UK Coast Guide - Surfing

Surfing is a popular watersport which is growing in the UK at a rapid rate. It is estimated that there are now around 250,000 surfers in the country and the sport appeals to all ages and both sexes. There has been a particular increase in female surfers, in recent years and there is a growing band of professional female surfers who compete in competitions worldwide. 

The sport has a long history in the UK stretching back to the 1920's and beyond when it was seen as a dangerous and radical sport. For many years it was seen as a mainly American and Australian sport and most of the equipment was imported from those countries. It wasn't until the 1960's that the sport real took off. In 1965 the first full time surfboard manufacturer Bilbo started up, complete with their own surf shop in Newquay. Bilbo would dominate the market for the next decade. There were then around 3000 surfers in the UK, it was estimated and these were located mainly in the Westcountry. 

Since then participation in the sport has boomed and there are surfers located all around the UK's coast. Although most of the  popular surfing beaches are still in the southwest, there are places to surf all around the UK., a popular surfing website, lists 21 beaches in Cornwall, 7 in Devon followed by these locations; Wales 5, South coast 5, East coast 4, Scotland 2, and Ireland 3. Due to the prevailing westerly winds that blow around the UK the best surfing spots tend to be on the west coast but other locations can be good depending on the weather conditions at that time. You soon learn to read weather charts when you become a surfer!


Although surfing is predominately a spring to summer sport - there are a growing number of die-hards who surf all year round. The reason being threefold - it is not always that cold in the UK in winter.  Thanks to the Gulf Stream our sea temperature doesn't drop that far in the winter. Also with a good 5mm wetsuit you won't get too cold - you'll walk like a penguin with stiff legs but you will be warm! The main reason that people surf in the winter months is that due to frequent storms systems, we get some of the best surf in the winter. 

British Surfing Association

Within the UK, the British Surfing Association is the national governing body of the sport. They oversee the sport in general, arrange training schemes and competitions and run accreditation schemes for surfing centres. They also run The National Surfing Centre which is located in Newquay, Cornwall and there is a second centre, Tolcarne Surf School, at Tolcarne Beach, Cornwall. . They run courses at all levels from beginner up to Surf Coach and Beach Lifeguard. The website has a list of around 50 accredited surf schools located around the UK. Lessons start at 25 for a single lesson and rise to a full seven day course - check the website (below) for full details. 

The BSA website also has guidelines for people who are interested in staring the sport - surfing, as with most adventure sports, can be dangerous - it is worthwhile getting some proper training when you start out. See below -

Surfing can be a demanding sport and you should be reasonably fit and able to swim at least 50 metres in open water. Ideally before planning a surfing trip it is advisable to carry out a programme of exercises spread over the course of a couple of weeks. Running, Cycling and especially Swimming will help improve your stamina and will help tone up the all important paddling muscles. Experience in bathing at surf beaches is advantageous as it will help you develop an awareness of the behaviour of waves. Always remember to carry out a warm up before going surfing and before carrying out any type of training - BSA website.

They also recommend a wetsuit for British waters - usually a 3mm suit in summer (full suit or shorty) and 3/4 mm in spring or autumn. . 

Surfers Against Sewage

Not everything on our coastline is as pure and beautiful as it may first appear! British coastal waters have been criticized in the past for being polluted by human and chemical waste. things are much better now however - with major clean up operations underway in many of our tourist regions. One of the reasons for this is the work of Surfers Against sewage, who have campaigned vigorously against our polluted sea water and beaches.

Surfers Against Sewage campaign for clean, safe recreational waters, free from sewage effluents, toxic chemicals and nuclear waste. Using a solution based argument of viable and sustainable alternatives, SAS highlight the inherent flaws in current practices, attitudes and legislation, challenging industry, legislators and politicians to end their 'pump and dump' policies.   SAS Mission Statement

Since 1990, SAS have campaigned to clean up the rivers and coastal waters of the United Kingdom. At the end of 1999, the British Government agreed an 8.5 billion spend to improve the aquatic environment. The clean up is ongoing but things have improved greatly over the past ten years. 


English Surf School - 

National Surfing Centre -

UK Surf Reports -




Ukcoastguide 2019