Surf’s Up in Singapore: Wave-Riders Hitting the Water at Changi

Surfing the Waves at Changi Beach

Despite the gloomy air-con weather that has graced Singapore this month, many surfing-enthusiasts hit the waters on the Changi beach coast this week, in pursuit of waves and wind.

The surf spot, located off the Changi beach coast, near the National Service Resort Club has been popular among avid surfers for decades but has never attracted quite as much attention as it has this week. About 80 surfers, with children among them, were spotted in the sea at Changi beach at around 4.30 pm on Wednesday, hoping to catch the best possible surfing conditions available in Singapore.

The pandemic’s impact on surfing

Singapore may not be a renown surfing spot, but travel restrictions due to the pandemic have created a surge in the number of locals picking up surfing and other water sports.

The waves spotted off the coast of Changi beach on 13 January barely went over a metre in height. But this was enough to catch the attention of desperate surfers, who have likely been grounded in Singapore for the better part of the past year. Several surfers who have had their boards dry since last March when travel restrictions and social distancing measures kicked in have missed the sport enough to find comfort in the waist-high waves that graced the coasts of Changi.

Mr Michael Lim, 45, who represented Singapore in the 2019 SEA games, noted that he would typically travel to Indonesia or Malaysia fortnightly to surf. But thanks to COVID-19, the Changi coast is the best training environment available to him at the moment.

Even though the waves were too small to perform water barrel stunts on, they were sufficient for some brief breaking, allowing avid surfers to scratch their year-long surfing itch. The gentler water conditions also made a safe environment for children to pick up surfing.

Making waves in SG

Waves are formed by energy passing through the water, such as when wind scoops up seawater over large expanses of ocean, causing it to move in a circular motion. Their size depends on the topography of the seafloor, as well as the wind condition.

Large waves are nearly unheard of in Singapore, and it is rare to have waves high enough to surf at the eastern point of the island. The recent spate of wet weather and stronger winds have caused white caps to appear during the low tide. The waves at Changi coast are only expected to last one to two weeks despite the northeast monsoon season in Southeast Asia, leaving local surfers little time left to enjoy riding the white caps.

Singapore’s surfing community

Given the lack of high-calibre waves in Singapore, surfing is a niche sport and an expensive hobby for locals. Travelling overseas is often a requirement for surfers to experience greater waves and learn surfing beyond the beginner’s level. The Surfing Association Singapore (SAS) is thus responsible for sanctioning local wave-riding activities and organizing surfing events abroad.

Founded in 2011, the SAS is recognised by the International Surfing Association (ISA) as the National Governing Body for all surfing activities, which include Shortboard, Longboard and Bodyboarding, StandUp Paddle (SUP) racing and surfing, bodysurfing, and wake-surfing among others.

To further develop surfing in Singapore, the SAS formed the first national surfing team to represent Singapore in the 2019 South East Asian (SEA) games, held in the Philippines. It was the first time surfing was introduced as a sport in the SEA Games, and Singapore sent six athletes to compete in all shortboard and longboard for both men and women categories.

The dangers of the local surf spot

While the rising popularity of the sole local surf spot bodes well for the sport’s development in Singapore, too many visitors could also affect the ease of preserving the surf spot.

Mr Khairul Anuar, a member of the Surfing Association of Singapore who has surfed there for many years, also worries that the newcomers may be unaware of the possible dangers. The surf spot happens to be located at the mouth of a large drain, with rip currents that can sweep people out to sea. Dangerous wildlife such as stingrays, stonefish, and jellyfish have also been spotted in the area.

Weather forecasts also predict on-and-off rainy days in Singapore throughout the rest of monsoon season, with thunderstorms hitting most areas daily and the temperature falling as low as 24 degrees Celsius. The rainy weather also means fewer chances for surfers to get back in the water, as it signifies a higher frequency of lightning alerts restricting surfers to staying on the shore.

Surf etiquette and social distancing

SAS has thus released a statement highlighting surf etiquette rules for the general public to bear in mind.

Surfers are required to wear leashes attached to their boards to avoid runaway boards from injuring anyone. They should always look out for someone else paddling for the wave they intend to ride and are reminded not to drop in on another surfer, as it is a sign of disrespect for other surfers.

Beginner surfers should never surf beyond their abilities and are reminded to stay aware of their environment. On the other hand, more experienced surfers should keep a lookout for strong current, and ensure that kids and beginners around them do not attempt to ride dangerous waves.

It’s easy to let our guards down now that we’ve entered Phase 3. But social distancing measures are still necessary to ensure a safe environment for our surfers. As per the social distancing regulations, surfers are limited to eight pax in a group, keeping two metres apart from each other as well as three metres away from other groups, with no intermingling allowed.

To preserve the surf spot, visitors are also reminded to keep the beach and ocean clean by not littering and to park vehicles at a proper car-park.


Although the waves will only be here for a fleeting moment, the discovery of the surf spot has been serendipitous for many local surfing-enthusiasts. The surprise arrival of waves has brought local surfers much comforting joy, igniting their passions to tide them through the travel ban.


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