Arriving in Vietnam from Thailand, I was a bit nervous since this was a solo trip to surf. I left my friend back in Thailand and I wanted to explore the country that I was from. My parents immigrated to Vietnam during the Vietnam War. My mother was in her early 20s and had arrived in Beaumont, Texas in 1977. I heard a lot of stories about her journey to the United States and the horror stories of making it out alive with my sister and a few friends. Those stories I heard as a child were only words. Arriving in Vietnam, those words became more real.
The surf in Vung Tau was a bit choppy when I arrived. I stayed at a resort across the street from the beach and close to the only surf club in Vung Tau.
Checking out the Surf
After the war, it appeared there were a lot of comrades. Russians were the only other foreigners I saw while in Vung Tau. The Vung Tau Beach Club was owned and operated by a Russian family. I thought to myself, maybe if the United States won the war I’d see Americans rather than Russians. But then, I realized my life would be a lot different. I wouldn’t be American and wouldn’t be writing a blog, I wouldn’t be a surfer. I was a bit grateful, honestly.
The surf at Vung Tau wasn’t exactly ideal conditions. On some days you could see some decent waves from 3-4′. Mostly, there were kite surfers since there was a lot of offshore winds and a combination of onshore winds. A mixed bag and a bit choppy.
*Offshore winds help give waves a cleaner break since waves head into the direction of the beach. If winds are pushing the waves back and heading in the direction of the ocean this helps surfers catch more consistent waves that don’t close as quickly.
The Russian surf club owner kept insisting I enroll into his kite surfing class for $100 USD (keep in mind I can eat for $5 per day). But I was only looking to rent a surfboard ($25 per day). He was reluctant to rent me a surfboard so I sought elsewhere. A French woman I met at the club told me there was a man on the beach with a surfboard. She told me he was much cheaper than the Russian ($5 per day), but it was difficult to find him. At least I spoke the language so I had faith I could find him. However, Vietnamese people don’t surf. There is no word in Vietnamese to describe surfing.
A memorable moment on this trip was finding the only Vietnamese guy in Vung Tau with a surfboard for rent.
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After speaking with the French journalist I began walking down the beach asking everyone in Vietnamese if they know a guy with a surfboard for rent. Everyone looked confused, so I began drawing out a surfboard in the sand. After walking for 20 minutes and no success, I find a group of friends laughing alongside a jetski. I asked them if they knew who I was searching for and they all gave me a blank look until I drew the surfboard and they all laughed. I had found him!
I happily paid the man $5 USD and he exchanged the surfboard. It was a shortboard without any wax and came with a leash made of rope. I couldn’t complain since this was the only surfboard on the beach. I began to paddle out, the water felt warm. No wetsuit needed. I got to the line up and observed the break. The owner of the surfboard came out as well and he smiled at me while circling with a tourist on the back of his jetski. It was an amazing experience. I just sat in the water watching the waves, listening to the wind and taking it all in.
Finally, after 3 unsuccessful attempts I caught a 4′ wave. Nearly 30 minutes had passed and I was stoked. I stayed in the water for another 30 minutes and called it a day.
Surfing Vung Tau was a memorable experience. Something I will never forget. However, it was the journey of finding the surfboard that made it special.
I hope you enjoyed reading my experience and thanks for visiting. Next on the Vietnam Series, stories of war, love and family. My first hand account of meeting my relatives and listening to their stories. Make sure you subscribe to get the latest blog.