often litter Rio’s beaches, most of it coming from the many “garbage-choked rivers” that empty into Guanabara Bay, according to The Guardian newspaper. Hope you like a side of hepatitis with your beachbreak tubes.

Diego Silva, Photo by Pinguim
Lunada Bay

Lunada Bay, California


If it feels like the bite of localism ain’t quite what it used to be, why not revisit the past in Palos Verdes’ Lunada Bay? Although it’s probably not a great idea, since to get there you’ll have to duck rocks chucked by the Bay Boys, the guardians of Lunada Bay’s surf. And your car windows will get waxed. And your tires might get slashed. You’ll endure chest thumping and lip-quivering threats shouted from the beach shack the Boys inhabit near the shore. None of that is fun.


But hey, on the bright side, even if you don’t end up catching any waves, you could get excellent investment advice from the locals, who, after shouting down outsiders, retire to their multimillion-dollar homes and $163,000 median annual incomes.

Photo: Woodworth
Snapper Rocks

Snapper Rocks, Australia


Is your name Mick Fanning? No? Then may as well piss off. Actually, even if you grew up surfing Snapper and are an instantly recognizable three-time world champion, it would still be difficult to rationalize hacking through the crowd you’ll see there. Old ladies barking at groms. Grizzled men punching old ladies. Groms spraying grizzled men. Just based on the congestion at Snapper, you’d think there was no other surfable wave on Earth, let alone countless others just up the coast.


Yes, there are endless barrels here. But you could run through those barrels without a surfboard, playing hopscotch atop the heads of the hundreds of people clogging up the joint, each one determined with a maniacal intensity to connect with their inner MP. Or you could just surf literally any other wave on the planet and save yourself the headache.

Photo: Grambeau