Surfers’ life is one of adventure and exploration, and there are endless possibilities for seaborne adrenaline-rush seekers. Taking to the waves on a rigid inflatable board and attempting to paddle into a treacherous northerly gale is nothing new, but what about venturing further afield to the UK’s best surf spots?
Tricky and hostile conditions can strike anywhere, and the waters of the north, often unreachable by the public, are notorious for producing heavy conditions. Fortunately, there’s a crew of top adventurers around the country eager to share the best spots and offer tips on how to make the most of the British surf scene.
Dubbed “the country with the greatest amount of coastline in the world,” a trip to any part of the UK allows you to enjoy unrivalled views and experience the unspoilt natural beauty of a long and beautiful stretch of coastline. To help you plan the perfect trip, we’ve teamed up with The Waterman’s Association, the national body for surfers, to compile a list of the top ten places to surf in the UK.
England and Wales
Not even the toughest of gales can stop a determined surfer from plunging into the waves of the South West, where the rugged coastline offers up just about everything that a surf holiday could hope for. Taking in Camelford, Port Isaac and Penzance along with the more accessible Cornwall, this rocky region is known for some of the best surfing conditions in the country – conditions that suit all abilities and levels of expertise.
It’s also blessed with some of the best cliff-hugging breaks in the country and some of the most impressive cliff-top vantage points that offer you unique perspectives of the waves rolling into your vision. The west coast of Cornwall has been recognised as one of the finest surfing regions in the world. Visit Egloshayle for some of the best beach breaks in the UK.
The South West
Surfers in the South West of England often encounter rain and swell – not ideal conditions for a group of beach bums heading out on a surf trip. But don’t let that put you off – if you’re prepared to adapt, the South West can be a stellar spot for surfers.
Swimming and wading are the most popular activities in the summer months and look out for Teignmouth, where you’ll find a great surf spot at Axmouth. The waves can be very fierce, with powerful northwest and north easterly swells, but the sea is clear and shallow, and a well-placed board can be whipped into the waves in just a couple of strokes.
Surfers call Cornwall the ‘Land of Myth and Memory’ as they surf over the gnarly west Cornwall coast with magnificent views of Porthcurno, St Agnes and Land’s End. With dozens of cliffs lined with breakers of all shapes and sizes, Cornwall is a great destination for a number of different surf scenarios. From cliff-top lighthouses to picturesque beaches, Cornish surfers have endless opportunities to enjoy the water.
When the weather is on your side, you can head inland to the relatively quiet and isolated coastline of the Wash. Find your spot by the sea at Looe, and you’ll find yourself the perfect spot for a relaxed and unstructured surf session.
The South East
As the wind bends the waves towards shore, a brilliant foam of spray envelopes the surfer. Surfing conditions in the sea area north of Southsea are often completely hidden from sight and can only be spotted from above. But once you’re there, there’s no better feeling than riding the whitewater.
If you fancy exploring a bit further afield, take a look at Bryher, a sandy stretch of coastline flanked by headlands that’s set to become a world-class surfing destination thanks to its growing movement of surfer communities.
Surfers in Scotland will tell you that it’s no small matter to catch the right waves on the east coast. But the past few years have seen a move towards dry-eruption conditions, which have been set in motion by the strong east winds that have swept in off the Atlantic. You’ll be lucky to get a lift on a plane in winter if you want to surf on these east coast days, as these winds make it very difficult to get any boat traffic out to the coast – but you’ll be well served if you visit in mid-summer, when the sea-breeze delivers the kind of tropical sunshine that’s to be expected in the south-east.
The west coast of Wales is one of the best surfing spots in the country, though surfing is not the first thing you’ll notice when you travel here. One of the country’s most scenic beaches is Conwy, which has a harbour so rich in history it has been used as a shooting location for many films, including Gladiator and Gladiator: The Legend Continues. There are plenty of ways to be entertained in the highlands of Wales too. Try swim-walking on a dried-up lake in Denbighshire, or drive up Snowdonia for views of the surrounding mountains.
A number of towns in Wales have surfing beaches that are likely to receive good wind in the summer. Try your luck at landing a blow-off at Llanddwyn beach, between Blaenau Ffestiniog and Newgale in North Wales.
Traditionally, you were lucky to be able to surf in the north of Scotland. However, the east coast’s steely-eyed owner of the worst weather – Atlantic Ocean conditions – was cast into the memory hole when he decided to go off and have a bit of a lie-in, and is now driven in by one of the world’s best and most consistent storm systems, the Gulf Stream.
Kimmeridge Bay, Dorset
Surfing in the West Country has generally tended to be confined to the west coast, but Kimmeridge Bay on the Jurassic Coast – famous for its ‘bucket’ fossils – has recently become the unofficial south coast surf centre. Surfing conditions at Kimmeridge are notoriously changeable, but this fluctuation means you can often be guaranteed a quality session in any one day. Surf out-the-back at the top of the bay, and enjoy the mist rising off the sea, before cutting straight into the hard-driving south-westerly on your way out. On your way back in, keep the crowd on your tail for a great surfer’s wave.
Got some surfing to share? Get in touch @freakfish and tell us about your favourite spots, people, and memories from surfing life.