An introduction to surfing in the UK

An introduction to getting started with surfing in the UK

Want to get involved with Surfing in the UK? Whether you′re a complete surfing beginner or have already had some surfing experience, here′s our quick introduction to surfing in the UK. Surfing is a great adventure sport for getting your body fit and healthy, as well as providing some memorable and often breathtaking experiences along beautiful coastline. So what are you waiting for?

Introduction to surfing

It was in 1963 that the Beach Boys released 'Surfin' USA' and introduced a worldwide audience to a strange, glamorous sport of riding the waves. Since the sixties, the sport has steadily grown in popularity to the point where surfing is on our TV screen every night selling everything from cars, to aftershave, to Irish stout. Surfing ads portray the sport as adventurous, exhilarating and free. So how true is this image?

Surfing in the UK

Although the Hollywood image of nomadic surfers roaming the world in search of the perfect wave is a wonderfully romantic notion, the reality for most surfers is somewhat different.

Surfing in the UK has undergone a radical change in the past 10 years. Greater public awareness, more advanced wetsuits and better road links have all helped to make surfing one of the fastest-growing adventure sports today. Once the preserve of a few crusty locals living in beachside communities, surfing is now becoming a mainstream sport. To see the popularity of surfing you only need to travel along the M4 or M5 on a Friday evening and count the number of cars heading west with surfboards tied to the roof.

So you may have decided that this summer you’re going to hit the beach and give surfing a try. But it’s not quite that easy. Before you can experience that unforgettable feeling of catching your first wave it's a good idea to arm yourself with a bit of basic knowledge.

Where to go surfing?

Choosing the right beach is the first decision for potential surfers. It is surprising how many stretches of the British coastline have surfing waves where conditions are right. Even unlikely locations in Kent, Norfolk and Yorkshire have coastal sections for surfing in the UK, where keen surfers wait for the few times a year when surf appears at their local beach. In general, the English Channel and North Sea coastlines are less consistent for surf. It is the Atlantic facing beaches of North Devon, Cornwall and South West Wales that have the most consistent surfing conditions. The best waves are produced by the winds associated with low-pressure systems and the Atlantic has a steady supply of these systems to push waves towards beaches facing west and southwest. Another advantage of these locations is that most of the best surfing beaches are going to have surf centres in the area where you can rent boards and take lessons.

It’s important to find a beach with plenty of space. Crowds in the water can be hazardous and frustrating for a beginner’, advises Olly Fitzjones, co-author of The Stormrider Guide, a publication which provides a comprehensive rundown of European surf spots.

How to surf that first wave?

Don’t even think about going surfing for the first time without taking a lesson. A few basic tips on catching waves and learning the techniques to stand up will save hours of frustration and wipeouts. Most surfing areas have surf schools offering a range of courses from a two-hour introduction to a week-long course. The advantage of starting with a surf school is that they provide a taste of the sport without the expense of buying your own surfboard and wetsuit. All the gear is provided and under the guidance of a qualified instructor. Most beginners find themselves standing up and surfing during the course of a day’s tuition. Ensure the surf school is approved by the British Surfing Association; this shows that the school is independently monitored to comply with all safety and coaching regulations for surfing in the UK.

One final word of warning if you are inspired to tackle some waves this year: surfing is an intensely addictive pursuit; experience the thrill of catching your first wave and your life may never be the same!

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