Desaru: Discovering Surfing in Malaysia

Malaysia is a tropical climate country that does not have four seasons, but it has sunny days and rainy days throughout the year. During the Northeast Monsoon season, the sea will be raging and the tides will be high, which cause some parts of the beaches in Malaysia to be surfable.  Surfing is not a common in Malaysia as a lot of Malaysian still does not know that there is actually waves in the country. The surf community is small and is still growing as the sport has only started to gain popularity over the past 10 years. One of the surf destination is Desaru, located in Kota Tinggi District, Johor, which is the most southern state in west Malaysia, located next to Singapore. It is an ideal spot for extreme sports lovers and travellers to have a short getaway on a surf discovery in Desaru.  

Desaru consist few surf spots, they are:

1.Desaru Public Beach

Desaru Public Beach is the easiest spot to access. It is a public beach where people go for a getaway,  4 minutes drive from Lotus Desaru Beach Resort and you will arrive at the beach. During surfing season, it is a beach break which is good for all kind of surfers, it is also a beginner-friendly spot. The best time to surf is in the early morning when the waves are in best condition with a less crowded beach. Around the beach area, some food stalls and souvenirs shops can be found, facilities include public toilet and bathing area. During weekends, the beach will be packed with non-surfers. Surf competition will be held in Desaru Public Beach yearly, some surfers from Asia region like Thailand, Maldives, Indonesia, Taiwan and even Japan will travel all the way to take part in the competition. The 7th Annual ASC Sanctioned Monsoon Mayhem International Surf Challenge was held here during 2013.

 2.Tanjung Balau Beach

Tanjung Balau Beach is also a public beach for people to have a beach day out. Just take 13 minutes drive away from Desaru Public Beach to the spot, the local surf community is strong in Tanjung Balau as there used to be a surf shop around Tanjung Balau Beach. It is a nice place for beginner surfers, but the beach might be a little crowded during the holidays as it will be packed with non-surfers. Shops and facilities like bathrooms are easy to access in Tanjung Balau Beach.

3.Sedili Beach

Take 38 minutes drive from Tanjung Balau Beach and you will discover this quiet area for a surf. It is a hidden beach along the road of Sedili, which is an ideal spot for surfers who love peaceful and quieter surroundings. During surf season, surfers from Johor will gather in the spot to surf, it can be quite crowded during days with good waves. It is recommended to bring along some food and drinks before going to surf in Sedili Beach, as the beach is quite isolated from the shops.

4.Wild boar Beach

Wild boar beach is my personal favourite surf spot to surf in because of the nice waves and quiet surroundings. Locals name it Wild Boar Beach as wild boars can be found in the area. It is a hidden beach break located near Tanjung Balau Beach.  A local fishing village can be seen along the way and the surf spot is surrounded by nature. It is not an easy place to access as it is a hidden area, guidance from locals will be needed to get to the spot.  There are no shops around Wild Boar Beach, not even bathrooms, surfers have to prepare their own food and water supply for a long day of surf.  

How To Start

For Travellers who are interested in learning surfing in Desaru during the coming monsoon season, there is a few surf shop that provides beginner surf lessons, they are Bigfoot Industries and Anchoviz Ind. Besides providing surf lessons, board rentals and repair service is also available.  

When To Go

The only time to go for a surf trip is during October to March, Northeast Monsoon season.The weather usually is very rough in these months, for this reason, beaches will typically be a no-entry danger zone during the monsoon season because of the heavy rain, and raging waves, but for surfers, it means surfing season has arrived.

How to Get There

A one hour drive from Johor town, along with the way to Desaru, palm oil plantation can be seen and a bridge will be connecting the route to Desaru through the Senai Desaru expressway. Driving is recommended to get to Desaru because it is faster and convenient. For public transportation to Desaru, there are direct Mara Liner coach services four times a day from Johor Bahru's Larkin Bus Terminal to Bandar Penawar via Kota Tinggi. Besides that, there's an option of taking a non-express bus from Larkin Bus Terminal (Maju 227 or Causeway Link 66) or from downtown Johor Bahru's Jalan Wong Ah Fook (Transit Link 41, Maju 227, Causeway Link 6B; the bus stop is opposite City Square) to Kota Tinggi's bus terminal (duration about 1h; Maju 227 one-way fare from City Square RM4.80; average frequency of Maju 227 is 15 min), and then take another bus from Kota Tinggi to Bandar Penawar (duration max. 1h, one-way fare RM4.50, frequency every 90 min). From Bandar Penawar, travellers can either take a taxi for about RM10. You can also take a taxi from Kota Tinggi directly to Desaru Resort, this will cost you around RM35.  


Among the surf destinations in Malaysia, Desaru is an ideal place to go for nature-oriented attractions, laid-back ambience, beach resorts and reasonably priced seafood, which could be some great after surf activities. Desaru should definitely be on the bucket list of travellers that are planning to visit Malaysia during the monsoon season to have a different tropical experience. It is also an ideal place for travellers to learn how to surf as the surf spots in Desaru is beginner friendly and fun to surf in.