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Best Places to go Surfing in the United Kingdom


 

In 1779 members of Captain Cook’s crew jump overboard into the warm, blue Hawaiian waters and join the locals on their surfboards.

This is the earliest account so far of westerners having a go at this ancient pastime.

In 1835 Captain James Edward Alexander left England and discovered surfing in West Africa.

It had apparently developed independently, without influence from distant Polynesia, “They waited for a surf and then came rolling in like a cloud on top of it,” he told the readers of his diaries.

Several decades ago, Lewis Rosenberg and a group of friends saw a newsreel showing Australians surfing standing up on their surfboards – it was a moment of inspiration that changed their lives.

This close-knit group of Jewish immigrants, who lived in London and Hove, had been riding their four-foot-long wooden body boards in the West Country and the Channel Islands for almost a decade.

But in 1929, they set about building their own longboard, wrapped it in linen sheets, and took it on a steam train from London to Newquay.

Not only did they try to teach themselves how to surf standing on their board, but they also filmed their exploits.

The film has been brought to life after remaining untouched for many years in a Cambridgeshire loft.

There’s everything from sheltered beach breaks to powerful barrelling waves to choose from up and down the country.

From Scotland to Cornwall, here are the best spots for you to catch the perfect wave.

 

 

1. Fistral Beach – Newquay, England

 

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Best for: Beginners to Experts

Fistral Beach and the surrounding area is steeped in rich surfing history, it’s a prestigious place to surf.

It was one of the first beaches to be surfed during the sixties and since then has become one of the world’s most popular surfing destinations.

Fistral beach is a straight, sandy beach backed by dunes roughly 750 meters long facing west by northwest onto the Atlantic.

This west-facing direction like many Cornish surfing beaches exposes Fistral to large Atlantic swells that provide consistent waves throughout the year.

Fistral Beach in Newquay is the heart and soul of UK surfing. It hosts annual surfing competitions.

Plus, the British Surfing Association, the Newquay Boardriders Club and the Newquay Surf Life Saving Club are all based here, which should give you an idea of how much surfing goes on there.

2. Croyde – North Devon

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Best for: Beginners to experts

The swells work all year round, winds from the east provide a mix of ground and wind swells that provide fantastic surf at Croyde beach.

Skilled short boarders dominate steep, powerful peaks on big swell days in Croyde.

Surfers crowd at low tide so make sure you look out for and respect other surfers.

Backed by rolling sand dunes and the Devon countryside beyond, Croyde bay sits between two headlands, with Woolacombe and Saunton Sands beaches on either side.

Longboarders and beginners should head to Saunton Sands, where gentle Atlantic rollers combine with a long stretch of soft sand for a more relaxed surf spot.

Gorgeous sand dunes, rock pools and public footpaths surround Croyde beach.

3. Compton Bay – Isle of Wight 

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Best for: Beginners to experts, Kite Surfing

Compton Bay is suitable for shortboarders and longboarders.

The bay is a good place for windsurfing beginners, but Brook Bay to the east is better for intermediates. Kitesurfing is popular here as elsewhere around the island.

Compton Bay is a great spot for surfing in summer, and even through to autumn. Surfers of all abilities will be able to catch some waves here, even in small swells.

The best conditions are low to mid tides with winds from the southeast or north-north-west when the swell can be anything from 2 to 5 ft.

If you fancy a change of scene then you can also head down the coast to Hanover Point, an A-frame reef with relatively gentle waves.

4. Kimmeridge Bay – Dorset

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Best for :  Experts

Kimmeridge Bay on the South Coast  has very consistent surf because of the fairly exposed reef break. 

Works best in offshore winds from the north. Groundswells and wind swells are equally likely and the ideal swell direction is from the southwest.

Sat in the Isle of Purbeck, Kimmeridge Bay is a great spot to ride some waves. It’s mostly a longboard wave, and it’s quite a paddle out to the lineup on a good swell.

It breaks in deep water, so it’s the best wave at Kimmeridge for beginners.

K Bay, as it’s known by locals, has three different waves: first and easiest is the Ledges; followed by the Bay, which is perfect for big conditions and long rides; and finally the Bench, which is for the most experienced surfers.

5. Blyth Beach – Northumberland

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Best for: Intermediate to experts

On a beach break with the potential for almond-y barrels, you can get some cover from northerly winds behind the harbour wall.

When the northerly swells hit, the best place to be is right up next to the pier. Sheltered from winds you can get a good big clean northerly wave here!

Down at the south end in front of the car park in a sluice, you get a top beach break at low tide. It doesn’t work even at mid-tide really but the sand banks jack up some nice waves on a low tide.

