Where are the world's best surf beaches?

Where are the world's best surf beaches?

The Global Wave Conference has named the lucky country with the best surf on the planet
Margaret River
Thrill ride at the legendary Margaret River in southwest Australia.

The search for the perfect wave has gripped surfers for more than half a century now.

Pioneering board riders traveled to once-empty beaches in Hawaii, Bali and, in Australia, commenced a northerly migration pattern to Byron Bay.

Although those beaches have become tourism hotspots, the waves are still there.

And that saltwater-soaked conversation still takes place. Which country has the best breaks? South Africa? Portugal? The United States?

Actually, according to the experts, that crown belongs to Australia.

The Global Wave Conference in France this week brought together scientists, legislators, environmentalists and surfers and gave the ancient island’s 10,000-plus beaches the nod.

Seal of approval

Four-time Aussie world surfing champ, Mark Richards, told The Daily Telegraph Australia was blessed with waves for all.

"Except for the Northern Territory -- and even there they surf in Darwin when cyclones make waves -- every state has just so many waves," Richards said.

"There is something for everyone on our coast. You can be a raw beginner and easily find non-threatening warm little waves or you can challenge yourself to big, gnarly, thick-lipped cold slabs of water.

"And the coast itself is so varied: Beaches with yellow sand, beaches with white sand, beaches backed by high cliffs or beaches backed by amazing dunes. The surf writer Tim Baker got it right when he said India has the Taj Mahal, Paris has the Eiffel Tower, London has Big Ben but Australia's iconic symbol is its beaches," the champ said.

More on CNNGo: Best beaches in Sydney

Such is the influence of the beach that many Aussie writers are cleansed by saltwater. Contemporary great Tim Winton jams out his novels in between waves. Thomas Keneally wrote "Schindler’s Ark" while overlooking Sydney’s northern beaches.

The beaches are so paramount that any journey into Aussie culture these days has to take in board shorts, sandy feet and saltwater-bleached hair (before it turns gray).

As summer rolls in, many yearn for mid-evening sunsets in smooth, five-foot swells. That invigorating feeling of riding a wave’s crest is when, truly, nothing else matters.

Worth protecting?

Surfing Australia chief executive Andrew Stark told The Daily Telegraph Australia’s long coastline of breaks and “amazing water quality” is the reason Australia has “the world’s biggest learn-to-surf industry.”

The job’s now ahead to protect that natural asset, National Surfing Reserve chairman Brad Farmer said in a statement.

"The world is looking to Australia [for] how to manage and protect beaches. It's an honor for us to be leading the way forward," he said.

For locals and travelers this summer, perhaps that instant after sliding down the face of a wave is worth a moment of contemplation: You’re surfing among the world’s best spots, let’s keep it that way.

More on CNNGo: Where to surf in Sydney

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