Now Reports

Fukuoka Surfing Guide

As an island nation, Japan certainly has its fair share of splendid coastline. Residents of Fukuoka are blessed with beautiful beaches on their doorsteps, and Kyushu’s relatively mild climate makes it possible to enjoy the water all year round. And, while the beach-side facilities may not be everything you’d expect back home, Fukuoka and Kyushu have much to offer surfers of all levels.

From Pastime to Profession
Surfing is said to have first come to Japan as the pastime of American soldiers stationed in the Kanto region. The Shonan area south of Tokyo is thought of as the home of surfing in Japan. The 1960s and 70s saw advances in surfing technology and the spread of surfing culture around the world, with Japan being no exception. Nowadays, surfing in Japan is a profession for some and a lifestyle for many, thanks to the JPSA and many other Japanese brands and networks.

Unique to Japan
• Getting great waves in Kyushu, and Japan in general, is often a matter of fortuitous timing. The typhoons that work their way up from the south can bring world-class waves, but being in the right place at the right time takes some luck.
• Japanese surfers tend to be less talkative in the water than you may expect in other countries. It is quite rare to even get a greeting despite seeing the same faces in the water all the time. This treatment seems to extend to other Japanese surfers as well as foreigners, so don’t let this offend you or stop you from saying hello.
• Many surf spots in Japan, including all the main areas in Fukuoka, lack any public facilities such as toilets, showers or even parking. Some local surf shops or restaurants fill the gap, providing hot water showers or parking spots, albeit at a price. As such, most surfers bring their own water for rinsing the salt off, as well as a tub to keep your gear out of the mud in the absence of paved parking. The plastic water container and tub are a ubiquitous part of Japanese surf culture.

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Useful Terminology
波 なみ Nami – Waves
風 かぜ Kaze – Wind
力 ちから Chikara – Power
強い つよい Tsuyoi – Strong
弱い よわい Yowai – Weak

Surfing in Fukuoka
While Fukuoka’s waves can’t really be deemed world-class, they can be ideal for the beginner-intermediate surfer while also offering plenty for the more experienced. In general, the waves are mellow, rolling beach breaks without any real natural hazards. However, windows of favourable conditions tend to be small, with decent swells usually expected after strong NE winds. Fukuoka’s waves tend to work best between high and low tides. The key to getting the most out of surfing in Fukuoka is keeping a close eye on weather reports and making the most of each opportunity when the time comes. Those who just want to wander down to the beach for a weekend surf every now and then may be a little disappointed, but a little planning goes a long way.

Seasons
Surfing can generally be enjoyed year round in Fukuoka, however summer conditions are inconsistent at best. The main season is from autumn to spring. With strong winds in the Sea of Japan, winter brings fairly consistent waves, and the crowds thin out a little when it gets cold. For surfers, the typhoon season between summer and autumn is a blessing as it can bring some of the best surf while the weather and water are still warm (unfortunately, jellyfish are also very common towards the end of summer). The best conditions are usually a day either side of the typhoon passing.

Describing wave size is usually done in relation to the body:
頭 あたま Atama – Head
肩 かた Kata – Shoulder
胸 むね Mune – Chest
腰 こし Koshi – Waist
膝 ひざ Hiza – Knees

Etiquette
Surfing etiquette in Japan is no different to anywhere else. However, with large crowds and inconsistent waves often being an unavoidable factor in Fukuoka, sticking to the rules is all the more important. Here are a few areas that can prove particularly troublesome in Fukuoka:

Right of Way – Surfing etiquette dictates that the person closest to the peak has the right of way, and other surfers should not drop in if they are already standing up and riding the wave. However, with the inconsistent, wide-breaking waves the norm in Fukuoka, you often see surfers take off deep in the whitewash and try to make their way down the line. Even if it seems like you’re in the best position to take the wave, look twice before taking off.

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Share the Waves – Particularly at places like Nogita, Fukuoka’s mellow waves lend themselves nicely to longboards or even SUP, which can often dominate since they make it much easier to catch waves. If you are riding one of these, be considerate of others and don’t try to take every wave just because you can.

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Apologize – Particularly on weekends, the lineup can be quite full, and it’s not rare to see people dropping in on others unintentionally. Even if you don’t know Japanese and can’t apologize properly, a small wave of the hand lets the other surfer know you didn’t intend to get in their way.