Blyth beach is a couple of miles long, so it is never too busy. The huge pier at the North end can clean up an N swell but does tend to cut the size.

6. Portrush – County Antrim

Best for: Beginners to Experts

Northern Ireland’s toned-down answer to Newquay has a cheerful holiday vibe thanks to the swarms of beginners splashing around in the waves, in contrast to the more serious nature of some of the wilder and more remote surf spots found in this part of the world, especially to the west in Donegal.

There are many epic surfing beaches in Northern Ireland, and some of the best are along the north coast.

This part of the Irish Coastline is said to be the most surfed! There are 9 well-surfed beaches around the Causeway Coast, Portrush is the hub of Surfing for the area.

Portrush offers two options, West Strand (usually bigger) and East Strand.

Like the rest of the breaks along this coastline, they’re oriented in a generally northerly direction creating wonderful “clean” waves.

7. Freshwater West – Pembrokeshire 

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Best for : Experts

A beautiful windswept, exposed beach, Freshwater West is arguably the most consistent surf spot in Wales, picking up any swell going and holding waves up to around 6-8ft before becoming unmanageable.

Freshwater West is one of Wales’ top surfing spots.

It’s no surprise then that the south-westerly facing beach is the annual host venue of the Welsh National Surfing Championships.

When it’s big, most people tend to surf elsewhere or try the reef in the middle of the bay at high tide. With consistent swell and strong waves, Freshwater West is regarded as one of Wales’ top surfing spots.

There can be strong rip currents on this part of the coast so it’s more suited for experienced surfers, but keen beginners can book sessions with the local team at Outer Reef Surf School to learn how to enjoy this special place safely.

8. Sennen Cove – Cornwall

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Best for: Intermediate & Experts

Being located at the very toe end of Cornwall, less than 2 miles from Land’s End, Sennen picks up as much swell as any North Coast beach. It is also more likely to pick up Southerly swells wrapping around.

A gorgeous swathe of pale sand and crystal-clear sea curves from Sennen Cove up towards Gwynver Beach.

It is Cornwall’s most consistent beach break (although Gwynver’s bigger breaks are better left to experienced wave riders).

The south end of the beach, where the waves are always smaller and more user-friendly, is perfect for beginners.

One of the best waves on the beach is the cafe wave which on a mid-tide and big swell can provide some excellent rides.

For the more adventurous (suicidal) there is a reef about 100 metres offshore called the Cowloes. With a decent sized swell, hollow looking lefts can be seen cranking of the rocks here.

The Cowloes have been surfed a few times but are still a bit of an unknown and seem to have lots of semi-submerged rocks in the wrong places.

9. Porth Neigwl- Wales

Best for : Intermediate & Experts

Also known as Hell’s Mouth, Porth Neigwl is by far the most popular and well-known surfing destination in Wales.

This four-mile stretch of south-westerly facing beach is predominantly sand with a few rocky areas located at the north and eastern end of the bay.

The beach is an excellent swell magnet – picking up any swell going, so if it’s flat here you are out of luck on this stretch of the coast.

We recommend intermediate and advanced surfers only, to ride the surf at the Llŷn Peninsula in North Wales.

Only if you are comfortable catching unbroken waves by yourself, should you give Porth Neigwl a try.

10.  Saltburn-by-the-Sea – North Yorkshire, England

Saltburn pier Image by Archangel12 from Wikimedia

Best for: Beginners & Intermediates

Saltburn by the Sea is perhaps not the first place you’d expect to find an excellent surfing beach, yet the north-facing sands consistently come up with the goods and recent years have seen the development of a large community of surfers.

The North Sea has great beach breaks on either side of the old pier, which work best at high tide.

Although the south-west may be the most popular choice, the best surfing town in the UK is actually Saltburn-by-the-Sea, in the northernmost corner of Yorkshire

You can find Saltburn Beach, a great beginner surfing destination, in the seaside resort of Saltburn-by-the-Sea in North Yorkshire, England.

What makes Saltburn Beach a great surf spot is because it’s protected from the wind by the headland of Huntcliff and it faces north, which means that it picks up awesome swell.


Autumn is the best time to surf in the UK, as the water temperatures are milder, the swell is remarkably consistent and the crowds are thinner.

On the other hand, summer receives mellow waves that are great for beginners. The beaches are indeed more crowded, but the overall vibes are amazing during this time of year.

There is a rich and fascinating surfing history which can be enjoyed by visiting the Museum of British Surfing – The surf heritage and culture exhibitions change every year.