Most people think of surfing as a sport for the sun-drenched shores of Southern California, Hawaii or Australia-places where tanned surfer boys and girls can ride waves in paradise.
While there's a kernel of truth to that stereotype, surfing has come a long way since the days of the Beach Boys and Gidget. It's truly a worldwide phenomenon, showing up in such diverse places as India and Morocco.
In addition, surfing is so simple in concept-board, meet wave-that there's no reason for it to be exclusively a warm-weather, saltwater activity. Waves, not sunshine, are the currency of surfing; and if those waves are in the Great Lakes, on a river in Wyoming, or breaking on Iceland's volcanic shores, so be it.
No matter the location, devoted surfers will find a way to shred. A tiny Alaskan fishing village can become the "Far North Shore" if the waves are right and word gets out, and an underwater seamount a hundred miles from land can be a place where the surfing elite flocks to ride waves the size of buildings.
A wave doesn't even need to exist in nature to be a draw. Despite being on the Persian Gulf, Dubai's state-of-the-art wave park is what puts this glitzy Middle Eastern city on surfers' radar. Munich's Eisbach, a man-made river, wasn't even designed with surfing in mind, but surfers found it, nevertheless.
If surfers know about an amazing point break or a recurring tidal wave, chances are someone has ridden it-and someone else is checking the swell forecast at this very moment.
Credit: Red Bull Content Pool/Trent Mitchell
While it's no stretch to imagine surfers paddling out into the Persian Gulf (and they do), this ritzy Arab Emirate also sports one of the world's most advanced wave pools-and it's in the middle of the desert, to boot. Wadi Adventure, which also has a whitewater kayaking course, has adjustable waves that reach up to 10 feet high. They're good enough that pro surfer Sally Fitzgibbons (pictured) has used them to perfect her aerials.
Credit: NOAA Digital Atlas; BillabongXXL/Robert Brown
Cortes Bank, California
Not all surf spots are in sight of shore. Cortes Bank is an underwater island 105 miles off the coast of San Diego. The highest point is Bishop Rock, which sits just three feet underwater at low tide. The unique topography of this area causes waves to reach heights of 80 feet or more, attracting big wave surfers from all over the world who arrive to Cortes Bank by boat. World records for the largest waves ever ridden are regularly broken here.
An artificial river flowing through southern Germany's biggest city, the Eisbach forms a meter-high standing wave that begat the sport of river surfing in 1975, according to RiverSurfing.ca. This dangerous wave isn't for beginners, but that doesn't stop people from lining up for their chance to rip hundreds of miles from the ocean.