Wetsuits
While areas on the Pacific coast of Kyushu, such as Miyazaki, enjoy reasonably warm water year round, Fukuoka’s water temperature varies greatly depending on season. Below are the general recommendations for wetsuits:

Summer: boardshorts
Autumn: 3mm or seagull wetsuit
Winter: 5mm wetsuit, usually with boots and/or gloves between Jan~Mar
Spring: 5mm or 3mm as the water warms up

Transportation
For those without a car, surfing in Fukuoka is still possible, although a little more work. To the west of Fukuoka City, Keya and Nogita are both accessible by a cheap but infrequent bus service from Chikuzen-Maebaru Station. The most convenient surf spot by public transport is Mitoma in the city’s east – only ten minutes on foot from the Mitoma station on the Nishitetsu line. You can take surfboards onto buses or trains, but be prepared to get some looks from the other passengers.

Main Surf Points near Fukuoka City
Itoshima 糸島, Keya 芥屋
Consistency and capacity makes this wide beach break the main point for many Fukuoka surfers. This open NW-facing section of coast picks up swell better than most points in the area, but is also susceptible to onshore winds. Strong currents and rips can accompany bigger days so check carefully before heading out. Keep heading further up the beach away from the car park if you want to avoid the crowd on busy days. Depending on the conditions, Keya can accommodate for all levels of surfing from beginner to advanced.
Parking: Two small, unpaved parking areas (free) within walking distance
Access: Showa Bus from Chikuzen-Maebaru Station.
Facilities: Nearest public toilet is at Keya-no-Oto, a few minutes drive down the road. Also some restaurants in the Keya-no-Oto area, but not within walking distance of the surf break.

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Itoshima 糸島, Nogita 野北
This partially-protected bay is located a short drive north along the coast from Keya. The small mountain on the right side provides some shelter from northerly winds, which makes it a good choice when Keya is blown out. While the size is usually smaller than Keya, the rocks on the left hand side provide a more regular point break, which makes this break a favourite for goofy-footed surfers and longboarders alike. Nogita’s waves are also well suited to beginners, which unfortunately makes it one of the more accident-prone points in the area. The bottom is mostly sand, with markers on the beach indicating an area where rocks may be submerged depending on the tide.
Parking: Some parking available at nearby cafes directly across the road (fee charged during busy periods)
Access: Showa bus from Chikuzen-Maebaru Station.
Facilities: Several cafes/restaurants, some of which offer showers for a fee. No public toilet.

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Itoshima 糸島, Oguchi 大口
A similar beach break to Keya, with an additional point break on the rocks to the right. The point can get crowded but the middle and left can provide some decent waves and a good alternative to Keya, particularly for beginners.
Parking: Small free public parking area at the top of the hill. Avoid parking on the roadside.
Access: No convenient public transport options.
Facilities: Surf shop directly across the road from the beach, offers board rental, lessons, shower and parking for customers.

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Itoshima 糸島, Futamigaura 二見ケ浦
A scenic break within sight of Itoshima’s famous landmark. With a small bay providing some protection from northerly winds, Futami is a good choice on windy days. At its best after strong northeasterly winds. Sometimes a right-hander breaks on the rocks at the top of the bay, but the sand-bottomed middle section is more common. When conditions are good the local crowd is usually out in force, and beginners are better off heading to Nogita or other points.
Parking: A small amount of parking on the roadside near the break, as well as a larger parking lot closer to the tourist spot. Many cafes nearby also offer paid parking.
Access: Showa bus from Imajuku station
Facilities: A variety of cafes, restaurants and stores, some offering paid showers. There’s also a public toilet at the parking lot near the Futami-ga-Ura rocks.

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Higashi-ku, 福岡市東区, Mitoma 三苫
While the size is a step down from Keya, Mitoma is a great option on the city’s east side. It consistently picks up swells while being relatively sheltered from the northerly winds. On good days the outside connects to an inside section for some longer rides. The long beach can also accommodate a decent crowd, and easy access by train makes it perfect for those without a car.
Parking: No designated public parking area.
Access: 10 minute walk from Nishitetsu Mitoma station
Facilities: Public toilets at the park which lies on top of the hill overlooking the beach. Surf shop and various restaurants within a few minutes walk of the beach.

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Map of Surf Breaks and Shops

Other Surf Points around Kyushu
Miyazaki
With its long coastline facing the Pacific Ocean to the east, Miyazaki Prefecture has no shortage of waves. Quality and consistency are among the best in the country, and the temperatures considerably warmer than Fukuoka. The main surf breaks are near Miyazaki City in the south and Hyuga in the north.

Saga
Luckily for Fukuoka surfers, Saga can offer some quality waves that are easily accessible on a day trip from Fukuoka City. The rocky bays and points to the west of Karatsu City are a nice change from the local beaches, particularly for more advanced surfers, and often work well even when conditions in Fukuoka are too windy.

Kumamoto
Some good waves can be found on the west coast of Amakusa, but local knowledge is necessary to make the most of the reefs and rocky points.

