Think surfing is all about sun-kissed locations and warm turquoise waters off a tropical paradise beach?
Think again. What old blighty might lack in sunshine, it more than makes up for in epic surf locations, and you’ll find some of the best surf spots around a lot closer to home, right here in the UK.
While it will definitely be a little on the chillier side, you’ll find great places to surf for all levels – take your pick from easy going beach breaks, seriously muscled up barrels, and everything in between.
With 10,000 miles of coastline to choose from around England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, you’ve got no excuse not to be hitting the surf board, so suit up (don’t forget your boots) and hit the road, with our run down of the UK’s top surfing locations.
Newquay – Fistral Beach
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Cornwall is a surfer’s paradise with plenty of great beaches to choose from, and Fistral Beach comes on top of the list as a truly world class surfing location. With 750 metres of straight, sandy beach to play with, there’s room for everyone – from seasoned experts at the northern end, to beginners down in the more relaxed southern end.
In the summertime, Newquay is also home to the Boardmasters Festival and surf competition, making Fistral Beach a magnet for the pros.
As part of the World Surf League qualifying series, Fistral Beach sets the stage for leading surfers from the UK scene, as well as internationally. The competitions are free to watch – so be sure to get a good spot and get inspired. The fantastic beach bars, live music and chilled out festival vibe of Boardmasters all add up to the perfect summer surfing recipe.
And when you’re done gawking at the experts, there are plenty of opportunities for you to get on a surf board yourself.
The renowned Fistral Beach Surf School and its excellent roster of instructors are on hand to put you through your paces – whether you’re a total newbie or ready to shred. Book a lesson and learn to pop up for the first time, or simply hire a board and get paddling.
Best of all, Fistral Beach isn’t just for summer – as one of the best surf spots in the UK all year round, you’ll also find consistent waves to play with in the cooler months too. Just be sure you prepare for the colder temperatures properly and have plenty of thick towels and hot water bottles to hand!
Devon – Croyde
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As a more relaxed and mellow beach, Croyde Bay in Devon is a great spot if you’re looking for somewhere to learn to surf in the UK, or just want to polish up your skills.
Croyde is ideal for beginners when the tide comes in, with steady, gentle waves that are great for first timers and intermediates. When the tide goes out, it’s a different story – with faster barrels emerging across the right peak. These waves are definitely for experienced surfers only – make sure you’re paying attention to the shallow waters and stronger energy.
With a perfect sandy beach and a charming village nearby, Croyde is one of the UK’s hotspots for surfing in the summer months, and can get pretty busy during weekends and school holidays. If you fancy a quick surfing escape and can make it down on weekdays or outside the summer months though, you’ll find a blissfully quiet place to enjoy hours of great surfing.
The Gower – South Wales
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Along its 870-something mile long coastline, Wales is pretty much spoilt rotten when it comes to sweet surfing destinations, and a short ride away from Swansea, the Gower Peninsula is definitely one of the gems in the crown.
The Gower is a perfect playground for surfers of all abilities, with an impressive five kilometres of beach to choose from. If you’re addicted to the rush of fast and furious waves, Llangennith will hit the spot pretty decent wave heights. The wind can get strong out here, so be prepared for a tough paddle at times.
Close by, Rhossili Bay is a little more sheltered, with gentler beach breaks that are popular with new learners, but a great ride for all abilities. While the waves are a little smaller, in high tide, you’ll find long, leisurely rides.
With the beach just a short walk away from the many well-stocked inns and pubs in the nearby villages, there’s plenty of opportunity to refuel after a long day in the sea. And on the off-chance the sea’s feeling quiet, there are some stunning scenic walks along the cliffs and the coast to make up the adventure quotient.
Snowdonia and Anglesey – North Wales
Snowdonia might be better known for its sizeable Welsh mountain, but away from the craggy peaks and hiking trails, it’s also home to one of the UK’s biggest and best inland surf spots.
When you’re craving some serious surf breaks and want an adventure with a twist, head to Adventure Parc Snowdonia, where you can enjoy the one of a kind experience of surfing against a lush backdrop of Welsh mountains and forests.
Don’t underestimate it because it’s man-made – the water here doesn’t hold back any punches, and you’ll find waves that meet you at every level. Beginners can paddle in with the basics with expert guidance from coaches, while those feeling more ambitious can test themselves out on the more hardcore “advanced waves” programme. You’ll find regular waves rolling in at the equivalent to 7 metres a second for 150 metres, and even a chance to catch some air.
With waves powering every 90 seconds, it’s a truly unique experience, and a brilliant way to hit the surfing itch at any time of the year.
For a more traditional ocean surf experience in North Wales, head over to the Isle of Anglesey. One of Wales most northern surfing spots, Anglesey is blessed with picture-perfect beaches, with a good south westerly swell through the year.
Cable Bay is a scenic, sheltered beach with decent sized waves, with the added benefit of being protected from the wind. Be prepared to make friends and share the area with other water sports aficionados – it’s a popular spot for kayakers and bodyboarders, so it can get a little more busy when the weather’s good.
If Cable Bay is getting crowded, make your way to Broad Beach instead. The long, lengthy beach picks up a great south western swell, with slower, longer rides to enjoy. With ample surf schools and hire shops along the beach, you’ll find plenty of places to hire or purchase kit, so dive in.
Thurso – Scotland
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Up for a serious surfing challenge?
The small town of Thurso is one of the best places in the UK for surfing – but just off the northern coast of Scotland, it is definitely not a spot for the faint hearted. Once home for three years to the O’Neill Cold Water Classic, Thurso offers up some fantastic waves, with world class reefs, breaks and a pretty solid swell for experienced surfers to enjoy.
The only proviso? Be prepared to get cold.
Thurso is renowned for being one of Scotland’s best surfing destinations – and while you’ll be able to find waves all year round, it definitely saves the best for the winter. If you’re willing to battle blizzards, blocks of ice, and steaming fog across the ocean, you’ll be rewarded with the heart-thumping pleasures of some of Europe’s best long barrelled gems, as well as secret spots nearby with plenty of white knuckle rides on offer.
With daylight disappearing by around 3pm and some pretty tingly temperatures of 5°C and lower, you’re unlikely to find a crowd jostling to get in the water any time soon. But if you arm yourself with a good wetsuit, hood, boots and gloves, you will most likely get the rush of your life.
Portrush – Northern Ireland
Both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland have some fantastic surfing beaches to choose from, and Portrush ticks all the boxes when you’re after a top surf destination.
Right in the heart of the iconic Causeway Coast, Portrush is home to some of the best waves in Northern Ireland, with excellent consistency all through the year, and prime spots for both experienced and beginner surfers.
Newbies should head over to the Harbour area of the beach, where a throng of award-winning surf schools provide fun, inclusive surf lessons for all ages and abilities.
Over on the East Strand of Portrush, seasoned surfers can enjoy two stunning miles of golden beaches, with some of the best beach breaks in Ireland. While the water can get cold, the great wave heights and a good north-western swell means the beach is a busy spot during peak periods.
Once you head out of the water, hit the hot showers and unwind with an inland adventure, with historic whiskey distilleries, excellent food and incredible views across the glens to keep you spellbound.