One of the United States’ two territories (Puerto Rico being the other), Guam is half military base and half tourist trap, with over one million visitors per year (mostly from Japan) and a massive, ongoing military build up making the island very busy. In many ways Guam has a Hawaiian feel, with Tumon Bay being the local version of Waikiki. But if you can see beyond the gawking tourists, seedy red light districts, grumpy locals and hordes of crew-cut, uniformed Joes, Guam does have some quality setups, and if nothing else is worth a look around while stopping over on your way to Asia, Australia or Micronesia.
The Surf: Hollow reefs and reef passes when there are waves. However, the island’s location in the far west Pacific means that swells are somewhat inconsistent. There are also a handful of beginner spots, but for the most part this is an intermediate to advanced surf destination.
Five Waves Worth Surfing:
- Boat Basin Left: If Tumon Bay is Guam’s Waikiki, then Boat Basin is the local version of Ala Moana Bowls. A rippable left that breaks into a broad pass/channel fronting Agana boat harbor, the wave begins to bowl at around 4 foot and can produce epic barrels when conditions are right. Just watch out for the locals.
- Boat Basin Right: Across the channel from Boat Basin Left, this wave is shallower and slabbier, and popular with body boarders—which is most of the local surf population.
- Mugandas: This long righthand reef point unfortunately now suffers from restricted access due to the fact that it’s on a military base. If you have a friend who can get you on, you are stoked.
- Rick’s Reef: Located below the Sheraton Hotel, this righthand reef point is one of the more popular spots with tourists due to easy access and the fact that it isn’t as heavy or localized as many other spots.
- Meritzo: A soft right and heavier inside left that requires a large swell to break, Meritzo requires a bit of a drive and is typically a bit less crowded than some other spots. Like everywhere else though, this wave is pretty localized.
The Water: Water quality can suffer a bit in urban areas, but is pretty clean along most of the coastline. Water temps range from 81–84 F (27–29 C).
The Season: Typhoon swells are relatively consistent from July through September, and north swell from lows off the coast of Japan come between October and March, although Guam’s far western location means these swells are somewhat inconsistent and typically short-lived.
The Vibe: Gnarly. Guam is widely considered to be the most localized region on the planet—it makes places like Hawaii and the Canary Islands seem all warm and fuzzy. There are enough local surfers to bring crowd tensions, but few enough that everyone knows everyone else—and knows if you don’t belong. Most locals are big and surly, with a penchant for mixed martial arts and body boarding. That being said, there are good people everywhere, and some locals can be very friendly. In general, come alone, don’t bring a camera, keep your head in and tread more softly than you normally would at a spot known for localism.
Things To Do: Shopping seems to be the national pastime here—at least for the throngs of visitors. Barbecuing is also popular. Otherwise, there are the normal range of cliché tourist activities available, such as land and water tours, scuba diving, jet skiing and parasailing.
Where To Stay: Guam is a veritable tourist trap, which means there are tons of hotels, but none of them are cheap. The Days Inn near the airport is the cheapest you’ll find at around $65/night. For a ritzier, high-class experience, try any of the big name hotels along the Tumon Bay strip. Guam has a good bus system and numerous car rental companies, so getting around is quite easy.
What To Bring: A shortboard, and a step-up if the forecast looks good. US dollars—lots of them. At least one set of nice clothes for a night on the town. Gifts for appeasing local surfers and bribing them not to kill you.
Getting There: United Airlines flies to Guam from Cairns, Hong Kong, Tokyo, Hawaii, Manila, Saipan, Palau and the Federated States of Micronesia. Other routes become available from time to time, but most visitors route through one of these airports. Guam is considered part of the US, so US immigration/visa policies apply here. Airport code: GUM.