Regular Local Events
Nokita Classic

Surf Shops
In general, surfing gear can be quite expensive, particularly popular brands from overseas. For those looking for a bargain, hunt around at recycle shops for the odd second-hand board or check last-season sale stock at surf shops. Many surf shops also offer services such as lessons, gear rental, showers and parking. If you’re interested in taking up surfing, get in touch with a surf shop near one of the main surfing beaches (see map above for local surf shops).

Beach Store(ビーチストア)


2137-1 Oda, Nishi-ku, Fukuoka
Tel: 092-809-2000
Closed: Irregular
Open: 10:00 ~ 20:00 summer / 10:00 ~ 18:00 winter
Services: Parking, School, Repair, Club Team, Shower
School: ¥3,000, ¥5,000 (incl. board rental and wetsuits)
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Beach-Store/171394759591396?fref=ts

H1 Surf(エイチ ワン サーフ)

2757-92 Shima-nogita, Itoshima
Tel: 092-327-5573
Closed: Never (but closed if on tour)
Open: 09.00 ~ 19.30
Services: Parking, School, Repair, Club Team, Shower
School: ¥3,000, ¥6,500 (incl. board rental and sweat suits)
E-mail: www.h1.5573.m-taka@ezweb.ne.jp

Mission(ミッション)

457 Shima-nogita, Itoshima
Tel: 092-327-3333
Closed: Irregular
Open: 12:00 ~ 20:00
Services: Parking, School, Repair, Club Team, Shower
School: ¥5,000 (incl. board rental and wetsuits),7-12 years ¥3,000
Web: http://www.missionsurf.jp/

Radix(レイディックス サーフ)

5-4-30 Mitoma, Higashi-ku, Fukuoka
Tel: 092-607-6937
Closed: Never
Open: Apr~Dec.11:00 ~ 21:00 / Jan~Mar. 11:00 ~ 20:00
Services: Parking, School, Repair, Club Team, Shower
School: ¥5,000 (incl. board rental and wetsuits) for beginners
Web: http://radix-sf.com/index.htm

TF Surfboard Australia (TFサーフボード オーストラリア)

4420-7 Shima-sakurai, Itoshima
Tel: 092-327-4357
Closed: Irregular
Open: 10:00 ~ 19:00 summer / 10:00~18:00 winter
Services: Parking, School, Repair, Shower
School: ¥5,000 (incl. board rental and wet suits) ,¥4,000 (kids, (incl. board rental and wetsuits)
Web: http://www.tfsurf.net/

Colony Surf(コロニーサーフ)

1854 Shima-koganemaru, Itoshima
Tel. : 092-327-2721
Closed: Wed.
Open: 10:00 ~ 19:00 (Apr~Sep.) / 10:00 ~ 18:00 (Oct~Mar.)
Services: Parking, School, Repair, Club Team, Shower

Gride(グライド)

3313 Shima-sakurai-ura, Itoshima
Tel: 080-6425-7156
Closed: Irregular
Open: Appointment required
Services: Parking, School, Repair, Club Team
School*: ¥4,000 / 2~3h (Incl. wear and board (not all sizes) rental)

Useful websites
English language sites
surf-forecast.com – can be used for a general forecast of conditions, but not always accurate
windfinder.com or windalert.com – both of these sites give a good wind and swell forecast

Japanese language only sites
namiaru.tv – reliable surf forcasts for hundreds of breaks around Japan. Premium features include live crowd and wave reports from the main breaks several times each day
ii-nami.com – live surf cameras (members only), mostly in Miyazaki but includes Keya, Nogita and Tsurikawa in Fukuoka

Text: Kamil Spychalski
Photos: Yasuma Miura (#1, #2, #3, #5, & #6) & others by Nick Szasz & Kamil Spychalski

Thanks to our cover model Martine and to Beach Store, Futamigaura for providing the fancy surfboard. Beach Store owner, Takashi Fukai speaks English well and welcomes foreigners interested in surfing and SUP to drop by his surf shack, across from Sunset Cafe on Futamigaura Beach. Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Beach-Store/171394759591396?fref=ts

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Martine Strøm Thomassen, Norwegian Artist, www.msthomassen.com

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Originally written in Feb. 2016.
Copyright Fukuoka Now – including all text, photos and illustrations. Permission required to re-use in any form. Meanwhile, feel free to link to to this page.

NOTE: The information presented here was gathered and summarized by the Fukuoka Now staff. While we have done our best to check for accuracy, there might be errors and details may have changed. If you notice any errors or changes, please contact us. This report was originally written in Feb. 2016.

Category
Others
Fukuoka Prefecture
Published: Feb 26, 2015 / Last Updated: Oct 9, 2018

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